Matemwe Retreat offers complete privacy and escape.
Matemwe Retreat: Our full report
Matemwe Retreat is one of the most exclusive lodges on Zanzibar, arguably the ultimate in private luxury. Located on the east coast, across from Mnemba Island, it has just four spectacular villas. Each villa has its own rooftop plunge pool and access to a beach that is exclusive to guests at Matemwe Retreat.
Constructed of stone, using local materials wherever possible, the villas at Matemwe Retreat are tastefully designed, combining clean, modern, minimalist elements with characteristics of more traditional Zanzibari style. Natural colours help to make them feel warm and relaxed, and the use of beautiful fabrics and reclaimed dhow wood adds plenty of character.
There are four villas, ranged south to northand about 50 metres apart, along the low cliffs past Matemwe Lodge: Nuru, Zamzam, Safina and finally Leila.
As you walk in through the ornate Zanzibari door, you step onto a spacious, open-sided deck area. Here there is a comfortable lounge with a private cocktail/breakfast bar and your dining table. There's a Zanzibari-style day bed further along.
In the bedroom, a kingsize bed with crisp, high-quality sheets and full-room-height mosquito net takes centre stage. Louvred doors keep the room cool, aided by air conditioning and a fan. The louvred doors with adjustable slats lead give you have the choice of allowing the sea breeze to pass through, or sleeping in air-conditioned seclusion.
The bathroom, like the bedroom, is painted in warm natural colours, with twin washbasins set in a maritime-motif plinth, a shower, and a sunken bath that overlooks the Indian Ocean through more louvred doors.
At the back of the bedroom, a spiral staircase leads up to the roof terrace and another shaded lounge area with day bedd, sunloungers and a delightfully cool plunge pool. The views across the lagoon to Mnemba Island are stunning.
Although the villas are wonderful, it is the service at Matemwe Retreat that makes it such a special place to stay. Guests have a personal butler who brings breakfast to the veranda every morning, takes your requests for lunch and dinner (there are always a couple of choices for each course, but you can make other requests, too), and stops to find out what you'd like to organise for the day – whether it be diving, a walk, or a bottle of Champagne on the deck. The butler can be called from the room phone by dialling 9.
Lunch and dinner are usually served on your private deck. For a more sociable atmosphere, it’s just a five-minute walk down throught the grounds to Matemwe Lodge, where you can also relax by the bar or pool and socialise with other guests.
Crystal-clear water makes for great swimming from the private beach at mid tide. When the tide goes out, it is generally too shallow for swimming, but the exposed inter-tidal zone can be a fascinating place to walk. In fact, a free reef walk is included for all guests, guided by Asilia staff from the Matemwe Lodge watersports centre.
Other activities, including diving and kayaking, can be organised by your butler in conjunction with Matemwe Lodge.
Our viewWe love the villas and service at Matemwe Retreat, and it's absolutely perfect if you want total privacy and solitude. However, more gregarious visitors should know that there are absolutely no public areas here at all. If you want to mix and be sociable, it's a five-minute walk through the shady gardens to the main Matemwe Lodge where you'll find the restaurant, pools, bar and other facilities.
Ideal length of stay: At least 3 nights
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it’s a further hour by car to Matemwe Retreat.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Asilia Lodges
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Matemwe Retreat are usually served on your private deck, though you can choose to eat instead on your roof terrace. Dining is very private and you will decide daily with your butler on the dishes for lunch and dinner, and when you'd like to eat.
The food here is very good, with naturally includes lots of fresh seafood. Because you can order more or less what you like (meat, fish, shellfish, pasta, vegetarian options, fresh veg and salads) you always feel you're eating what you really want to eat. Breakfast always includes plenty of fresh fruit, freshly squeezed juices and whatever cooked options you'd like. Lunch and dinner are three courses, but you can opt out as the mood takes you. When we stayed here in 2016, we really enjoyed the fresh produce, great shellfish and zingy flavours that our cook came up with.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are included, except Champagne and premium imported wines and spirits.
Further dining info: Yes - most of the meals are brought to your room for private dining.
Honeymoons: Matemwe Retreat is perfect if you want the intimacy, seclusion and luxury. The service here is highly personalised and you will feel truly spoilt. It’s a great destination for an unforgettable and very romantic Zanzibar honeymoon.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zanzibar
Beach holidays: Many guests at Matemwe Retreat will stay in their villa, but a short walk away, the Retreat’s private beach usually has crystal clear water and, at high tide, it’s great for swimming. When the tide goes out the exposed inter-tidal zone is also a fascinating place to walk.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Zanzibar
Attitude towards children: No children under 12 are allowed at Matemwe Retreat.
Property’s age restrictions: 12+
Special activities & services: Matemwe Retreat does not offer any special services for children.
Generally recommended for children: No
Notes: Families with children under 12 can stay at Matemwe Beach House.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is cellphone reception and free Wi-fi.
TV & radio: There are no TVs at Matemwe Retreat, but Matemwe Lodge can always make a plan when a big game or other event is on.
Water supply: Borehole
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 $80,000 water plant.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid box for minor illnesses and injuries at the neighbouring Matemwe Lodge. For more serious medical problems, Matemwe has contact with a doctor who lives an hour’s drive away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are security guards on site.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside the rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Included
Money: Matemwe will change US dollars.
Accepted payment on location: You can pay for any extra charges at Matemwe in US$ 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.