By Lucy McGuire | 17 July 2017

Zawadi: A Luxurious Stay in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is becoming a popular choice for discerning travellers. Spa enthusiasts, safari-goers and those in search of understated luxury will find everything they need at the new and exclusive Zawadi.

It’s an assault on the senses when you arrive into Stone Town. Once East Africa’s key trading port, it’s a place where crumbling merchant houses and ornate doorways tell stories of colonial rulers. It’s a place where you are never far away from the tales of Zanzibar’s tumultuous – and sometimes dark - past. Yet it’s also a place that represents a beautiful fusion of Arabic, African, Portuguese and Asian cultures.

Beach At Zawadi Hotel Credit Lucy Mc Guire 2

Photo credit: Lucy McGuire

While the main town of Unguja – the most populated island of the Zanzibar archipelago – is chaotic, the southeast coast is the sleepy, slow-paced polar opposite. Nestled in between the largely undeveloped villages of Dongwe, Pingwe and Michamvi, Zawadi – meaning ‘gift’ in Swahili - beckons the discerning traveller in search of understated luxury and R&R.

Zawadi 86 Credit The Zanzibar Collection

Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

When you first arrive at this five-star sanctuary, you’ll need to pause to take in the arresting view. Palms rustle in the breeze and bougainvillea present vivid pops of magenta across the sprawling gardens. In the centre, an inviting infinity pool appears to kiss the aquamarine Indian ocean behind it - the scenery is simply staggering.

Until Zawadi Hotel opened here in the middle of last year, it was one of the most sought-after locations on Zanzibar’s southeast coast. Perched above a quiet cove known as Mswakini Beach, not only is the sand blindingly white, the cove is also cradled within striking rocky cliffs that create enchanting shapes over the splashing waves. At high tide, it’s transformed into its own private bubble which you can only approach by road. It has all the components you need for creating a five-star hideaway.


Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

The development itself is one of four owned by The Zanzibar Collection and joins a second portfolio – the Palacina Collection – who have properties in Nairobi, Berlin and Woodstock. The brainchild of The Raguz family, all of the hotels within The Zanzibar Collection are located within a short drive of each other. Yet each one takes on a slightly different style and approach.

The Palms is an intimate set-up of six private villas presented in an alluring old-fashioned aesthetic, while, Baraza is a larger, modern take on the Omani Arab design the island is known for. Gilded surfaces and Arab-inspired archways make for a one-of-a-kind experience at Baraza’s Frangipani Spa. If you are staying at Zawadi, make it your priority to book in here for a luxurious spa experience.

Resized Spa Pool1 Frangipani Spa Credit The Zanzibar Collection

The Frangipani spa, photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

It’s no surprise the interiors are such a talking point at Zawadi too. Kenyan interior designer Palacina Interiors masterminded its elegant beachy style. It manages to feel like a luxurious sanctuary whilst also reflecting the many charms of the island.

Spa Sultanbath Frangipani Spa Baraza Credit The Zanzibar Collection

Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

Wicker furniture perfectly complements the open-air restaurants and lounges and the towering thatched rooves remind guests of the island’s Swahili culture, while providing much-needed shade in the tropical heat. Meanwhile, the villas are huge air-conditioned spaces of all-white interiors, bathtubs offering garden views and a memory-foam bed surrounded by beautiful floaty drapes. Creature comforts come in the way of waffle robes, flat-screen TVs and fully-stocked bars and a heavenly scent of jasmine seems to constantly drift through the air.


Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

Each villa is ocean-facing and for the utmost privacy, guests can pull a string across their garden path where a coconut shell reads ‘do not disturb’. Our villa, ‘papa’ (Swahili for shark) feels like the most private retreat I’ve ever stayed in. I roll out a yoga mat from the room and practice sun salutations towards the ocean.

Zawadi Hotel Credit Lucy Mc Guire

Photo credit: Lucy McGuire


Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

It’s unlikely you’ll see many ‘papas’ in the waters off Zanzibar – of the Great White variety, anyway. However, if you walk down the beach in low tide you can swim out to a natural lagoon where you may spot an abundance of other tropical marine life.

For something a little more sedate, take a kayak out for a gentle paddle and admire the many creatures through those impossibly clear waters – enough to work up an appetite for the hotel’s Mswakini Beach Bar.

Dining Banda 3
Dining Banda 1

Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

It’s hard to define the flavours of Zanzibar, yet the dining at Zawadi offers a glorious introduction. Breakfast is a colourful affair of exotic fruit plates and freshly cooked pancakes while lunchtime presents perfectly-sized portions of plump shrimp salad and fish curries, served with buttery chapatis and an ever-so-elegant level of spice.

Dining Banda 5
Dining Banda 6

Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection

At sunset, butlers deliver hors-d’ouvres and cocktails to your room and menus are brought to guests wherever they are in the hotel, to take their orders ahead of your next meal. Dinner is served in the Drift Wood Dining Room which is blessed with a cool Indian ocean breeze and steps up the class with inventive dishes such as lobster served three ways, zingy palate cleansers and fine South African wines. The service is attentive yet discreet, with staff picking up the finest details from your conversations. Importantly, they always remember your name.

Island Of Zanzibar View From Zawadi Hotel Credit Lucy Mc Guire

Photo credit: Lucy McGuire

On my last night at Zawadi, I sink into bed and set my alarm for an hour I rarely witness. I’ve already marvelled at the most captivating sunsets in Stone Town, but I’ve yet to see the island’s sunrise.

 Bleary eyed, I step out onto our patio a few hours later to see a glorious sky of pinks, golds and oranges. Blink for a second and you might miss its ever-changing hues that create silhouettes through the fishermen’s dhow boats and the swaying palms. Within no time, the sun has risen and that precious moment has gone. But it’s bound to bring you back one day to this undeniably beautiful place.

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