The sky had been grey all morning and for a time, it seemed like our planned dhow cruise to Prison Island (Changuu) would be called off. Eventually the clouds disappeared, the wind stilled and the azure-blue waters of the Indian Ocean calmed.

Excitedly, we headed towards the private jetty at Zanzi Resort to find our transport.

Jetty view from Zanzi Resort

“Jambo!” we greeted the bent figure who was busy releasing the mooring line securing the dhow to the jetty.

A stocky face looked up, flashed us a gap-toothed smile and responded in a deep baritone voice, “Jambo! Welcome to Zanzibar.

“Jina lako nani?” we enquired for his name. Seemingly impressed with our basic Swahili, he responded in English, “My name is Simba. Captain Simba.” He explained that he and his assistant would be our chaperones for the cruise and snorkelling excursion that day.

Day out at Prison Island Changuu Zanzibar

Pausing at the end of the jetty, we reflected on our plush surroundings as Captain Simba made preparations for us to depart. Behind us, we could just about make out the thatched rooftops of Zanzi Resort’s ocean-facing villas hidden by dancing palm trees and lush green foliage; an alluring luxury hideaway on the cliffs of Kama, a village 30 minutes north of Zanzibar’s capital, Stone Town.

 

Secluded luxury

Jambo welcome to Zanzi Resort Zanzibar

The boutique resort itself is spread over six hectares of land and consists of seven air-conditioned luxurious ocean-facing villas and six garden bungalows constructed using traditional African building materials of mostly wood, clay and dry grass.

The properties are arranged in a rough semi-circle around the restaurant which serves as a focal point of activity. Large umbrella trees provide beautiful tropical shelter from the rest of the world. Although one of the more premium properties in Zanzibar, Zanzi Resort delivers on its promise of comfort and privacy.

Luxury villa Zanzi Resort private pool

Our luxury villa had everything we needed for a relaxing experience including a large lounge and dining area and a Zanzibari-style four poster king-sized bed. The furniture was distinctly East African with rich dark woods, Swahili motifs and a Zanzibari-style four-poster bed. We could access our private artificial, wave-enabled swimming pool directly from both the bedroom and lounge.

Whenever the sun got too hot, a gazebo-style day bed provided a place of refuge. A cobblestone pathway led to an ocean-facing massage room and a private beach with sunbeds, diving and kayaking equipment.

The real revelation for us however, was the jetty. Recently completed, the spacious jetty had a dhow-shaped hammock, sun loungers and a small coffee bar. Guaranteeing isolation, we were alone with nothing but sun, sea and sky for company; an experience that was rounded off each day with spectacular sunsets characteristic to the west coast of Zanzibar. It was the perfect setting for a romantic dinner which the resort was happy to arrange.

Jetty sunset view at Zanzi Resort Zanzibar

[Check for Zanzi Resort rates here]

HDYTI Tip: Cooking classes, massages and Japanese inspired Ganbanyoku hot stone spa treatments and an outdoor ‘jungle gym’ are also available at Zanzi Resort.

 

The man who was never lost

Day out at Prison Island Changuu Zanzibar

“It is time to go”, Captain Simba’s deep baritone interrupted our silent reverie.

We climbed aboard the dhow as the sun hit its zenith. Split over two levels although small, the dhow was sturdy and comfortably lined with cushions. After a safety briefing, Captain Simba handed out snorkelling equipment and reminded us that Zanzi Resort had provided packed lunches for us.

While his assistant, Hamedi, fired up the engine, Captain Simba secured himself on the vessel’s bow. An introspective character, we got the impression that a deep mind and a lot of life experience lay beneath his quiet demeanour.

Studying him evoked a quote from author Taylor Steele: “There was once a man who became unstuck in the world – he took the wind for a map, he took the sky for a clock, and he set off with no direction. He was never lost.”

Fortunately Captain Simba knew exactly where we needed to go and after an uneventful cruise, we landed at Zanzibar’s famous Prison Island. Once a slave station, the island was never used as an actual prison and instead was converted into quarantine station in the 1920s. Now a sanctuary for giant tortoises, it provided a great base for a snorkelling excursion in the surrounding reef.

