Ex­plore the Zanz­ibar col­lec­tion

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside - Words: JO KROMBERG Pho­tographs: WIL­LIE SMIT and sup­plied by The Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion

I am un­well. In fact, I am gravely ill. It would seem I suf­fer from dreaded Stend­hal syn­drome – oh, the hor­ror - so I do not know how much time I have be­fore I shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil...

stend­hal syn­drome (as ev­ery­body knows of course) causes rapid heart­beat, dizzi­ness, faint­ing, con­fu­sion and even hal­lu­ci­na­tions, when an in­di­vid­ual is ex­posed to par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful art or a large amount of art in a sin­gle place. The term can also be used to de­scribe a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion, when con­fronted with im­mense beauty in the nat­u­ral world, ac­cord­ing to my trusted ex­pert, Wikipedia.

In my case, it is the knee-weak­en­ing vi­sion of Zawadi Beach Vil­las in Zanz­ibar, which has in­duced this con­di­tion. An hour or so be­fore this sud­den on­set of the Dreaded Lurgi, the lovely voice of Cap­tain van der Westhuizen wel­comes us to Zanz­ibar and thanks us for fly­ing Mango Air­lines from South Africa, a very com­fort­able three and a half hour flight. Our driver PK from Tradewinds Trans­fers promptly awaits us out­side the tiny third-world air­port and for the next hour, I am im­mersed in the sights and sounds of Zanz­ibar as we pass cows, scoot­ers car­ry­ing up to three pas­sen­gers, women clothed in burkas and laugh­ing chil­dren on their way home from school, all be­neath gi­ant sway­ing palm trees in the trop­i­cal heat. Brightly coloured clothes on lines bil­low in the breeze and flam­ing orange frangi­pani break up the im­pos­si­ble green of the palm trees and the metal grey sky. Zanz­ibar is a semi-au­ton­o­mous part of Tan­za­nia in East Africa with a pop­u­la­tion of about 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple. It is com­posed of the Zanz­ibar Ar­chi­pel­ago in the In­dian Ocean, off the coast of the main­land, and con­sists of many small is­lands

and two large ones: Un­guja (the main is­land, re­ferred to in­for­mally as Zanz­ibar) and Pemba. Its his­toric cen­tre is Stone Town, which is a World Her­itage Site. It is widely known as a haven for hon­ey­moon­ers and hol­i­day mak­ers be­cause of its friendly peo­ple, trop­i­cal cli­mate and world-class pow­dery white beaches with wa­ter the colour of blue crys­tal.

Upon ar­rival at Zawadi Ho­tel in the south-east­ern part of the is­land, the mean­ing of the name be­comes im­me­di­ately ev­i­dent. Zawadi means “gift” in Swahili and the beau­ti­fully sim­ple and mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture of the build­ings and its so­phis­ti­cated white dé­cor su­per­im­posed on the translu­cent sea be­yond is cer­tainly a gift of the most spe­cial or­der. Zawadi is the new­est mem­ber of The Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion, a unique and global award win­ning group of ho­tels here on the is­land, and this lat­est as­set is an ab­so­lute gem.

It is one of the most ex­clu­sive prop­er­ties on the is­land with just nine large vil­las set in a se­cluded spot atop a cliff.

The main guest area con­tains a large swim­ming pool, again with spec­tac­u­lar views; as well as the restau­rant and bar area serv­ing the renowned Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion food. To­wards the cen­tre of the prop­erty, the cliffs re­cede and you can snorkel in a pris­tine cove di­rectly from the beach.

The colour scheme through­out com­prises only nu­anced creams and whites, which beau­ti­fully off-sets the amaz­ing nat­u­ral ar­ray of pal­lettes - the turquoise ocean, the blue skies and the mixes of red and fuch­sia bougainvil­lea. We are greeted with fresh co­conut wa­ter – straight from the co­conut – after which our gra­cious and warm host Eve­lyn takes us to our villa.

The hyp­no­tis­ing view of the In­dian Ocean in all its glim­mer­ing glory is the main fo­cus of all of the vil­las, with the raised lo­ca­tion giv­ing some of the best views on the is­land. Each spa­cious villa, 100 square me­tres apiece, boasts a large en-suite bath­room and an open, breezy ter­race di­rectly over­look­ing the In­dian Ocean. The decor is sim­ple and mod­ern, in keep­ing with the el­e­gant and un­der­stated at­mos­phere.

All the usual 5-star ameni­ties are on of­fer, of course, like mini-bar, air con­di­tioner, hu­mungous bath with robes and slip­pers as well as the loveli­est bath oils, soaps and bub­bles.

