Matemwe Retreat

Matemwe Retreat: Our full report

4 private villas
Traveller's rating
Good (89%) From 9 reviews
1st June to 31st March

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 boasts just four spectacular villas. Each has its own plunge pool and access to a small, powdery-white 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.

As you walk in through the ornate Zanzibari door, you step onto a spacious, open-sided veranda. Here there is a comfortable lounge area with a private cocktail bar, shaped like a small dhow. Big french windows lead through to the air-conditioned bedroom so you have the choice of allowing the sea breeze to pass through, or sleeping in air-conditioned privacy.

In the bedroom, a large coconut-wood bed with crisp high-quality sheets and mosquito nets takes centre stage, while a built-in corner sofa can sleep a third person. Louvred doors keep the room cool, aided by air conditioning and a fan.

The bathroom, like the bedroom, is painted in warm natural colours, with his-and-hers sinks moulded out of the wall, a shower, and a sunken bath that overlooks the Indian Ocean through a huge picture window.

At the back of the bedroom, a spiral staircase leads up to the roof terrace and another shaded lounge area with a day bed, sunloungers and a delightfully cool plunge pool. The views across the lagoon to Mnemba Island are stunning.

Though 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 will bring breakfast to the veranda every morning and stop to find out what they wish to organise for the day – whether it be diving, a walk, or just a bottle of champagne on the terrace. The butler can be called from the room phone.

Lunch and dinner can be served on your private terrace, or in the gardens of Matemwe Retreat. For a more sociable atmosphere, it’s just a 5–10 minute walk down to the restaurant at Matemwe Lodge, where you can also relax by the bar or pool or simply interact with other guests.

Crystal-clear water makes for great swimming from the private beach at high tide. When the tide goes out, however, it can go out for miles, and swimming is not possible – but the exposed inter-tidal zone can be a fascinating place to walk. Other activities, including diving and kayaking, can be organised by your in conjunction with Matemwe Lodge.

Our view

We were very impressed by the villas and the service at Matemwe Retreat. However, although it is perfect for people who want total privacy and solitude, more gregarious visitors should know that there are absolutely no public areas here at all. So if you want to mix and be sociable, this probably isn’t the right place for you.


Location: East Coast Zanzibar, Zanzibar

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

Key personnel

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 veranda, though you can choose to eat instead on your roof terrace or in the gardens. Dining is very private and you will decide daily with your butler on the programme and menu for lunch and dinner.

When we were last here we did not sample the food. However, on previous visits when our team have stayed here, we’ve found it to be very good, with plenty of fresh seafood.

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.

Special interests

Honeymoons: Matemwe Retreat is perfect for those wanting the ultimate in intimacy, seclusion and luxury. The service here is highly personalised and guests can expect to 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.

Equipment: None

Notes: Families with children under 12 can stay at Matemwe Beach House.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: There is cellphone reception at Matemwe Retreat, and there is complimentary internet access available at Matemwe Lodge.

TV & radio: Neither TV nor radio has made it to this quiet part of Zanzibar.

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 dollars cash, or by credit card. Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted with a 6% surcharge.

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