Exotic. Sultry. Mysterious. Such is the spice island of Zanzibar – or so we imagine… In fact, Zanzibar, part of Tanzania, is a collection of islands off the east coast of Africa.
But just the name “Zanzibar” – described as an “island of magic” and a “paradise island” – is enough to conjure up images of wooden dhows sailing into “postcard sunsets,” spice markets brimming with saffron and cinnamon, palms swaying over sugar-white beaches and the bewitching Scheherazade (who spun the legendary tales of “One Thousand and One Nights”).
We hear too, though, the mournful cries from its “chequered past” – the countless slaves sold over the centuries in the slave markets of Stone Town.
Still, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t have too many pre-conceived notions. Zanzibar also has its touristy side (what travel destination doesn’t?).
Visitors and travel writers do agree, however, that Zanzibar is an ideal place to unwind post-safari.
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we’re headed soon to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia on safari. After, we’ll finish our African adventure soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar Palace Hotel
Tucked away among the tangled alleyways of Stone Town (designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000) is the top-rated Zanzibar Palace Hotel.
This is where we’ll stay at first to explore Stone Town and spice markets.
Each of the boutique inn’s nine rooms is individually decorated with antiques, Persian rugs, colorful silks and locally-crafted four-poster beds (Janice will likely indulge in some daydreaming about the life of the sultans).
We hope to see this little fella – the Red colobus monkey – on a half-day trip walking tour through the Jozani Forest in Zanzibar’s interior.
andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge
Zanzibar’s barefoot luxury splurge is andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge. (Fair warning: asking how much it costs will result in heavy breathing and heart palpitations.)
This private island resort is three miles off the northeastern tip of Zanzibar – we take a boat ride to get there.
It has 10 rustic bandas or huts (no air-conditioning). But “exclusive,” “magical” and “romantic” are some of the words used to describe the place.
If we’re not scuba diving (two daily dives p.p. are included in the rates), we’ll be noshing on lobster. (We know, we know – we have the world’s worst job.)
Up next: The Palms – one of the world’s most romantic all-inclusive resorts, according to Travel + Leisure.
Just six villas here – each with a living room, bedroom, two bathrooms (nice: one for George and one for Janice), and out on the veranda, a silk-draped four-poster Zanzibar bed and midnight blue plunge pool.
Activities include kite surfing (will we try it? mmm…, no), sailing, scuba diving and Thai massage.
But we may be content to simply relax on the beach. After all, Conde Nast Traveler rates Bwejuu Beach (where The Palms nestles) “one of the 30 top island beaches in the world.”
Baraza Resort & Spa
Packing up from The Palms won’t be too hard because we move down the beach to its new sister resort Baraza Resort & Spa. Baraza snagged a spot on the UK Conde Nast Traveller’s “Hot List 2012.”
This might be the closest we get to living in a sultan’s palace. Lush bougainvillea gardens, lots of carved white marble and Arabian-style arches, brass oil lamps and the designer-owners’ brand of clove-scented soap.
And are those private plunge pools for the 30 villas? And four-poster daybeds with gold silk curtains?
Baraza apparently even supplies special sandals for guests to walk at low tide along the beach, almost to the coral reef’s edge, to look for crabs, sea urchins, octopus and other critters.
Hopefully we can do some stand-up paddleboarding while at Baraza too.
Ok. That’s it. We’re not coming home…
Except that our Tanzanian visas will expire. And we’ll get to relive our incredible Zanzibar trip when we write our travel articles. And, well, the world is a vast potpourri of alluring places – all calling out to us to explore.
Update November 19, 2013
Now that we’re back from Zanzibar, you can read “Spicy Zanzibar: Baby, It’s Hot Here!” (based on our travel feature published in The Globe and Mail).