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 management team at Matemewe Lodge have a keen eye for detail - and when we were last there in 2019 impressed us with their enthusiasm and natural flair, and their commitment to their local community, where most of the staff live and whose own enthusiasm and hard work give the lodge its comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.
At Matemwe there are 12 white-washed stone bungalows with high thatched roofs, all of them sea-facing, and all of them ranged along the low coral cliff to the north of the main central parts of the lodge directly above the sea. Rooms #1 to #6 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 (the traditional, Swahili meeting place), where you can relax and enjoy the sea view through the corner shutters. The older rooms #7 to #12 are single-level rooms, and two of them (#9 and #10) have private plunge pools; these feel both secluded and romantic, and have beautiful views out towards Mnemba Island. Rooms #7 to #12 are also a little more private, and perfect for honeymooners.
All Matemwe Lodge's rooms are spacious and comfortable, with interesting things dotted around such as a bao board (the traditional Zanzibari game of calculation) and colourful throws over the beds. The older rooms have a double sofa and very comfortable double hammock on the veranda – great spots to relax in the heat of the afternoon.
The bathrooms in the 6 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 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. There is an air-conditioning unit above the bed, designed for use at night, however with a fresh sea breeze throughout the year guests typically find that this is not needed.
Matemwe also have two day rooms, right behind the bar, 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 Lodge 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 Lodge has a number of good quality bikes at the reception area, and for a small fee you can hire these for a morning allowing you to easily cycle in to the local village or along the coastline.
Matemwe also has strong links with the local village and walks to the village or fishing trips with local fishermen can be arranged. These help to provide an insight in to the local community; you can meet with your guides family and discover how everyday life is lived. You can also visit the local fish market, and pick up some fresh fish, which can then be cooked up for your lunch.
Matemwe Lodge 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 by the lower pool is made from an old dhow, set off by some unlikely décor - the huge skull of a young sperm whale. 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.
Next to the pool and slightly above the bar, is the Sea and Spice Spa, which offers a range of treatments such as pedicures, facials and massages; each guest can expect a complimentary welcome massage! Couples especially will enjoy the open-fronted double massage room with a view. On our last visit in 2019 a 30-minute massage was around $30 US dollars.
Dining at Matemwe Lodge takes place in the open-sided restaurant situated just along from the swimming pool, with great views over the turquoise ocean. Tables can either be inside, or outside on the smart wooden decking. There's a small bar for drinks and a buffet counter that is used for breakfasts and lunches.
Activities at Matemwe revolve around lots of watersports options, and a free reef walk is included in every stay; this is a fantastic opportunity to discover the marine life residing in the shallow sea around the east coast. The lodge watersports centre, is in a hut on the beach just two minutes' walk from the dining room, and staffed by a friendly team of 'poacher-turned-gamekeeper' snorkelling and reef guides and watersports teachers. If you're here in Februrary or March you may also be able to witness turtles hatching from their beach nests about 5km up the coast: Matemwe Lodge is closely involved in the conservation of two endangered (actually they are all endangered) species, the green turtle and the more rarely seen hawksbill.
Matemwe Lodge has sound eco-credentials. The restaurant sources as much local produce as possible, including fresh fish caught just off the coast. The lodge is also involved in a local recycling scheme, and much of the waste is recycled and re-used.
Just behind the watersports hut, Matemwe Beach House is another part of the Matemwe Lodge set-up, and booked in its entirety. The beach house sleeps a maximum of six people in 3 bedrooms – a twin non-air-conditioned room upstairs and two air-conditioned doubles downstairs. The house is entered through a carved wooden door, leading to the veranda and a small pool. Inside is a dining room and lounge area, which lead through to the bedrooms. The beach house has a separate kitchen with its own chef and butler, but guests can eat at the main lodge if they prefer.
Matemwe Lodge is a relaxed and friendly beach lodge which offers great service and a lovely atmosphere. The management team are constantly looking for ways to improve guests' experience. For a more exclusive experience in very fine accommodation – and the services of personal butler – consider the four individual villas of neighbouring sister-lodge, Matemwe Retreat, which is managed by the same team.
- East Coast Zanzibar, Zanzibar
- Ideal length of stay
- At least three nights
- Matemwe Lodge is around 1 and a half hour's drive from Zanzibar Airport. Please note that, depending on the route your driver uses for the final approach to Matemwe Lodge, the last few minutes of the drive may be on a narrow, bumpy beach track through Matemwe fishing village. This route can make for a poor first impression, though it is quickly improved after your arrival.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Half Board
- Food quality
- The lodge has a 7-day menu rotation, so you'd have to stay longer than a week to be offered the same dish twice. All fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood are locally sourced from the immediate community, and the fish is always line-caught. If you're interested you can do a morning walk to the fish market, help buy the lodge's requirements and even share in preparing your own meal.
Breakfast at Matemwe Loge is an impressive array of fresh fruits, cereals, yoghurts, muffins and pancakes as well as a full cooked English breakfast if you like.
