Mchanga Beach Lodge

Mchanga Beach Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
12 rooms
Traveller's rating
Good (90%) From 35 reviews
Children
Fine for all ages.
Open
All year

Mchanga Beach Lodge is a small, owner-operated beach hotel on Zanzibar's east coast. It's a sandy plot (mchanga means sand in Swahili), right on the beach.

Standing in lush gardens on the site of a very basic old beach lodge, the small and simple Mchanga Beach Lodge first opened in 2008. Mchanga is Swahili for sand, and at Mchanga Beach Lodge there is certainly no shortage of it.

There are 12 cottages in total: eight of them sea view lodge rooms, two garden suites, and two recently added garden rooms.

  • The Sea View Lodge Rooms are in two rows, angled slightly to provide a degree of privacy, and staggered so that each has a great view over the pool and to the sea beyond. The rooms are positioned cleverly, providing privacy from your neighbours. Each has a small terrace with a pair of chairs and a table. Stable doors into the rooms can be left half open, or entirely open or closed, and have closable slats to allow a cool through breeze.

    Each sea-view room at Mchanga Beach Lodge has whitewashed walls and polished cement floors, with very high ceilings. They feel bright, spacious clean and cool. Local paintings and brightly coloured fabrics make the rooms feel traditional, yet the lack of clutter and crisp lines add a minimalist feel. There are thoughtful touches, too: high-thread-count cotton sheets, a basket containing a beach towel, bottled water, a locally made wardrobe, air conditioning and a fan – and a cushioned alcove to act as a small lounge area.

    The en-suite flush toilet is behind a wooden door to one side of the bed. To the other side is a separate shower area with a white ceramic basin set into a moulded cement surface, and a really powerful hot shower. The bathrooms are plainly decorated, and spotlessly clean. Little touches like a good mirror light, and local clove soap to refresh your skin after swimming, reflect the owners’ attention to detail.

  • The two Garden Suites are slightly larger, and have a double baraza seating area. They have a larger outdoor private terrace, too, although they don’t enjoy quite the same views as the sea-facing rooms.

  • The Garden Rooms are the only rooms at Mchanga Beach Lodge with twin beds. They are fairly simple, but stylish, with a covered baraza alcove. Brightly coloured blue and white throws and cushions make the rooms feel bright and airy, while ceiling fans, air conditioning and high ceilings ensure the rooms remain cool. At the back of each is a small en-suite toilet and shower room.


Mchanga’s lushgardens are bright and colourful. The beach itself has an abundance of beautiful white-powdery sand, and the sea is perfect for swimming when the tide is in. When it’s out, the 13-metre pool comes into its own, with comfy seats around it. The lodge has some bicycles to loan out, too, to explore the area a little.

There is a small but interesting shop, featuring hand-picked works created by talented local artists.

The thatched dining area is shady, and the glass sides provide some shelter from the breeze. The bar has plenty of colourful cushions on wicker chairs, and there are open-sided beach bandas and loungers for sunbathing on the beach. More recently a spa has been added, offering couples’ massages, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures.

Further afield, tours and excursions around the island can be arranged, as can diving with a local dive centre.

Our view

Mchanga is a low-key lodge run in a good location on a lovely sandy beach. Everything here is white, and quite rustically stylish, with Swahili decorative motifs. It’s a friendly place to relax and it gets the basics right: very clean with nice fabrics and good food – it’s unpretentious and excellent value.

Geographics

Location: East Coast Zanzibar, Zanzibar

Ideal length of stay: Mchanga works best as a place just to put your feet up. You could quite easily stay here for a week of pure relaxation.

Directions: From Dar es Salaam, it’s about a 20-minute flight to Zanzibar, and then an hour’s drive to cover the 50km to Mchanga Beach Lodge.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Independent/Owner-run - by Gloria and Thomas Zimmerman

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Half Board

Food quality: When we last visited Mchanga Beach Lodge in 2016, we didn't get a chance to sample the food, but in 2013 we found the food very tasty. The Zanzibari chef uses plenty of local spices and traditional flavours in the cooking as well as fresh ingredients, including coconuts from their own coconut trees and herbs and vegetables from their own garden. We particularly enjoyed the fresh seafood.

Breakfast includes fresh fruit followed by eggs cooked to your liking – try the delicious Zanzibar omelette. There is also a choice of fresh juices, tea and coffee. In addition to this you can expect freshly baked bread, homemade jam and some traditional Swahili breakfast options such as chapatis and mandazi (East African doughnuts). Muffins and pancakes are usually available and copious amounts of fresh fruit salad.

As most guests stay here on half board (though you can opt for B&B and full board – talk to us about this), lunch is an à la carte menu. As well as a variety of lighter options such as sandwiches, burgers and snacks, there are some more substantial dishes to choose from.

Dinner is a three-course meal, served to your table in the dining area. There is usually a choice of two starters, on our 2013 visit we had fresh crab cakes with a cucumber yogurt. For the main course there are three choices – one a vegetarian option, the second meat, and the third seafood. We thoroughly enjoyed tempura chili king prawns - which were huge – and a dessert of passion fruit sorbet. Other options were potato pancakes with mango chutney to start, and tandoori chicken as a main course.

We especially liked the mix of traditional flavours, authentic Swahili influences and western dishes in the cooking at Mchanga Beach Lodge, which allows travellers to experience a little of the taste of Zanzibar.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15

Drinks included: Drinks are not included, but are reasonably priced. A soft drink is about US$3 and it is approximately US$4 for a local beer. Wine is US$6 per glass. All drinking water has to be paid for.

Further dining info: Meals can be eaten anywhere.

Children

Attitude towards children: Mchanga Beach Lodge welcomes children.

Property’s age restrictions: None.

Special activities & services: There are a few board games as a nod to keep children entertained.

Equipment: No

Notes: Parents should note that children are their responsibility and – with a beachfront location and a pool – they will need to supervise them at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: There is a backup generator. 3-pin UK-style plugs and universal adaptors are in every room.

Communications: There are no phones, but there is cellphone reception around the lodge and free Wi-fi throughout.

TV & radio: There is no TV.

Water supply: Mains

Water supply notes: Drinking water has to be paid for.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Mchanga Beach Lodge has a basic first-aid kit and there is a nearby doctor who can be called in an emergency. There is a hospital in Stone Town, about an hour’s drive away.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: Mchanga Lodge is accessed through a secure front gate, which is manned by an askari (a guard) 24 hours a day. There are also a few askaris around the lodge day and night, and the beach is patrolled.

Fire safety: Mchanga Beach Lodge has several fire extinguishers on site.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available here, for a small extra charge. Items are machine-washed and line-dried.

Money: There is no currency exchange.

Accepted payment on location: When settling your tab at the end of your stay, cash payments can be made in Tanzanian shillings, British pounds, euros or US dollars. Visa and MasterCard are accepted but 5% surcharge is added.

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