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Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge
Unguja Lodge

Unguja Lodge: Our full report

Unguja Lodge is a small, relaxed and friendly lodge in a lovely spot overlooking the picturesque Menai Bay ...

... Conservation area on Zanzibar's south-west coast. While there is coral in the bay, there is no coral reef to act as a barrier, so it's easy to walk out and swim here at low tide.

Arriving at Unguja, the path to reception winds between big old baobabs. The design of the lodge is modern and quite unique - lots of large white curving walls and high thatched makuti roofs give a feeling of space to the central areas. The coconut tree wood furniture is locally sourced, and there are bits of African art spread around such as baskets, and colourful material, which mean that despite the modern design, the lodge retains plenty of Zanzibari character.

Leading down from the reception you come to the main, freeform swimming pool, surrounded by loungers and plenty of shade, and deep enough (2.3m, 7ft 6in) for dive-training. Behind the pool is the main dining area - where tables are separated by low walls to give them a bit more privacy, while still retaining a sociable atmosphere.

Behind the dining area is the bar - with lovely low hanging lanterns hanging down from the roof, and next to this just outside are plenty of comfortable wicker chairs, where people tend to gather for a drink before dinner.

The lush tropical gardens at Unguja Lodge are dotted with baobab trees. Don’t be surprised to see colobus monkeys in the trees and fascinating elephant shrews - like oversized mice on stilts with extended noses - foraging in the leaf litter. In these gardens you’ll find the PADI dive school and shop, run by One Ocean where you can organise dives and snorkelling to the nearby coral. This is the only PADI operation in the area, and there is no minimum number of peopled required for their dives, as can sometimes be the case at other centres. There is some good diving and snorkelling to be done in Menai Bay, with at least 20 recognised dive sites and some healthy coral formations.

The beach at Unguja is completely covered at high tide - with the sea coming right up and lapping at the steps. It is lovely to be able to walk straight down into the clear turquoise waters and bathe. At low tide the beach in front of the lodge is exposed and although the beach isn’t quite the perfect white sands of the east coast, it’s secluded with few people around. During the low tide sun loungers are placed out along the beach, and at high tide you can still walk 10 minutes to a nearby stretch of beach which is exposed throughout the day.

Linked by nicely shaded paths of coral gravel, there are three different types of rooms at Unguja - three Baobab Villas, seven Seaview Villas and two Seaview Family Villas. They are very similar in price and almost the same in design. The villas are very spacious, with white washed walls and high thatched roofs. Curved walls act as partition to create a toilet, which has a closed door for privacy, and an open-sided shower room and an open lounge with a long oval bench scattered with colourful cushions.

The bedrooms are large and simply furnished, with a large bed draped with mosquito nets, a separate luggage room with a safe, and a sink and a full length mirror behind the bed. Above the bedroom, reached by a flight of stairs, is a loft space with a day bed to relax on. This can be a very atmospheric place to sleep at night, or can alternatively be used for a third person.

The bathrooms are simple, elegant and sparse, and local toiletries, towels and kanga wraps are provided.

The key differences between the room types are their locations. The Seaview Villas and Seaview Family Villas sit on top of a small coral shelf about 2m above the beach and all face out over the sea. You can enjoy the view from your private stone veranda, furnished with a comfy sofa and an array of cushions. These rooms are bright and airy.

The Baobab Villas are set inland and face into a little small garden around a baobab tree. Each has a small private plunge pool in your central garden and the bedrooms here are also air-conditioned and have fans to make up for the reduced sea breeze.

The two Family Seaview Villas are similar in design to the other villas, but with a slightly different layout: we found the layout a little incoherent. Downstairs is the main bedroom with en-suite facilities and a small lounge and kitchenette. Upstairs is a small lounge area and two bedrooms, each with twin beds and en-suite facilities.


Our view

Unguja Lodge is a small and friendly lodge, in a nice location, with great views of the sunset. It has an interesting design, and although the villas are can be quite dark, there is a great feeling of space and airiness about them. The pace here is slow and gentle, but the management style is not inefficient. It's one of our favourites in the area, good all year between June and April, but particularly nice in the calm Oct-Nov season.

Richard Trillo

Richard Trillo

Zanzibar expert

Geographics

Location
South-west Zanzibar, Zanzibar
Ideal length of stay
You could easily spend four days or more at Unguja Lodge, just relaxing. The owners tell us the average number of days spent there by guests is 4-5.
Directions
Unguja Lodge is 62km from the airport - about an hour's drive.
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Half Board
Food quality
When we were last at Unguja Lodge in 2016 we did not have a chance to try the food, however in 2013 we found the food to be very good. Breakfast was a self service buffet with a large variety of fruits, cereals, juices, cold meats, cheese and spreads. Cooked breakfast, tea and coffee could be ordered from the waiter.