We go for a spot of lunch at the restau­rant with the sea stretch­ing be­low us and the tide is al­ready com­ing in. Ge­orge and Raza serve us and a friend­lier and fun­nier duo you will ne’er find. We feast on yel­low fin tuna, grilled do­rado and a lovely trio of sor­bet for dessert. We laze around the pool for the rest of the af­ter­noon, cock­tail in hand, savour­ing the peace and tran­quil­lity.

Ge­orge brings the menu for din­ner to the pool so we can choose what we would like to dine on – what a su­perb touch.

I lie on my lounger on my ter­race at our

villa later, dream­ily in reverie at the deeper shade of blue of the ocean as dark­ness falls, when I’m star­tled by a voice. “Hallo hallo!” says smil­ing waiter Ali be­hind me, sport­ing a tray of canapés and sun­downer sparkling wine, brought to all the guests this time of day ev­ery day. It’s lit­tle touches like these to­gether with the heav­enly seclu­sion, the en­chanted lo­ca­tion, in­ti­macy and pri­vacy that el­e­vates Zawadi way above its com­peti­tors. That, plus the fact that the well­be­ing and hap­pi­ness of the guest seem to oc­cupy ev­ery thought and deed of the staff.

Din­ner is sim­ply sub­lime. Mud crab can­nel­loni, Thai style green pa­paya salad and chilled cu­cum­ber soup are the heav­enly morsels prof­fered for en­trées and for the main course we bliss­fully aban­don our­selves to flame-grilled slip­per lob­ster and roast pork ten­der­loin with a “pas­sion­ate” mouse with co­conut crum­ble and olive oil sher­bet as dessert.

The fol­low­ing day passes in a blur of easy-go­ing de­light. Break­fast is fol­lowed by rev­el­ling in and laz­ing by the pool. Lunch is fol­lowed by a spot of snorkelling in the ocean, the tem­per­a­ture of bath wa­ter. An­other fan­tas­tic din­ner is fol­lowed by after-din­ner drinks on the pa­tio, star­ing at the mil­lions of twin­kling stars and won­der­ing aloud to our­selves what other peo­ple are do­ing now at home…

And then for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Our third day sees us wav­ing fond farewells to our new friends at Zawadi and un­der­tak­ing the enor­mously long trek – about two kilo­me­tres down the road – to The Palms ho­tel.

Also a Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion ho­tel, this place is straight out of our dreams.

The Palms is one of the world’s most ro­man­tic all-in­clu­sive re­sorts, says Travel + Leisure, and who am I to dis­agree with such a vaunted opin­ion?

We are wel­comed with a hi­bis­cus drink by the in­cred­i­bly charm­ing ho­tel man­ager Siriak, who shows us around breath-tak­ing prop­erty and its lush Gar­den of Eden en­vi­ron­ment.

The fu­sion of Arab, African and Euro­pean de­sign and colour­ful ta­pes­try of ar­chi­tec­ture, her­itage, myth and magic is ex­em­pli­fied in this ex­clu­sive, in­ti­mate re­sort.

The Palms has six vil­las, each over 140 square me­ters with a bed­room, liv­ing room, full en-suite bath­room, dress­ing room, ex­tra room with its own en-suite bath­room and large fur­nished ter­race with views of the In­dian Ocean, to­day a pal­ette of blue Pi­casso would be jeal­ous of.

Each villa fea­tures a so­phis­ti­cated in­te­rior com­po­si­tion in all colours of cof­fee and cream, where filmy caramel coloured cur­tains bil­low, dark grained pol­ished floors ex­tend and the decor is a unique mar­riage of colo­nial grandeur and tra­di­tional de­sign. On the ve­randa, a silk­draped four-poster Zanz­ibar bed ac­cents a sunken, mid­night blue plunge pool with long views of the In­dian Ocean – the ab­so­lute best fea­ture of this villa. It’s a se­cluded co­coon, one you might never want to leave, were it not for the he­do­nis­tic plea­sures to be found out­side,

As a guest here, you have ac­cess to Baraza and Breezes, two other prop­er­ties of the Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion, but it’s “one-way traf­fic” as Siriak says grin­ning, in­di­cat­ing just how spe­cial guests are here.

You can cy­cle, kayak and snorkel here, all free of charge, though ac­tiv­i­ties like scuba div­ing and wind­surf­ing are charged for. We have no such lofty am­bi­tions and in­stead en­joy the more se­date plea­sures of a won­der­ful lunch con­sist­ing of a stu­pen­dous lamb burger as well as freshly caught line fish where­after we em­bark on the stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity of laz­ing by the pool. The re­lax­ing strains of soft is­land mu­sic with the sway­ing palms pro­vid­ing the cho­rus com­plete this pic­ture of bliss.