If you choose to have Lunch, this is usually a la carte with a couple of choices for each course. The dishes tend to be light and are fresh and tasty. We enjoyed a vegetable and chicken wrap with sweet potato chips, and home made sultana ice cream for desert
Roughly from 7pm onwards dinner is served as a set menu with a few choices for the first two courses. Or sometimes as a large BBQ on the beach, as was the case on our last visit in 2019. Recent introductions to the menu include seaweed and sea-urchin starters, and they have been proving popular with guests. We thoroughly enjoyed the vegetable and cumin soup, and samosas as starters, followed by either kingfish in pepper batter or a tender beef fillet. The chocolate tart for dessert rounded off a memorable meal, which was extremely well-presented.
Once a week (usually Sundays) there is a Swahili-themed music night with traditional food and dress, and once a month at the full moon they hold a Zanzibari BBQ on the beach – however this can depend a little on the tide. Wednesdays are usually BBQ nights at the restaurant.
- Beach holidays
- Get equipment for a long reef walks, snorkelling and kayaking at the water sport centre on Matemwe’s pretty white sandy beach. You can even walk to the village and join a local fishing trip for a unique holiday experience.
- See ideas for Beach holidays
- Diving & snorkelling
- Guided snorkelling and diving trips can easily be arranged at this very well run and long-established east coast favourite. The beautiful coral gardens and reef sections around Mnemba Island are easily accessible from Matemwe Lodge.
- See ideas for Diving & snorkelling
- Cultural experiences
- Matemwe Lodge sits at the north end of Matemwe village, it has close connections with the area and supports a number of community projects.Take a guided walk to visit the fish markets, explore the streets and try octopus curry at a local restaurant.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- The beautiful Sea and Spice Spa at Matwemwe Lodge overlooks the ocean and has a wide range of treatments available, including pedicures, facials and massages. Each guest is also offered a complimentary massage during their stay.
- See ideas for Wellbeing
- Attitude towards children
- Matemwe Lodge welcomes children 5 years and older.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Matemwe Lodge has no special equipment or activities for children.
- Generally recommended for children
- Yes who are old enough.
- Matemwe welcomes children, though parents should be aware that there are no special facilities or activities for children who are staying here. However with ball games and frisbees, as well as the pool and lagoon, there is plenty to keep them amused.
- Power supply notes
- Mains, with generator backup. UK-style 3 pin plugs and US and European adaptors.
- There are phones in all the rooms at Matemwe Lodge, as well as free Wi-fi throughout.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV in the lodge, but visits to a nearby sports bar can easily be arranged when big games or events are on.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Unlimited jugs of drinking water are provided, from bottled water brought to the lodge in bulk. The local water supply for the taps, pumped from a subterranean cave, is actually very good and cleansed by an $80,000 water plant, yet the lodge still advises guests not to drink this.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first aid box on site at Matemwe Bungalows for minor illnesses and injuries. For more serious medical problems Matemwe has contact with a good doctor who lives only 30 minutes away. All the managers and watersports staff have first aid training.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- Matemwe Lodge has a small team of security guards around throughout the day and night, mostly elders from the local community. When we last visited in 2019, there had been no incidents on this stretch of coast to cause any concern for many years. As Matemwe is at the northern end of this accessible stretch of beach coastline, there is little passing 'traffic' and most local people are from the immediate community.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers outside all of the bedrooms and public areas and the management and staff are very fire-conscious. The makuti thatched roofs are all flame retarded.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is an extra charge - it takes around 24 hours depending on the weather and cost around $1 - $2.50 per item when we were last there.
- Matemwe can change US dollars but prefers not to.
- Accepted payment on location
- You can pay for any extra charges at Matemwe in US$ cash, or by credit card. You can use Visa, Mastercard and Amex for no surcharge – though the use of a card for a cash advance carries an 8 per cent surcharge. There are no ATMS up on this part of the coast.
Room types at Matemwe Lodge
There are twelve bungalows at Matemwe all of which were refurbished and upgraded in 2013. Six of the rooms are split level with a second double bed on a mezzanine floor, whilst the origianl six rooms have only one floor. However all of the rooms are spacious and comfortable with a private veranda, Zanzibari appliqué throws on the beds and colourful woven mats on the polished concrete floors. Two of these rooms #9 and #10 – have their own private plunge pools.
The newer rooms feature a sunken, cushioned baraza which looks through wide corner shutters to the veranda and sea beyond. On the veranda itself, a double hammock and a sofa make the perfect seaside retreat. The older rooms are slightly different with a small lounge area inside the room, while their veranda tempts with a comfy sofa as well as a double hammock.
Standard throughout the rooms is constant mains electricity, 3-pin UK-style sockets, a solar-powered hot-water system, retractable mosquito nets, digital safes and a relaxing day bed. They also share a lovely Zanzibari character, which can be lacking in some more resort-style hotels on the Island.
The six split-level stone bungalows at Matemwe all have spacious en-suite bathrooms with a European toilet, twin basins, a shower and large stone-style cement bath.
The bathrooms in the older, single-floor cottages have single basins, a large shower and a sunken bath. Nice toiletries and tall candles are welcome finishing touches to both rooms.
Other lodges in East Coast Zanzibar
Alternative places to stay in this same area.