Reviews of Unguja Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Beautifully designed boutique lodge
The design of the lodge is outstanding - creative and in keeping with the natural surroundings. The Dutch owners' aspirations for the lodge have a positive impact on visitors' experiences, in particluar the their hands-on approach and involvement with the local people and environment. All staff were pleasant, but not intrusive.
The local troop of red colobus monkeys were a delight and they are not camera shy! Although we were unlucky in not seeing any dolphins, we did have the wonderful experience of sailing in a wooden dhow to have a picnic lunch on our own sandbank in the middle of the aqua blue sea - heavenly.
Unfortunately the coral in this area is less spectacular than that surrounding Mafia Island. Marine Park restrictions are not strictly enforced and this seems to be having a negative impact on the coral and sea life that depends upon it.
Unguja Lodge review
The chalets are amazing, over the top really. We were slightly disappointed not to have a sea view.
Quite good snorkelling - water a bit deep - but coral exceptional. Saw a turtle. Also got massacred by jelly fish which left me looking like a measles case. Think thats unusual. Food OK but a bit difficult to find a light option.
An exclusivfe beach resort
The accommodation and setting were fantastic, although our hut didn't have that good a view of the sea, especially compared to the other huts. The owners and staff were welcoming and attentive but this place was a bit too exclusive for us. The dining area encouraged insularity and the seats were even arranged so that people hd their backs to other tables. We would have liked a more sociable atmosphere, especially after Mdonya with its wonderful sociability.
The tour of the village is a must but be prepared for the poverty and stark cultural differences. It was impossible not to feel guilty when we went back to our luxurious lodge. The cost, $5, went to the villages, we think it should be higher.
There were no prices on the cocktails which caught us out a bit as they were a little cheaper than we imagined.
The Jusani forest tour was very disappointing. We would have liked a whole day, but it was set up as a conveyer belt, where the guide led us from one place to the other and then suddenly after just an hour we found we were on our way home with no chance for birding. You could either do this in about one hour on the way somewhere else (e.g. Stone Town) or you have to somehow take charge and tell the driver that you want to go back to the starting point if you want to see more.
Generally speaking the cost of the excursions seemed quite high, especially for the water related activities. Also, the dolphins are under pressure so we decided not to see them. There was not a wide range of mid priced activities.
The tide moved a lot so that at low tide there was a long beach with reefs and at high tide, deep water covering the sand. It was not really suitable for swimming except at high tide. The staff had to carry the beds, towels and beach umbrellas up and down the steps every day just so that people could lie on the beach. We didn't appreciate this indulgence, particularly after seeing the village.
Their attitude to involving the locals was good and their approach to the carbon footprint good but we did feel a bit guilty about our social responsibility.
Perhaps a luxurious beach holiday where most people lounge around the pool reading books wasn't really for us.
Meals were small but sufficient and tasty. More local dishes would have been nice.
Unguja Lodge review
My favourite place during my trip. The owners Elise and Ralph are very friendly and helpful supported by the excellent Mona, the rest of the staff are fantastic, well trained, great English, very outgoing. The lodges are a weird but wonderful design the only completely enclosed room is the bedroom. Keep a lookout for boats passing bye while showering. ;-)
The Dive centre on site is the best I have encountered Nic the Belgium dive master is very enthusiastic and this was the only time I was given safety instructions, which included a boat with a spare outboard. I went Snorkelling and swimming with Dolphins both were fantastic.
The tide does not go out too far and at high tide you can swim safely from the lodge. There is a nice co-existence with the neighbouring village Kizimkaze. The lodge created a great atmosphere where the guests intermingled and everyone knew each other. A great place!
Unguja Lodge review
Another spectacular setting, and the bungalows literally took our breath away.
Each one is uniquely designed with a real Zanzibar feel, yet each one is huge, very comfortable and so different to anywhere I'd stayed before. I will never forget having an open-air shower while watching the sunset over the ocean! The family who run the resort were really friendly and made us feel very welcome.
