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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Hotel Insider: The Residence Zanzibar

We check in to the high-end chain's outpost just off the coast of Tanzania

The Residence Zanzibar offers private pools with each villa, and there's also a central infinity pool. The Residence
The Residence Zanzibar offers private pools with each villa, and there's also a central infinity pool. The Residence

The welcome

After arriving at Zanzibar airport and being promptly ushered through a side entrance into the Paradise Lounge, we find our transfer and settle in for the hour-long drive to the resort. As we pull up, we’re greeted with a loud “Jambo” – Swahili for hello – and are offered welcome refreshments and cold towels. We’re taken by the open-air reception that provides views of the expansive lawn, infinity pool, and the ocean, allowing us to acquaint ourselves with our surroundings.

The neighbourhood

Located on the south-west edge of the island, away from the tourist-­friendly realms of the north, the five-star resort is a destination in its own right and ideal for those who want to get away – and stay away. Hemmed in by the Muyuni Forest behind and Kizimkazi village to the south, it’s an enviable location. However, with historic Stone Town an hour’s drive away it would pay to pick any day-trip destinations wisely.

The scene

I am visiting during rainy season, so the hotel is fairly quiet in terms of occupancy. A laid-back vibe in all areas seems to state: “Yes, you’re staying in a five-star hotel, but please don’t wear anything more than flip-flops and beachwear at all times”.

The room

The stand alone villas are large, and decorated with wooden and wicker furniture designed to represent the island's African and Omani heritage. Courtesy The Residence.
The stand-alone villas are large and decorated with wooden and wicker furniture designed to represent the island's African and Omani heritage. The Residence

The sprawling property is set on 32 hectares of grassland, with 66 stand-alone villas dotted throughout. Each has its own private swimming pool and deck, indoor and outdoor showers, and those closest to the beach enjoy sweeping views out over the sea. The room we’re in is very spacious and decorated with wooden and wicker furniture, a nod to the island’s African and Omani heritage. I am impressed by the soaking tub, which is the focal point of the bathroom, and the position of the four-poster bed. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and having the ocean staring you in the face. There’s not much to complain about, although some of the furnishings do appear a little tired, and there are large ants around.

The service

I’m on the receiving end of “Hakuna Matata” ("no worries") from the jovial staff several times a day during our stay, which never fails to put a smile on my face. Workers are extremely personable without being obnoxious, and I am pleased to say I come away from each restaurant visit with a good chat under my belt or a braid in my hair thanks to the female staff who take a fancy to my blonde tresses.

The Residence Zanzibar features 66 stand alone villas dotted around a 32-hectare property. Courtesy The Residence.
The Residence Zanzibar features 66 stand-alone villas dotted around a 32-hectare property. The Residence

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Read more:

Hotel Insider: Fairmont Baku, Flame Towers

Island stories: digging Zanzibar's Arabian past

The downside of tourism for the Tanzanian poor

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The food

There are two restaurants to choose from – the Dining Room, which is the all-day eatery with an African twist, and The Pavilion, specialising in Arabic, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. With full board, you can visit both, while half-board will get you complimentary access to just the all-day dining. During one of our few visits to the Dining Room, we are served some of the best steak you will eat anywhere in the world.

If you’re paying your own way, the Zanzibar curry or chicken burger will set you back about US$12 (Dh44). It is worth noting that you can find a similar dish in Stone Town for a quarter of the price, but what you get here is well-portioned and of a five-star quality. The Pavilion offers a buffet or set menu, depending on the night. Disappointingly, though, if you’re used to five-star spreads, the breakfast buffet is rather limited. You will find all the usual suspects – an egg station, breads and condiments – but it could do with a few more healthy options.

Loved

The warmth and genuine kindness resort-wide and the villa privacy.

The sunsets at The Residence are spectacular. Courtesy The Residence.
Sunsets at The Residence are spectacular. The Residence

Hated

That the resort is an hour out of Stone Town (a tour into the capital costs $120 [Dh441]).

The verdict

Perfect for those looking for genuine African hospitality in secluded surrounds.

The bottom line

Villas at The Residence Zanzibar (www.cenizaro.com/theresidence/zanzibar) cost from $515 (Dh1,892) per night, including taxes.