Unguja Lodge on Zanzibar's spectacular coast...
Unguja Lodge: Our full report
Run by the ever-helpful couple, Ralph and Elies, Unguja Lodge is a small, relaxed and friendly lodge in a lovely spot overlooking the picturesque Menai Bay Conservation area.
The design of Unguja is modern and quite unique - lots of large white curving walls and high thatched makuti roofs give a feeling of space to the central areas. The coconut tree wood furniture is locally sourced, and there are bits of African art spread around such as baskets, and colourful material, which mean that despite the modern design, the lodge retains plenty of Zanzibari character.
Leading down from the reception you come to the main swimming pool - which is surrounded by loungers and plenty of shade. Behind the pool is the main dining area - where tables are separated by low walls to give them a bit more privacy, while still retaining a sociable atmosphere.
Behind the dining area is the bar - with lovely low hanging lanterns hanging down from the roof, and next to this just outside are plenty of comfortable wicker chairs, where people tend to gather for a drink before dinner.
The lush tropical gardens at Unguja Lodge are dotted with baobab trees - and don't be surprised to see black-tailed colobus monkeys swinging through the trees and elephant shrews foraging in the bushes. In these gardens you'll find the dive shop, run by One Ocean where you can organise dives and snorkeling to the nearby reef. There are no minimum numbers for their dives, as can sometimes be the case at other centres.
The beach at Unguja is completely covered at high tide - with the sea coming right up and lapping at the steps. However, it is lovely to be able to walk straight down into the clear turquoise waters and bathe. At low tide the beach in front of the lodge is exposed and although the beach isn't quite the perfect white sands of the east coast, it's secluded with few people around. During the low tide sun loungers are placed out along the beach, and at high tide you can still walk 10 minutes to a nearby stretch of beach which is exposed throughout the day.
There are two different room types at Unguja - three Baobab Villas and seven Seaview Villas. They are the same in price and almost the same in design. Both types of villas are very spacious, with white washed walls and high thatched roofs. Curved walls act as partition to create a toilet, which has a closed door for privacy, and an open-sided shower room and an open lounge with a long oval bench scattered with colourful cushions.
The bedrooms are large and simply furnished, with a large bed draped with mosquito nets, a separate luggage room with a safe, and a sink and full length mirror behind the bed. Above the bedroom, reached by a flight of stairs, is a loft space with a day bed to relax on. This can be a very atmospheric place to sleep at night, or can alternatively be used for a third person.
The bathrooms are simple, elegant and sparse, and local toiletries, towels and kangas are provided.
The key differences between the two room types are their locations. The Seaview Villas sit on a small coral shelf about 2m above the beach and all face out over the sea. You can enjoy the view from your private stone veranda, furnished with a comfy sofa and an array of cushions. These rooms are bright and airy.
The Baobab Villas are set inland and face into a little small garden around a baobab tree. There is a small private plunge pool in your central garden and the bedrooms here are also air-conditioning to make up for the lack of sea breeze.
There is also one Family Seaview Villa which is similar in design to the other villas, but with a slightly different layout. Downstairs is the main bedroom with en-suite facilities and a small lounge and kitchenette. Upstairs is a small lounge area and two bedrooms, each with twin beds and en-suite facilities.
Our viewUnguja Lodge is a small and friendly lodge, in a nice location, with great sunset views. It has an interesting design, and although the villas can be quite dark, there is a great feeling of space and airiness about them.
Ideal length of stay: You could easily spend four days or more at Unguja Lodge, just relaxing. The owners tell us the average number of days spent there by guests is 4-5.
Directions: Unguja Lodge is 62km and about an hours' drive from the airport.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: When we were last at Unguja Lodge in December 2009 the food was very good. Breakfast was a self service buffet with a large variety of fruits, cereals, juices, cold meats, cheese and spreads. Cooked breakfast, tea and coffee could be ordered from the waiter.
Lunch was an a la carte menu with a variety of light snacks and salads, as well as more substantial meals for those who wanted them.
Dinner was very good, and consisted of 3 courses, served to your table. We enjoyed prawn bisque to start, followed by tuna steak, then a delicious mango moose. The menu is written on the board at 6pm each evening, so if you have any issues or requests just let the team know and they will try their best to accommodate.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included – you can expect to pay US$2.50 for a beer and around US$1 for a bottle of water.
Honeymoons: Unguja Lodge is a very quiet and peaceful lodge. For those wanting to get away from it all – this is a great choice. Furthermore, with an attentive team and thoughtful management, no doubt you will be made to feel special.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zanzibar
Beach holidays: Unguja Lodge sits on a low coral cliff above a quiet stretch of beach. Though it doesn't have the endless long white beach that some may associate with Zanzibar, it is far away from other lodges and as a result is free from any hassle. You can also snorkel and dive straight from the beach here – which is a rarity on Zanzibar.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Zanzibar
Diving & snorkelling: Unguja Lodge has a dive center on-site, run by a company with a reliable reputation on Zanzibar. Snorkellers and divers will enjoy the coral in the protected 'Menai Bay' area, whilst the most experienced divers can even head out to new dive sites, identified only by a GPS. If you wish to do a diving course, let us know when you book your trip.See more ideas for Diving & snorkelling in Zanzibar
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Unguja Lodge – but they are the responsibility of the parents at all times. Please note that there is a small cliff at the front of the lodge.
Equipment: There are a few cots and highchairs at Unguja – however these are limited in number. It would be best to request these at the time of booking, to give you the best chance of getting them.
Generally recommended for children: Yes. The owners' 3 young children have been living there since the lodge was built.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is mobile phone reception at Unguja Lodge, and the lodge also has a wireless (WiFi) connection which is free to use.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at Unguja Lodge.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is a small first aid kit and first-aid trained staff with the on-site dive shop. Unguja is also only a one-hour drive from Stone Town where there is a private hospital.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is a safe at reception for valuables and there are also Askaris (local guards) around the lodge: normally 3 during the day and 5 in the night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the communal areas, and a mobile hose and pump for the villas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra charge - $1 – 4 depending on the item
Money: Travellers need to do currency exchange in Stone Town; there are no facilities for this at Unguja.