The main attraction at Mchanga is the beautiful, powder-white beach.
Mchanga Beach Lodge: Our full report
Standing in lush gardens on the site of a very basic old beach lodge, the small and simple Mchanga Beach Lodge opened in 2008, having been completely redeveloped by a friendly and engaging German-American couple, Thomas and Gloria Zimmermann. Mchanga is Swahili for ‘sand’ – and at Mchanga Beach Lodge there is certainly no shortage of sand!
We have visited Mchanga Beach Lodge several times, firstly just before it opened. On our most recent visit, in September 2011 we found a very efficient and delightful beach lodge. It is set on a fairly small site, but they have used the space very well. There are now ten cottages in total: six of them sea view lodge rooms, two garden suites, and two recently added garden rooms.
- The Sea View Lodge Rooms 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 has a small terrace with a pair of chairs and a table. Stable doors into the rooms can be left half open, or entirely open or closed, and have closable slats to allow a cool through breeze.
Each sea-view 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, local paintings and brightly coloured fabrics make the rooms feel traditional, yet the lack of clutter and crisp lines add a minimalist feel. There are thoughtful touches, too: pure percale cotton sheets, a basket containing a beach towel, bottled water, a locally made wardrobe, air conditioning and a fan – and a cushioned alcove acts as a small lounge area. .
The en-suite flush toilet is behind a wooden door to one side of the bed. To the other side is a separate shower area with a white ceramic sink set into a 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, too, although they don’t enjoy quite the same views as the sea-facing rooms.
- The Garden Rooms are the only rooms at Mchanga Beach Lodge with twin beds. They are fairly simple, but stylish, with lovely Zanzibari beds and a covered baraza alcove. Brightly coloured blue and turquoise throws and cushions make the rooms feel bright and airy, while electric ceiling fans, air conditioning and high ceilings ensure the rooms remain cool. At the back of each is a small en-suite toilet and shower room.
Mchanga’s lush gardens are bright and colourful. The beach itself has an abundance of beautiful white-powdery sand, and the sea is perfect for swimming when the tide is in. When it’s out, the 13m pool comes into its own, with comfy seats around it and a volleyball net for those feeling a bit more active!
There is a small but interesting shop, featuring hand-picked works created by talented local artists. There are also essentials such as suncream and other toiletries plus books, magazines and a useful tide timetable. Snorkelling equipment can be borrowed here as well as bicycles, and the shop has internet access
The thatched dining area is shady, and the glass sides provide some shelter from the breeze. The bar has plenty of colourful cushions on wicker chairs, and there are open-sided beach bandas and loungers for sunbathing on the beach. More recently a purple-themed spa has been added, offering couples’ massages, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures. Phones and iPods are not allowed in the public areas, so the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves.
Further afield, tours and excursions around the island can be arranged, as can diving with a local dive centre.
Mchanga is a low-key lodge run in a good location on a lovely sandy beach. It’s being run with care and considerable attention to detail by Thomas and Gloria, who are a well-travelled couple. They have a clear view of what’s important to them when they travel, and this is reflected in the lodge. For the visitor, it’s a friendly place to relax which gets the basics right: very clean with nice fabrics and good food – it’s unpretentious and excellent value.
Ideal length of stay: Mchanga works best as a place just to put your feet up. You could quite easily stay here for a week of pure relaxation; you wouldn’t come for less than 3 nights!
Directions: From Dar es Salaam, it’s about a 20-minute flight to Zanzibar, and then an hour’s drive to cover the 50km to Mchanga Beach Lodge.
Owner: Independent/Owner-run - by Gloria and Thomas Zimmerman
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: When we visited in September 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 chapatis 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 here on half board (though you can opt for B&B and full board – talk to us about this), lunch is an à la carte menu with prices. As well as a variety of lighter options such as sandwiches, burgers and snacks, there are some more substantial dishes to choose from.
Dinner is a three-course meal, served to your table in the dining area. There is usually a choice of two starters, one of which will be homemade soup. Then for the main course there are three choices – one a vegetarian option, the second meat, and the third seafood. On our last visit 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, which allows travellers to experience a little of the taste of Zanzibar.
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 US$3 and it is approximately US$4 for a local beer. Wine is US$6 per glass.
Attitude towards children: Mchanga Beach Lodge welcomes children over the age of 12.
Property’s age restrictions: Over 12 only
Special activities & services: There are a few board games as a nod to keep older children entertained.
Generally recommended for children: Yes – for slightly older and more mature children. There are no organised activities for children, but there is a lovely beach and a large pool.
Notes: Parents should note that children are their responsibility and – with a beachfront location and a pool – they will need to supervise them at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: Type of plug: 3-pin UK-style plug and there are universal adaptors in every room.
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 – There are no phones, and while there is cellphone reception around the lodge, guests are asked to avoid using their phones in communal areas. There is internet access in the shop at US$5 for 20 minutes.
TV & radio: There is no TV and Radio here.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Mchanga Beach Lodge has a basic first-aid kit and there is a nearby doctor who can be called in an emergency. There is a hospital in Stone Town, about an hour’s drive away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Mchanga Lodge is accessed through a secure front gate, which is manned by an askari (a guard) 24 hours a day. There are also a few askaris around the lodge 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. Items are machine washed and line dried.
Money: There is no currency exchange here.
Accepted payment on location: When settling your tab at the end of your stay, cash payments can be made in Tanzanian shillings, British pounds, euros or US dollars. Visa and MasterCard are accepted but 7% commission is charged on credit cards.