Kikadini Villas stands right beside Jambiani Beach, on Zanzibar's south east coast.
Kikadini Villas: Our full report
***After a recent visit here in February 2012 we found the atmosphere and general feel at Kikadini to be a little un-easy. Since then we have not been able to get in touch with them and believe the lodge to have closed down. Please ask us for more information if you're interested in this property***
Jambiani is a neat, quiet village beachside a long beach on the southeast coast of Zanzibar; it is one of the friendliest villages on the island, and has a scattering of small guest houses and restaurants dotted around it. Beside the beach here is a singularly unusual and interesting place to stay: Kikadini Villas.
For 2008, we think it is very impressive, and amazingly good value!
In spite of their name, these are not self-catering villas; rather Kikadini Villas runs like a boutique hotel. Each villa is serviced by its own chef and housekeeper – a talented and personal team of staff. All of the buildings are of different design, and the first thing that hits you when you arrive is the space and the high build-quality. These villas have been designed, constructed and furnished better than any other lodge or hotel on the island. (And at time of writing – April 2008 – we've just visited every single lodge, camp and hotel on Zanzibar whilst researching for a new guidebook! So the praise here is wholly deserved.)
The background is that Kikadini Villas was started by Sylvia and Torgeir Barner – a Norwegian couple who visited the area and fell in love with it. In 1998 they designed and built a high-quality villa, as a holiday home: that was the original Kikadini Villa. Soon they were helping their friends to visit. Gradually they built another … and so on. Now they have four villas, and are working on their fifth and final one: The Jewel, which they expect to take about 18 months to complete.
Kikadini Villas now occupy a large beachfront plot, with about 160m of sparkling sea view – so all four villas which are widely separated, and there's a single line of (currently very small) palm trees between the villas and the beach.
For cleanliness, Jambiani Beach is one of the best beaches on the east coast of Zanzibar – helped by a small local community who take a real pride in their village. The beach is wide, white and periodically you will see men returning from fishing trips, women coming in from sea-weed farming, children heading home after school, and a few other visitors wandering about. The beachcombing is good, and it's never anything like busy when compared with beaches places like Nungwi.
Like all of the east coast beaches, the tide here goes out a long way. Then, with a pair of shoes or sandals, you can walk out for hundreds of metres across the sand and coral rock, finding endless shallow tidal pools which reflect the sky and harbour starfish, shells and assorted sea-creatures. When the sea is out, you can't swim here, and Kikadini currently doesn't have a swimming pool. (This is the only real drawback of the place!)
Activities here usually centre on exploring the beach, village and pure relaxation. We work closely with a small, local company – owned and run by Jambiani's villagers – who organise a variety of excursions. These include snorkelling, dhow trips, fishing and particularly good and very inexpensive village tour. (Ask us for more details.)
The villas themselves are all different in design, but each one has a WiFi connection and an open-plan kitchen where the chef prepares delicious and fresh meals. All the individual rooms have electricity, electric fans, small fridges, en-suite bathrooms and plenty of space! Bottled mineral water is supplied in the rooms, and replenished daily; beach towels are also provided.
All the rooms have proper double beds. If a twin-bedded room is needed, then an additional single bed can be arranged. This also means that we can arrange a triple room if you are a couple travelling with a child.
On our last visit, in February 2008, the food was excellent. We usually arrange your stay here on a 'half board' basis – with breakfast and dinner prepared for you by one of the resident chefs. See the section on 'Food & Drink' below, and note that it's cooked for you by one of the Villa's own chefs – and served like at a dinner-party.
It is, of course, possible to reserve these villas on an 'exclusive use' basis – ideal for a family or a small group of friends – although they also work very well when you just book a room.
The four villas here are all different –
Villa PalmThe most northerly of the three, Villa Palm has three bedrooms, all large double rooms. The two at the front face the sea, and the third faces south with a view of the sea and the other villas from its own small 'Juliet balcony'. (Read more about Villa Palm here…)
Villa MarocSouth of Villa Palm, Villa Maroc is a smaller villa with one double bedroom on the first floor – reached up an open-tread spiral staircase (it's not suitable for anyone who is infirm or unstable!). This has a private terrace, with sitting area and open-air bath, and is often used exclusively for honeymooners. (Read more about Villa Maroc here…)
Villa PwaniIn the middle of the villas, Villa Pwani has two very large, ground-floor double rooms, each with its own beach-facing terrace, and a really lovely, large shared roof terrace. Both bedrooms have plenty of space and the facility for an extra bed! (Read more about Villa Pwani here…)
Villa KikadiniThis was the original villa, built for Sylvia and Torgeir, and it has a magical feel of sweeping curves, an enclosed central courtyard, and a 'back garden' where dinner is often served. There are two large double bedrooms here, and a third, smaller bedroom that's sometimes used for children when families stay. (Read more about Villa Kikadini here…)
Reservations at Villa KikadiniThe rooms in these different villas are divided into four types:
- There are five 'beachfront' rooms.
