Zanzibar is one of my favorite islands in the world. I came here for the first time in 2013 and again during the times of Coronavirus. This time around, I decided to stay in various locations around the island to really get a good feel of the place.
I started my trip staying in the northeast in the beautiful area of Matemwe as I wanted to do a dive at the Mnemba Atoll. After browsing through booking.com, I settled on the beautiful Zanzibar Sunrise Bandas located right on the beach.
I’m a big fan of Boutique hotels and Zanzibar’s east coast is littered with so many amazing options. It was hard to choose to be honest but I’m glad I made the decision to stay here. In addition, make sure to read my comprehensive guide on traveling Zanzibar if you are planning to visit!
Booking my Stay at Zanzibar Sunrise at Bandas
I booked my stay for Zanzibar Sunrise on Booking.com. The prices are inclusive of breakfast and there are options to include dinner as well. I thought the price to service ratio was very good here.
The hotel is run by three people from Poland. They were incredibly nice throughout my stay and very accommodative to any requests I had. Being a small boutique hotel, I ended up chatting with them on numerous occasions learning their story and the history of the resort.
They helped with everything including booking a car transfer from Stone Town for $30 which is a very good price in my opinion.
The Resort at Zanzibar Sunrise
The main space of the resort is beautiful. There are not one but two large pools for you to choose from with sunbeds and chairs available in both. There is plenty of lounge space available throughout the resort for you to relax. The dining area features a large open space featuring a well stocked bar with reasonable prices, and comfortable tables.
Zanzibar Sunrise also puts on various activities throughout the week. While I stayed here, they offered salsa classes as well as a boxing class. This was unexpected but very welcome as it allowed me to do some sort of physical activity having done very little in the days leading up to it.
The Rooms at Zanzibar Sunrise
The rooms inside are constructed in a modern but rustic manner incorporating rounded stone slabs, marble sinks, rain showers, and thoughtfully crafted wooden furniture. The rooms are really spacious and perfect for two people. The decks are also plenty big enough to do a workout on if you fancy that.
The bed is very comfortable. It faces directly out to the ocean so once you open the two big front doors, you have nothing but the views of your feet and the ocean in front of you. As you are facing east, you can expect to have the sunrise literally at your doorstep at 6am in the morning every day.
Matemwe Beach stretches for a few kilometers with numerous other boutique style hotels. The big resorts are not in Matemwe which means those that are anti all-inclusive resorts, this is your type of area.
The beach itself is incredibly beautiful as you’d expect with the east side of Zanzibar. High tide and low tide contrast is extremely stark but something about watching the water recede and flood back to shore twice a day is relaxing to me.
There are not many tourists on Matemwe Beach so you won’t be haggled by the beach boys and others selling random goods. They are still here however, as it is not a private beach, but it is nothing compared to say in Kiwengwa to the south with its numerous resorts. I stayed at a resort in Kiwengwa the last time (Dreams of Zanzibar) I was in Zanzibar and much prefer this.
For those looking for activities, there are two dive shops in the area that make daily trips out to the Mnemba Atoll, as well as a kitesurfing shop nearby.
The restaurant at Zanzibar Sunrise
Like most hotels in Zanzibar, breakfast is included in the cost of the stay. The breakfast at Zanzibar Sunrise is delicious with all the breakfast essentials you can think of. Coffee/tea, eggs, sausage, pancakes, French toast, fruit platters, pastries etc. The best part was that I could order as much of the breakfast items as I wanted. Even better, I could have my breakfast (and any other meal) from the comfort of my deck while looking out at the ocean.
In fact, the breakfast was so comprehensive that often times I would have a light lunch or skip it altogether. For lunch and dinner options, the menu was yet again very comprehensive with a selection of meats, seafood, and veggie options.
I tried the prawns curry which was out of this world, as well as the veggie chapati wrap which of course is delicious because anything in a chapati wrap is. For dinner, they would have a few options of the day that usually involved seafood of some sort. The dishes are just delicious, almost bordering on a fine dining style presentation.
Garden Bob’s restaurant
Unlike Nungwi which is home to many different restaurants disconnected with hotels, there are not many in Matemwe. Most of the resorts (including Zanzibar Sunrise) allow for walk-ins but there aren’t many local style restaurants. I did fine one place in town called Garden Bob’s. The food is much cheaper ($5-10) and is very good. I had fresh seafood, soups, and grilled chicken on numerous occasions.
Just be prepared to wait a long time for your food as this is Africa after all and you need to embrace the pole pole (slow slow) lifestyle.
Lowtide tour of the reef
One of the most unique things I did while staying in Matemwe was a tour of the inner reef during low tide. This didn’t sound like something interesting to me at first but at the behest of the owners, I did it and glad to have listened!
The tour is really just a walk through the low tide to explore all the amazing sea creatures and to visit a sandbank at the end of the inner reef. One of the gardeners at the resort does the “tour”. It’s free of cost, but of course a tip is appreciated. Think of it like a free walking tour.
We started an hour or two before the peak of low tide so we could walk out into the ocean. Turns out, there are lots of very interesting things to discover outside of coral reefs. Sea urchins are common in this part of Zanzibar and I had no idea there were four different types. The guy found all four types of urchins and I even held a few of them. We did the same with numerous types of starfish.
He explained how the fisherman catch the fish in the shallow reefs with their nets, as well as how they harvest seaweed for medicinal purposes. In the end, we went to a shallow sandbank only visible during low tide. Here I saw some kids pry a baby moray eel hidden deep in the rocks. Turns out, the people love moray eel soup. Need to try that some time.
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