We had some very interesting excursions including a tour of Kizimkaze (the local village) with one of the staff from the resort; a real eye-opening and humbling experience. We went to the Jozani Forest, to Zala Park and we swam with dolphins, all of which added to a truly amazing experience.
Unguja Resort, a good new resort hotel
The Unguja Resort was a good place to relax after a hectic 8 day safari however we couldn't help but feel a little disappointed after our outstanding experience at Beho Beho. Both Ralph and Elise (the hosts) went out of their way to make us comfortable but they lack the skills of the Beho Beho and Sand Rivers teams. We think this is because it's a lifestyle choice for Ralph and Elise rather than the desire to be hoteliers (and they had just had a busy Christmas / New Year). They have to run the resort so they can live where they want in the world and I think they would prefer to do this without hotel guests! In saying this, it was a nice resort in a beautiful setting and a great place to relax. The negative was that there was nowhere to go in the evenings for a drink or a walk outside of the resort. We should have done more research as after being in the bush for 8 days we would have liked the option of walking to local restaurants and a bit of night life – if only a couple of low key beach bars.
We stayed in lodge 3, with magnificent views of the ocean and sunsets. A lot of thought has gone into the design of this large lodge with lots of open spaces to relax and enjoy the view in private. One of the best things was just how clean everywhere was and how friendly all the staff were. The early morning room service of coffee/tea was a nice touch.
The food, although the choice limited (fixed menu with only one option) was of a very good quality. We only had breakfast and evening meals. The specialty of crab in pepper sauce was outstanding. The fact that you are asked at breakfast if and what you wanted for lunch was annoying. Unfortunately after the first night the bar ran out of tonic water for my evening G&T and I am surprised that no new stock arrived for the rest of our stay.
We did three trips whilst at the Unguga and all but the guided walking visit to the local village were disappointing. The half day Spice Tour turned out to be 2 1/2 hours around trip in a taxi with a 50 minute trip around a tourist area showing all types of spices grown on the island plus very expensive spices on sale. Although this was interesting we expected a lot more for our $120. At least a lunch or more than one place to visit. We gave our negative feedback to Ralph in a hope that they will improve this. This was organized by the resort and no connection to Expert Africa.
Our dolphin trip was dreadful. We organised this through One Ocean. They only seem interested in diving and getting the maximum amount of money for the minimal amount of effort. They charged us $35 each for just over an hour in an open small boat with 6 other people. We (along with a number of other boats) spent the hour chasing a small number of dolphins and then scaring them away by all jumping over the side. We tried to tell the skipper if they stopped chasing the dolphins and making so much noise getting into the water they might have more success. He was only interested in getting us back - he had done his job and found us dolphins!. Although I am a PADI qualified open diver I have limited diving experience and having looked at the Open Ocean operation and experienced one of their tours I decided not to go diving with them. Something about them didn't feel right.
In summary, it's a great place to relax and unwind in a beautiful location. The food was good (if limited) and the overall cleanliness was superb. However don't expect five star service, any spa treatments or nightlife. Three nights rather than 5 would have been a better option for us but I can see why some people would love to stay longer.
Unguja Lodge review
This was not our style, but very suitable for families.
Owners were brilliant and helpful organising great tours for us to the Jozani forest and a spice farm.
Food was average and no flexibility eg we asked for a cheese sandwich for later lunch after a return from a tour and the chef said it was too difficult, otherwise all staff were very helpful and friendly.
We found it more humid that the other resorts - don't know why.
Loved the splash pools in the chalets and also thought the art was fabulous.
Didn't use the swimming pool, and did not go diving.
Found the openess of the chalets a bit disconcerting.
Didn't like all the grey concrete on the floor - would suggest staining and polishing.
Noisy Russians annoying
Unguja Lodge review
Elies and Ralph could not be more welcoming or obliging. The whole place has a delightful feel. Although there are well-established grounds or gardens, it is not possible to walk in them owing to the rocky nature of the terrain.