At night, this ro­man­tic hide­away trans­forms into an im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful mag­i­cal fairy land with tiki lamps and can­dles ev­ery­where.

Din­ner is su­perb yet again. The del­i­cate seafood soup as en­tre and beef fil­let as main course blow our minds and the ser­vice again fault­less –I’m be­gin­ning to think they have a fac­tory some­where,

Zanz­ibar is a semi-au­ton­o­mous part of Tan­za­nia in East Africa with a pop­u­la­tion of about 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple. It is com­posed of the Zanz­ibar Ar­chi­pel­ago in the In­dian Ocean, off the coast of the main­land, and con­sists of many small is­lands and two large ones: Un­guja (the main is­land, re­ferred to in­for­mally as Zanz­ibar) and Pemba.

where they cre­ate these mag­i­cal serv­ing staff. A heav­enly sacher­torte with home­made mango ice cream pro­vides a glo­ri­ous end to pro­ceed­ings. A lo­cal his­to­rian, Mis­ter Banda, is in­tro­duced to the guests after din­ner. He speaks only Swahili and Siriak trans­lates as he tells the many myr­iad of Zanz­ibar tales. His an­cient eyes are filled with gen­er­a­tions of wis­dom and we sit, lis­ten­ing trans­fixed…. Long after ev­ery­one has gone to bed, I still philosophise with Kibal­ala, our waiter, about his ad­ven­tures in hos­pi­tal­ity.

“Hap­pi­ness is ex­pen­sive,” he says, metaphor­i­cally. Wise peo­ple, these… Baraza Re­sort and Spa next door is our home for our last night on this amaz­ing Spice Is­land. It was voted among the Top 20 Lux­ury Ho­tels in the world by Tripad­vi­sor re­cently. After break­fast, the man­ager of Baraza, Daniel, per­son­ally es­corts us next door and gives us the grand tour.

It’s a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish al­to­gether – in fact, it’s quite a spec­tac­u­lar re­sort.

It’s a 5-star all-in­clu­sive ho­tel (just like the pre­vi­ous prop­er­ties) and was se­lected as one of the 60 best new ho­tels in the world by Conde Nast Trav­eler, a pres­ti­gious world­wide travel mag­a­zine. With just 30 vil­las, this stun­ning re­sort

Stone Town is a World Her­itage Site. It is widely known as a haven for hon­ey­moon­ers and hol­i­day mak­ers be­cause of its friendly peo­ple, trop­i­cal cli­mate and world-class pow­dery white beaches with wa­ter the colour of blue crys­tal.

evokes the her­itage of Zanz­ibar dat­ing back to the era of the Sul­tans. A fu­sion of Ara­bic, Swahili and In­dian de­sign, with Swahili arches, in­tri­cate hand-carved ce­ment dé­cor, beau­ti­ful an­tiques, hand­made fur­ni­ture and in­tri­cate brass lanterns; Baraza of­fers un­par­al­leled stan­dards of lux­ury.

Our villa is less villa and more palace. You can spend a week sleep­ing on a dif­fer­ent day bed/night bed/lounger/couch in here. We make full use of our splash pool be­fore ven­tur­ing out for a snorkel in the warm In­dian Ocean.

The lunch buf­fet is a treat. We gorge our­selves on chicken, pasta made-to-or­der, loads of dif­fer­ent sal­ads and home-made ice cream – yum!

Later, Daniel takes us to the Spa, a ver­i­ta­ble sanc­tu­ary, where you can in­dulge in all sorts of mind and body cleans­ing treat­ments and ther­a­pies.

In fact, the en­tire ho­tel is like a dance of the Seven Veils, each nook and al­cove re­veal­ing some­thing new and fan­tas­tic in the forms of sym­met­ri­cal gi­ant cop­per pots, other divine arte­facts or the beau­ti­ful gar­den filled with bougainvil­lea of all colours. For din­ner that evening, the restau­rant glim­mers like a movie set from Lawrence of Ara­bia. En­chant­ment and won­der em­anate from the soft lights, sparkling gold mo­tifs and soft jazz.

The food is de­li­cious and plen­ti­ful, con­sist­ing of a Chi­nese cor­nu­copia of del­i­ca­cies like sushi, pork ribs, sweet and sour chicken and beef and stir fry dishes. The pas­try chef con­jured up morsels such as honey spiced cake, pecan nut pie, mango mouse, tapi­oca and the most de­li­cious crème Brule we have ever tasted.

The thought of leav­ing the next day makes my heart sink, but at least I now know what God did on the 7th day be­fore he rested…. He made The Zanz­ibar Col­lec­tion.

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