- There is only one 'garden room' – the south-facing room in Villa Palm.
- There is one 'suite': the top sea-facing room in Villa Palm.
- Whilst Villa Maroc is usually considered as a separate 'room' on its own.
Note that when we make a booking, we cannot guarantee a particular room – unless you book a whole villa exclusively. We can only book a type of room, and request a particular villa. Kikadini Villas is a small, owner-run place and we will always need to leave the owners with the flexibility to upgrade our travellers if necessary – that means, from garden room to a beachfront room, from a beachfront to either the suite or Villa Maroc, or from the suite to Villa Maroc. If such upgrades are necessary, then they are free; nobody will be downgraded!
Remember, to guarantee one of the villas you can always book it exclusively. One of the larger villas would make a perfect family holiday by the beach, and great trip for a small group of friends. Whilst the smaller Villa Maroc makes a superb exclusive villa for honeymooners.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights or more
Directions: It's about an hour's drive from Stone Town or Zanzibar Airport to Kikadini Villas – 55km.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Silvia & Torgeir Barner
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Most visitors stay here on a 'half board' basis – enjoying breakfast and dinner cooked by one of the villas' chefs, and having lunch at one of the local village restaurants; there are several within a very short walk.
One of the real delights of Kikadini Villas was having meals cooked for us in our own villa. Timings are flexible, and usually roughly agreed with your chef in advance – though when other guests were an hour after the time they'd requested breakfast, it didn't even raise a eyebrow!
Early-morning tea and coffee are included, if arranged in advance. On our last visit, we usually ate breakfast at a shaded table, within the 'cloisters' of our villa, and it started with the chef serving us with a plate of fresh fruit.
He arranged fresh tea and filter coffee, with fruit juice, before asking if we'd like a cooked breakfast, pancakes, or something else. Both were very good – cooked as we watched in the open kitchen nearby. We particularly enjoyed chatting to the chef as he cooked. It's the kind of place where you feel that there's someone there to help you if you want it, but where you're not afraid to help yourself to juice from the fridge.
Before leaving breakfast, we'd agree a time for dinner with the chef, and he'd check on our likes and dislikes; if we'd wanted anything particular, he offered to arrange it for us, although we chose to give him a free hand selecting whatever looked good from the market!
If requested, then lunch is available, and it's usually a choice of two main courses, which change daily – although often people wander down the beach and eat elsewhere.
Cocktails, peanuts and olives are served from about 6pm onwards in the lounge area in the villas, if they are requested.
Dinner was a social affair. By 7.30, the table was set in Villa Palm's open courtyard – beautifully lit with candles. We'd opted to eat with the others staying there – all four were well-travelled French people, and they were good company. It was like a small dinner-party.
First-rate home-made minestrone soup was followed by a main course of marinaded locally-caught garlic prawns. These were arranged in a graduation of sizes from 'king' prawns ones, to some the size of a small lobster! This was accompanied by tomato rice and perfectly grilled vegetables – certainly some of the best food on the island.
The wine list was mostly from South Africa and reasonably-priced – though not as extensive as some. Dessert was a fine coconut tart – which finished a meal of very good food, in company which we'd found tremendous fun.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: No – drinks are charged as extras here. There's a bar service available from each villa during the day.
Further dining info: No problem
Attitude towards children: Kikadini Villas has a fairly grown-up feel, complete with high-quality furnishings and fittings. It's fine for sensible, older children – but not a place for toddlers or more boisterous younger children!
Property’s age restrictions: No children under 12.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children
Equipment: There is no special equipment available for children.
Generally recommended for children: Yes - for older children, who will appreciate the space of the villas, and the insights into the local village life.
Notes: Balconies on first-floor rooms would be very unsafe for children, as would the spiral staircase at Villa Maroc.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is good mobile phone reception here, and each villa has its own WiFi router – albeit at the mercy of Zanzibar's erratic telecoms! You need to bring your own PC, as there is not one here.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: For minor illnesses and injuries there are two first-aid boxes, but no first-aid trained staff. There is a local medic at a nearby clinic, or a European doctor will drive out from Stone Town in an hour.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are normally a number of askaris (guards) on duty at night.
Fire safety: None – but villas large and airy and plenty of easy escape routes. Buildings of concrete, so fire risk relatively low.
Disabled access: On Request
Money: Kikadini Villas can exchange US dollars cash for Tanzanian shillings.
Accepted payment on location: Euros, US dollars or Tanzanian shillings cash are accepted for payments for extras; they cannot accept any credit cards or travellers' cheques.