The rooms are amazing - far more spacious and luxurious than the write up in your brochure, which did not prepare us for this magnificence. In addition to the bedroom, there is a delightful sitting area looking out to sea, and a separate "lounge". The toilet is in a room separate from the shower, so you have a choice of 3 wash basins: one in the toilet, one in the shower, and one in the bedroom! The bedroom is spacious, and there is a second "bedroom" up a flight of stairs, on top of the main bedroom. Your brochure write-up does not do the rooms justice.
However, although the rooms were better than expected, the beach was the opposite. Your brochure says: The beach at Unguja is beautiful white sand, but it's not the fine, powdery-white sand of the east coast – it's slightly coarser and has fragments of crushed shells in it. Unguja's beach is far more secluded than most on the east coast, and there are very few people around. Well, that is correct, but what is not said is that to reach the beach you have to walk either along 50 - 100 metres of cliff path, or over a lot of stone/coral. When you reach the beach, it is rather short (less than 100 yards would be my guess). Beyond a small headland at the far end of this short beach, there is a further piece of beach, but this is where the village of Kizimkazi is situated so it is not at all "secluded". All of this beach can be accessed only at low tide. However, in places there is indeed plenty of "fine, powdery-white sand".
Another problem with the beach at Unguja is that in a space of only 20-30 yards I picked up over a dozen pieces of broken glass, which were covered by the sea at high tide. Swimmers beware.
Shells: the hotel is giving mixed messages. In the welcome literature, you are asked not to take away the beach shells, etc. Great stuff! But when you look at the room, you find a display case showing off a variety of different shells, other shells scattered loose in a wicker tray, and the welcome note has a shelll stuck on the front. The hotel's paths are surfaced with a mixture of small stones and crushed shells (which appear to have been taken from the beach). The hotel's excellent conservation message is diluted. It would be more forceful if they practised what they preached! How many guests tear off the shell attached to their welcome message and return it to is natural place?
Zanzibar: The tours of Stone Town, the spice gardens and Johozi forest were all very good. Zala, however, was a mess. In an effort to please the visitors, individual animals and snakes are removed from their pens and handed over to the visitor for inspection and photography. There was a particularly distressing scrum round a poor chameleon with people trying to grab hold of it and pull it in different directions. The chameleon was clearly stressed. Guides could perhaps be "retrained".
We did not take a dolphin watching tour. I had previously met some people who had and they told me a distressing story of how the boat drivers chase and harrass the dolphins in order to get close to them and steer them in a desire direction.
A Beatuiful Stay at Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge is a stunning facility at a marvelous seaside location!!! We wished that we had an extra 2 or 3 days to soak in some more sun, sand and surf.
We were warmly greeted with a cool drink and towels by management. All of the staff were very friendly. Food was generally buffet style. We particularly liked the soups and deserts.
We took advantage of the water activities desk with a coral reef snorkeling excursion and a dolphin/snorkeling excursion. The coral reef was excellent. We have never seen coral in such great condition!!! coral pieces were whole and not broken off as we have seen in Hawaii, Mexico and Carribean. This was attributed to the area just being opened to visitors and coral not broken by anchors, clients, etc.
Our stone cottage was outstanding: bedroom, sitting area, bathroom, shower room with sea views and patio. There was also a loft (unfurnished in our unit). The ceiling was extremely high, appearing to go up at least 50 feet. The cottage was in excellent condition and appeared to be very clean. When you were in your cottage, we had the feeling that we were in a private home, without neighbors, even though the cottages were actually very close to one another. The laundry service was very good.
There was only one area of concern. At times the common areas of the resort feels very family orientated and at times more couple orientated. The first evening, while we were having dinner in the restaurant around 8pm, kids were running through the restaurant screaming and apparently playing tag. The manager stopped by our table to ask how dinner was and we asked to move to another table to avoid the noise. As we moved to the back of the room, I asked if the screaming kids were going to stay all week. She said yes...some of them are mine.... (oops....). She did talk to the kids and they were a lot quieter. During the day, it could occasionally get noisy at the pool with the kids. You could tell by the looks on the faces of the honeymoon couples that they were not expecting noisy kids. I think at times 3 or 4 of the cottages had kids.
