Matemwe Lodge combines being fairly rustic and natural, with a good streak of quality.
Matemwe Lodge: Our full report
Matemwe Lodge (formerly Matemwe Bungalows) has always been a long-standing favourite with our travellers - read the recent feedback for an unbiased review. It’s situated on the northern edge of Matemwe village, and has a lovely position on a small outcrop of coral rock. The newly landscaped gardens are dotted with frangipani and bougainvillea trees giving them a lush tropical feel with plenty of colour. The husband and wife managing team have a keen eye for detail - and when we were last there in October 2011 they told us of the many things they had planned to improve the quality of Matemwe. This included sending staff on wine tasting courses and extending the drinks menu. That said the food and service is already very good here!
At Matemwe there are just 12 whitewashed stone bungalows with high thatched roofs. Six of the newer rooms have a split-level mezzanine floor with a second double bed - a good option for families or triples. These rooms also have a sunken cushioned Baraza, where you can relax and enjoy the sea view through the corner shutters. The older rooms only have one floor, but are a bit more private – perfect for honeymooners of those wanting more exclusivity. All are spacious and comfortable, with interesting things dotted around such as a Bao board (a traditional Zanzibari game) and colourful throws over the bed. The older rooms have a double sofa and very comfortable double hammock on the veranda – both of which are an inviting place to relax in the heat of the day.
The bathrooms in the six split-level newer bungalows are very spacious, with a flush toilet, twin sinks and a large stone bath and shower. In the older rooms the bathrooms have just one sink but also a huge romantic bath. Both have glass bottled toiletries and candles as lovely finishing touches.
All rooms have a phone and 24 hour room service, and useful items such as bathrobes, torches, fans, mosquito repellant and umbrellas.
Matemwe also have two day rooms which can be rented if you would like a bed and a shower after you have checked out on your departure day.
The communal areas at Matemwe Bungalows have a very relaxed feel to them. Turn right from the reception, past the giant chess board (with prawns for pawns!) to get to the incredible stretch of white beach dotted with a few sunloungers. There is a watersports centre here, where you can get equipment for reef walks, snorkeling and kayaking. Trips can also be arranged to the nearby Mnemba Island for diving and snorkeling. Matemwe also has strong links with the local village and walks in the village or fishing trips with local fishermen can be arranged. For those who want to stay in touch there is an internet room and wireless available free of charge.
Matemwe Bungalows has two swimming pools - one is an infinity pool with views across to Mnemba island. This is a great spot for sun worshippers to relax on the comfortable loungers. From this pool, a waterfall trickles down to a second pool below. This is perfect for when the heat gets a bit much as there is plenty of shade and more loungers.
The bar is by the lower pool and is made from a huge polished old dhow. A variety of drinks and snacks are served here during the day, and it’s a good spot for relaxing with a few drinks in the evening on the brightly coloured wicker chairs.
Next to the infinity pool and slightly above the bar, there’s a Moroccan style chill-out area with low tables and comfortable floor cushions. On the second floor is the spa, which offers a range of treatments such as pedicures, facials and massages with Bertha and Paula - the trained massage team. Couples especially will enjoy the open-fronted double massage room with a view!
Dining at Matemwe Bungalows takes place in the open-sided restaurant situated just along from the infinity pool, with great views over the turquoise ocean. There’s a small bar for drinks and a buffet counter which is used for breakfasts and lunches.
In 2009 the new Matemwe Beach House was added a short distance away from the rest of the accommodation here. The beach house, which is more rustic than the rooms at Matemwe Lodge, sleeps a maximum of six people in 3 bedrooms – a twin room upstairs and two doubles downstairs. The house is entered through a carved wooden door, leading to the veranda and the plunge pool. Inside is a dining room and lounge area, which lead through to the bedooms. The beach house has a separate kitchen with its own chef and butler, but guests can eat at the main lodge if they wish. Portable air conditioning units cool the property.
Our viewMatemwe Lodge - or, as it's still often known, Matemwe Bungalows - is a relaxed and friendly beach lodge which offers good service and a great atmosphere. We are delighted with the management team who are constantly looking for even more ways they can improve.
For a much more exclusive experience in a more palatial accommodation – and the services of very handy personal butler – consider the neighboring sister-lodge of Matemwe Bungalows: the fantastic and exclusive Matemwe Retreat.
Ideal length of stay: At least three nights
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it is a further one hour by car to Matemwe Bungalows.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast at Matemwe Bungalows is served from 7.00 – 10:00am and is an impressive array of fresh fruits, cereals, yoghurts, muffins and pancakes as well as a full cooked English breakfast if you are still hungry!
Under the eye of Sabina – a food nutritionist – lunch (12:30 – 14:00) is usually served buffet-style and consists of a variety of fresh fish and salad dishes. We didn’t get a chance to try the food when we visited in December 2009 but when we visited in September 2008, Dorado and Octopus were on the menu, plus 3-bean, tomato and onion, mango and aubergine salads; vegetable quiche, sauerkraut salad; and an appetizing array of roast vegetables.
Between 18:30 – 21:00 a 3-course dinner is served – this is a set menu with a few choices for the first two courses. In 2011 we thoroughly enjoyed the vegetable and cumin soup, and samosas as starters; followed by either kingfish in pepper batter or tender beef fillet. The chocolate tart for dessert rounded off a memorable meal, which was extremely well-presented.
Once a week there is a Swahili themed night with traditional food and dress, and once a month at the full moon they hold a Zanzibari BBQ on the beach.
Tuesdays and Fridays are usually BBQ nights at the restaurant.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included. A beer costs around $3, soft drinks, $1, cocktails around $10.
Attitude towards children: Matemwe Lodge welcomes children of all ages.
Equipment: Matemwe Lodge can provide cots for the rooms and high chairs as well.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Matemwe welcomes children, though parents should be aware that there are no special facilities or activities for children who are staying here. However with the ability to hire a beachball, frisbee and kite there is more to keep them amused than at some other small lodges.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There are phones in all of the rooms at Matemwe Lodge, as well as free use of a PC and the internet for all guests. There is also a fax machine that guests can use for a small charge.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is a first aid box on site at Matemwe Lodge for minor illnesses and injuries. For more serious medical problems Matemwe has contact with a doctor who lives only one hour away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Matemwe Lodge has a small team of security guards around throughout the day and night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside all of the bedrooms and public areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra charge - it takes around 24 hours depending on the weather and cost around $1 - $2.50 per item when we were last there.
Money: Matemwe will change US $ and they will also change travellers' cheques for a 10 percent charge.