is an authentic Zanzibari beach lodge with vast beach bandas and a wonderful setting on Zanzibar’s southernmost tip. The lodge is a celebration of Zanzibar and provides great comfort, privacy and a relaxed ambience. Set amidst beautiful wild gardens of bright bougainvillea and hibiscus, fan palms, mango trees and ancient Baobabs, Unguja is positioned to take advantage of the blushing pink sunrises to the east and golden orange sunsets to the west.
During construction, the natural terrain was left intact, so many of the indigenous animals remained. Vervet monkeys and, occasionally, Red colobus monkeys are seen leaping through the trees. The surroundings are inhabited by lizards, butterflies and small mammals such as rock hyrax and the little Dik-dik antelope. Birdlife is good ranging from purple banded and olive sunbirds to kingfishers and blue-cheeked bee eaters.
The eleven bandas are built with coral rock and traditional makuti roofs and integrated into the natural vegetation. The seven double-storey, open-fronted sea view villas provide a great sense of space. Each has a private terrace overlooking Menai Bay from which you can watch the dhows’ progress and a shaded, circular Baraza-style lounge area decked out with vibrant cushions. The spacious bedroom is on the ground floor; a second floor loft-style bedroom accommodates up to three children.
The three baobab villas are orientated towards the garden and several magnificent Baobabs. They offer sea views only from the upstairs bedroom, but they have the benefit of a private plunge pool and air conditioning in the main bedroom. The enormous sea-view family villa has two upstairs bedrooms with en suite bathrooms.
All bandas have mosquito nets, ceiling fan and digital safe, and a kanga, traditional wear for East African women, and a kikoi are provided for your use. In the spacious, open shower room are soap and shampoo locally made from coconut oil and Zanzibari spices. Reusable shampoo bottles minimise litter.
The stylish main building has sweeping, curved white walls enlivened by Zanzibari fabrics and art works. It houses the restaurant, bar and lounge. Low, curved walls divide the dining area into semi-private areas.
In front of the bar and lounge, the free-form pool has ample sun loungers and umbrellas, in addition to the vitanda vikamba, traditional beds made out of wood and rope, scattered through the gardens and on the beach. Beyond the pool, at the cliff’s edge, a sandy area is furnished with sun loungers, tables and chairs where you can enjoy the sunset with a beautifully decorated tropical cocktail and ‘bitings’ (snacks). There is also a library and reading corner with internet access. An informal shop sells kikois, kangas and local arts and crafts. With only eleven bandas, owners Ralph and Elies ensure personal care and attention. Unguja has a relaxed family-friendly vibe, while still spacious enough for couples to enjoy a private, away-from-it-all holiday.
Meals celebrate local seasonal produce and you can enjoy fresh, tropical fruits along with pancakes and ‘eggs-as-you- like’ at breakfast. Pastry Chef Mahadia takes high tea as an opportunity to tempt you with her pastries and tarts. Lunch and dinner alternate between set menus, buffets and BBQs. Fruits of the ocean are creatively presented and feature green curry grilled dorado, roasted sailfish or chef Nyerere’s speciality, pepper crab. The cashewnut fool is divine, complemented by aromatic Tanzanian coffee.
Activities at Unguja Lodge Zanzibar
Unguja stands on a small cliff above a quiet, tidal beach – when the tide is in, it comes right to the edge of the cliff. A five-minute walk along a pretty, pebbled path takes you to a lovely stretch of secluded beach. Unguja is one of the rare places where you can still swim when the tide is out, and where you can snorkel or dive from the beach – the nearest site is only a 70m swim. One Ocean operates the 5-star PADI dive centre and arranges diving, PADI courses, snorkelling, dolphin trips and island visits. During August, September, December and January, you may be lucky enough to see humpback whales on their annual migration. Lodge staff will organise a guided tour through the village so you can meet the village elder, the sheha, see the women make rope from coconut husks, how fishermen repair the nets, visit the school and the big baobab trees.
You can visit Jozini Forest and escape the heat in Zanzibar’s last mature indigenous forest while seeking the endangered Red colobus monkeys, or discover East Africa’s oldest Shirazi mosque in Kizimkazi Dimbani; embark on a Spice Island Tour or take a day trip to explore the labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.
One Ocean has dive centres in locations across the island. Dives are led by a qualified Dive Master or Instructor and boats are equipped with VHF radios, two engines and life jackets. A DAN-managed hyperbaric chamber is on Zanzibar’s northeast coast. Among the wonderful dive sites in the Menai Bay conservation area, Kizidi Reef is a gentle 12 to 15 metre dive offering hard and soft corals and an abundance of fish including big Emperors, Angel fish, Blue spotted rays and Black spot sweet lips. Experienced divers will enjoy White Reef, a coral plateau that has a bit of a current when the tide is running. Groupers Grotto is a 30 meter wall dive, where giant specimens of this curious fish can be found. One Palm Reef can provide a fast ride drift dive – and the sight of green turtles. The majority of the dive sites are also ideal for snorkelling.
In addition to locally sourcing its soaps and shampoos, and the careful construction of the lodge, Unguja contributes to the local community through staff employment and projects funded by the guided village walks. The entire $5 fee is donated to the village and Unguja works with the village elders to decide upon projects and ensure the money is used for communal benefit Projects have included extra lessons to prepare Form 2 pupils for their national examinations and a new water pump. The next objective is laboratory equipment for the secondary school.