Mchanga Beach Lodge opened in June 2008, and offers a warm welcome.
Mchanga Beach Lodge: Our full report
The word Mchanga comes from the Swahili for “sand", and at Mchanga Beach Lodge there is certainly no shortage of sand! Mchanga Beach Lodge opened in July 2008, on the site of a very basic old beach lodge, but only after it had been completely redeveloped. This was by a very dedicated German-American couple, Thomas and Gloria Zimmermann. We have visited several times and on our most recent visit in September 2011 we found a small, simple yet very effective and delightful beach lodge in a great location.
Mchanga is set on a fairly small site, but they have used the space very well. There are eight cottages in total - six of these are sea-facing rooms which are in two rows, angled slightly to provide a degree of privacy, and staggered so that each has a great view over the pool and to the sea beyond. The rooms are positioned cleverly, providing privacy from your neighbours.
Each Sea-facing room at Mchanga Beach Lodge has a small terrace with a pair of chairs and a table. Behind this are the doors – which have been built like stable doors and so can be left half-open, or entirely open or closed. The doors are also slatted and so let a cool breeze pass into the rooms, or you can close them up for more privacy.
The rooms are thoughtfully put together - the sheets are pure percale cotton, and there is a basket where you will find a beach towel. There is bottled water for you to drink, and a cushioned alcove acts as a small lounge area. There is also a locally-made wardrobe where you can hang your clothes, air-conditioning and a fan.
Each room at Mchanga Beach Lodge has white-washed walls and polished stone floors, with a very high ceiling. They feel bright, spacious clean and cool. Hand-made Zanzibari beds, locally made paintings and brightly coloured fabrics make the rooms feel traditional. Yet the lack of clutter and crisp lines in the architecture add a minimalist feel.
The en-suite flush-toilet is behind a wooden door to one side of the bed. Behind the other side of the bed is a separate shower area with a white ceramic sink set into the moulded stone surface, and a really powerful hot-and-cold shower. The bathrooms are plainly decorated, and spotlessly clean. Little touches like a good mirror light and local clove soap to refresh your skin after swimming, reflect the owners’ attention to detail.
The two Garden Suites are slightly larger, and have a double baraza seating area which can be converted into an extra bed. They have a larger outdoor private terrace, although they don’t enjoy quite the same views as the Sea-facing lodge rooms.
More recently, two twin Garden Rooms have been added. These have a bathroom at the back and are the only rooms here with twin beds.
Inside the rooms are fairly simple, but they are stylish with a lovely Zanzibari bed and a covered baraza alcove. Brightly colored blue and turquoise throws and cushions make the rooms feel bright and airy. Electric ceiling fans, air-conditioning and high ceilings ensure the rooms remain cool. A small en-suite toilet and shower room adjoins.
Mchanga’s lushgardens are bright and colourful. The beach itself has an abundance of beautiful white-powdery sand, and the ocean is perfect for swimming when the tide is in. When it’s out - the 13m pool has comfy seats to relax around - and a volleyball net for those feeling a bit more active!
There is a small, but interesting, shop, featuring hand picked art made by talented local artists. Gloria is very keen to support local artists through her shop. There are also essentials such as sun cream and other toiletries plus books, magazines and a useful tide timetable. Snorkeling equipment can be borrowed here as well as bicycles, under the ingeniously named ‘Maasaiycle’ scheme.
The thatched dining area is shady, and the glass sides provide some shelter from the breeze. The food is tasty and uses plenty of local ingredients and spices. The bar has plenty of colourful cushions on wicker chairs to relax in, and there are open-sided beach bandas and loungers for sunbathing on the beach. Tours and excursions around the island and diving with a local dive-centre can be arranged.
More recently a purple-themed spa has been added. Couples massages, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures are all on offer.
Mchanga really is a place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet – phones and ipods are not allowed in the public areas, so the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves.
Our viewMchanga is a simple lodge run by a very dedicated couple in a great location. It’s the perfect place to unwind and relax and enjoy the unpretentious and friendly atmosphere.
Ideal length of stay: Mchanga works best as a place to just put your feet up – and you could quite easily stay here for a week of pure relaxation!
Directions: From Dar es Salaam, it's about a 20-minute flight to Zanzibar, and then the drive to Mchanga Beach Lodge is about an hour (it's 50km).
Owner: Independent/Owner-run - by Gloria and Thomas Zimmerman
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: When we visited in 2011 we found the food at Mchanga Beach Lodge to be very tasty. The Zanzibari chef uses plenty of local spices and traditional flavours in the cooking as well as fresh ingredients, including coconuts from their own coconut trees. We particularly enjoyed the fresh seafood!
Breakfast includes fresh fruit followed by eggs cooked to your liking. Try the delicious Zanzibar omelette! There is also a choice of fresh juices, tea and coffee. In addition to this you can expect freshly baked bread homemade jam and some traditional Swahili breakfast options such as chapattis and mandazis (East African breads which are similar to doughnuts though contain rather less sugar). Muffins and pancakes are usually available and copious amounts of fresh fruit salad.
As most guests stay on half board here (though you can opt for b&b and fb – talk to us about this) lunch is an a la carte menu with prices. There will be a variety of lighter dishes such as sandwiches, burgers and snacks as well as some larger dishes to choose from.
Dinner is then a three course meal, served to your table in the dining area. There will usually be a choice of two starters, one of which will be homemade soup. Then for the main course there are three choices – one of which will be a vegetarian option, the second will be meat, whilst the third will be seafood. When we were there in September 2011 we thoroughly enjoyed a meal of tuna carpaccio, king prawns in a Swahili curry with beetroot salad, and a dessert of passion fruit sorbet. Other options were potato pancakes with mango chutney to start, and tandoori chicken as a main course.
We especially liked the mix of traditional flavours, authentic Swahili influences and western dishes in the cooking at Mchanga Beach Lodge. It allows travellers to experience a little of the taste of Zanzibar – and is very tasty.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £5-10
Drinks included: Drinks are not included, but are reasonably priced. A soft drink is about $3 and it is approximately $4 for a local beer. Wine is $6 per glass.
Attitude towards children: Mchanga Beach Lodge welcomes children over the age of 12.
Generally recommended for children: Yes – for slightly older and more mature children.
Notes: There are no kids clubs or organized activities here for children, but there is a lovely beach and a large pool. Parents should note that children are their own responsibility and they will need to supervise them at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: This is primarily a place to relax and to get away from the outside world. As a result there are no phones here. However, there is cell phone reception around the lodge – Mchanga Beach lodge asks that you avoid using your phones in the communal areas. There is also internet access in the shop which is $5 for 20 minutes.
TV & radio: There is no TV and Radio here.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Mchanga Beach Lodge have a basic first aid kit on site and there is a nearby doctor that can be called in an emergency. There is also a hospital in Stone Town which is about a one hour drive away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Mchanga Lodge is accessed through a secure front gate, which is manned by an asakari (a guard) 24 hours a day. There are also a few askaris around the lodge during the day and night, and the beach is patrolled.
Fire safety: Mchanga Beach Lodge has a fire extinguisher on site.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available here, for a small extra charge. The laundry is machine-washed and line dried.
Money: Mchanga Lodge doesn't have the facility to change large amounts of money for guests.