Unguja Lodge review
Friendly staff - but were pretty slow, did not know about ettiquette in the same way as all the other places we stayed at (brought out the wrong wine on one occassion).
Nice to have tea on our doorstep before breakfast and a nice welcoming card on our arrival. We had a good village tour that we really enjoyed. Washing clothes was relatively cheap.
The bungalows were amazing - extremely spacious and well equipped with air con etc. However our private pool was not cleaned throughout our 4 night stay and by the end we would have not liked to have shared pool with all those fellow insects...
However this was the one place where we did not feel like we were on honeymoon. We did not have any 'special' dinners or complimentary wine, or any little special honeymoon touches. Was rather disappointing given that the rooms were fantastic.
the bar was pretty loud and not particularly relaxing. They often played loud music (which again did not make us feel like we were on honeymoon).
When we relaxed on the sunbeds, we felt that there were not enough around the pool for all guests at times.
the vegetarian food was the most dissapointing part of our stay. We felt like we were awkward guests by having dietary requirements. they did not have an a la carte menu for lunch, so we felt obliged to have a full three course set buffet meal for lunch (or at least pay for three courses, even though we probably had two courses at the most) - which was not brilliant for veggies. Having no real choice when we were there on a half board basis was not great. Despite this, they did make us veggies some chips for lunch, which were nice!
We both feel ill while we were there and think it was related to the food we had there one lunchtime (think that we had a cold soup which probably hadn't used boiled water). This didn't help our stay there.
We found it really strange how they would ask guests straight after breakfast whether they intended to have lunch with them. We were there ona half board basis and so would have liked the option to have lunch if we felt like it later on in the day. but to be honest deciding just after a meal, without knowing what was on the menu, seemed rather strange. When you're on holiday, you don't want to be making food decisions at breakfast!
At first we did not have to sign for our meals and so it meant that we had no idea how much we were spending.
We made a few enquiries while we were there - one asking about why our room safe was not working - another about whether there was anywhere we could go for a massage. we felt rather disappointed that we had to ask twice before anything was done.
Expert Africa comments
Elies, the manager at Unguja, was upset to hear these comments, as she said that if these travellers had made their problems known to her whilst at the lodge – then she would have solved them. This is an important point for all of our travellers: if you want something changed, then it’s important to address the issues squarely when you are there.
In this case, the managers would have had the chance to get the pool cleaned – and perhaps to lessen the volume of sound coming from the bar!
We’re sorry that these travellers didn’t feel ‘special’ here. Elies tells us that they did do several ‘special’ things for these clients. However, it wasn’t made clear that these particular things were done for them because they were a honeymooner couple, and so our travellers though that this was the lodge’s normal service!
These clients are vegetarian. Early in their stay, a misunderstanding seems to have led to the lodge believing that they didn’t want any spices or rice – which thus ruled out many of Zanzibar’s spiced vegetarian dishes. Clearly these restrictions did make catering a challenge.
We’d always encourage clear communication between our travellers and the chefs and managers about what they would like to eat – especially when difficulties are encountered, or diets have any restrictions. For example, we’d recommend that any travellers with restricted diets give us some examples of the kind of things that they do like to eat – which we can then pass to the lodges to give them ideas.
Elies assures us that Unguja is very particular about its kitchen procedures and hygiene: they always make fresh vegetable stock for their cold soups, and the soup is then cooled down prior to serving. Unguja also use water filtered to a very high quality to rinse fruit and vegetables and in cooking.
Small lodges like this generally run very good kitchens, and cook everything freshly. That’s why, after breakfast, Unguja do ask guests if they would like to have lunch at the lodge. This saves wastage, and helps the lodge to plan their food for the day.
Unguja Lodge does this before the specifics of the lunch menu have been worked out – which is a little unusual. We’d hope that guests could treat this as a luxury: a chance to give the kitchen some suggestions as to what they’d like for lunch …
Unguja doesn’t have an in-lodge spa; it’s really not that kind of lodge. However, they can organise a taxi to a Stone Town spa if one is wanted, and it’s not fully booked up.