Day out at Prison Island Changuu Zanzibar

HDYTI Tip: For the best snorkelling experience in Zanzibar, head to Chumbe, a small island within easy reach of Zanzibar Town. See more Zanzibar travel tips here.

 

Swahili cuisine at Zanzi Resort

Snorkelling had made us hungry and after wolfing down our sandwich lunch, Captain Simba piloted us back to Zanzi Resort. “Kwaheri!” we said, as we exchanged goodbyes with the amiable sea faring dhow captain.

Eager to experience some authentic Swahili cuisine we looked forward with anticipation to dinner. Zanzi Resort provides a personal butler service and meals can be served in-villa. However, we preferred to dine in the spacious restaurant where the food was supplemented by the Swahili inspired décor, cool breeze and night-time forest sounds. A repetitive 80s pop music playlist seemed the only anomaly in that serene setting.

Luxury villa Zanzi Resort private butler service

Head Chef Juba and his team served up a reasonably adventurous menu of European and traditional Swahili dishes and were happy to cater to our gluten and diary dietary restrictions.

The central themes were aromatic spices, fresh succulent fruit and locally sourced seafood. Hot dishes were served by an attentive staff who, appearing introverted at first, were happy to chat about Zanzibari food and culture. An extensive selection of wines and cocktails enriched the overall dining experience.

Luxury villa Zanzi Resort private pool

Our immersion into the local cuisine was complete when, for breakfast the next morning, we opted for the aptly titled ‘Swahili Breakfast’ an array of white oats porridge, chapatti bread, red beans, fried banana, kachumbari (tomato) salad and sweet potatoes. Truly a feast for kings, Princess Salme, a famous member of the Omani Arab dynasty who once called these islands home, would have approved.

 

Symbiotic relationship

Swahili theme art Zanzi Resort Zanzibar

Nominated for several Safari Awards, Zanzi Resort’s main ethos is to serve as an all year round relaxing retreat and to provide a sense of intimacy which honeymooners will find suitable.

Heading back to our favourite place, the jetty, we ran into one of the many Maasai warriors who are employed as seasonal security guards. His red Shuka contrasted sharply with the green vegetation and ocean blue. In a country where eco-tourism is still very immature, Zanzi Resort has taken proactive steps to support the local community by employing staff from the area and maintaining good relations with their hosts. Guests can also support local artisans by purchasing sustainably sourced arts and crafts from the resort.

Environmentally, there is currently no significant recycling program in much of Zanzibar. However, waste water is treated in Zanzi Resort’s own biological treatment plant and they also provide quality clean drinking water.

Day out at Prison Island Changuu Zanzibar

Typically favouring a more exploratory style of travel, we were grateful for the reclusiveness which Zanzi Resort offered, allowing us to switch off for a few days without worrying about the minutiae of travel. Although curious about the local community, we opted to spend the rest of our time basking in this tropical beauty.

Zanzi Resort massage room with ocean view

History records that when the exiled Princess Salme died in 1924, a bag of beach sand from Zanzibar was found among her possessions. As we witnessed another remarkable sunset from the jetty, we understood why the woman many regard as the ‘unfortunate princess’ would cling to a memory of her beautiful homeland till her dying breath.

 

Getting here

Zanzi Resort sunset jetty ocean view

We flew Qatar Airways from London to Zanzibar with a stopover in Doha. If flying through Doha, be sure to leave sufficient time for your connecting flight as there is only one flight a day to Zanzibar. Upon arrival into Zanzibar International Airport, transfers can be arranged by booking directly with Zanzi Resort.

 

Cost

Day out at Prison Island Changuu Zanzibar

[Check for Zanzi Resort rates here]

A 5-day honeymoon package at Zanzi Resort starts from $1,300 per person and includes accommodation, meals, sunset dhow cruise and spa treatments. For bookings contact Zanzi Resort through their website.

Disclaimer: Accommodation, excursions and meals were provided by Zanzi Resort. However, all views and opinions remain ours and we were not paid to publish this article.

To the management and staff of Zanzi Resort for introducing us and our readers to their beautiful tropical hideaway, we say, “Asante Sana!”

 

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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).