Lunch was an a la carte menu with a variety of light snacks and salads, as well as more substantial meals for those who wanted them.

Dinner was very good, and consisted of 3 courses, served to your table. We enjoyed prawn bisque to start, followed by tuna steak, then a delicious mango moose. The menu is written on the board at 6pm each evening, so if you have any issues or requests just let the team know and they will try their best to accommodate.

Special interests

Family holidays
With three separate bedrooms, the family villa at Unguja is a great choice for families with younger children, allowing you to all stay in the same space. The lodge is very laid back and unpretentious, with a wide stretch of beach and a pretty pool.
See ideas for Family holidays
Honeymoons
Unguja Lodge is a peaceful and romantic lodge for your honeymoon to Zanzibar. For those wanting to get away from it all this is a lovely choice. With an attentive team and thoughtful management, there’s no doubt you will be made to feel special.
See ideas for Honeymoons
Beach holidays
Unguja Lodge doesn’t have one of Zanzibar’s endless long white beaches, but it is in a quiet, secluded location. Dive or snorkel straight from the beach to explore the coral cliff for a special holiday experience in East Africa.
See ideas for Beach holidays
Diving & snorkelling
Unguja Lodge has a PADI dive center on-site. Snorkellers and divers will enjoy the colourful coral in the protected Menai Bay area, whilst more experienced divers can even head out to new dive sites, identified only by a GPS.
See ideas for Diving & snorkelling
Cultural experiences
Unguja Lodge is only a short walk from the village of Kizimkazi, with many of the staff coming from the area. The lodge supports a number of community projects and guests are encouraged to go on a village walk to explore the area and meet the locals.
See ideas for Cultural experiences

Children

Attitude towards children
Children are welcome at Unguja Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions
There are no age restrictions at Unguja.
Special activities & services
Special meals and child-minding can be arranged.
Equipment
There are a few cots and highchairs at Unguja – however these are limited in number. It would be best to request these at the time of booking, to give you the best chance of getting them.
Generally recommended for children
Yes.

Communications

Power supply notes
There is 24hour power supply and guests can charge batteries in their rooms.
Communications
There is mobile phone reception at Unguja Lodge, and the lodge also has free WiFi, best in the public areas but also accessible in some rooms.
TV & radio
There is no TV or radio at Unguja Lodge.
Water supply
Borehole
Water supply notes
Very good well water supplies the lodge and they use top quality purification to make it suitable for use, including UV osmosis for drinking water.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Yes
Medical care
There is a small first aid kit and four of the staff are first-aid trained. Unguja is also only a one-hour drive from Stone Town where there is a private hospital.
Dangerous animals
Low Risk
Security measures
There is a safe at reception for valuables and there are also security guards around the lodge: normally 3 during the day and 6 in the night.
Fire safety
There are fire extinguishers in the communal areas and in all of the villas – there is also a mobile hose and pump for the villas.

Activities

  • Boat trip

    Boat trip

  • Cultural excursion

    Cultural excursion

  • Scuba-diving

    Scuba-diving

  • Snorkelling

    Snorkelling

  • Watersports

    Watersports

Extras

Disabled access
Not Possible
Laundry facilities
Laundry is an extra charge - $1 – 4 depending on the item
Money
Travellers need to do currency exchange in Stone Town; there are no facilities for this at Unguja.
Accepted payment on location
At Unguja Lodge you can use US$, GB Pounds, Euros and Tshillings cash. You can also use Visa, Mastercard, however there is a 5% surcharge.

Room types at Unguja Lodge

The Baobab and Sea View Villas...
...house large comfy beds...
...which are thoughtfully decorated.
The ensuite bathrooms are open sided facing the sea or private garden...
...whilst the hot-and-cold showers share the same views.
Each room has a private and comfy lounge area...
...some with spectacular views.
In the sea-view villas, sit and look out accross turquoise waters.
For those rooms that do not have sea views...
...the individual plunge pools more than make up for it.
The villas have a second bed on an upper level...
...with a Zanzibari day-bed...
...making Unguja a great choice for families or triples.
1 of

Baobab or Seaview Villa

At Unguja Lodge there are two different suites and though they are almost the same in price and even in build – they have one key difference.

Sea-view villas sit on a small coral shelf about 2m above the beach and all face out across the sea. They also have a small, locally-made sofa on a stone veranda in front, with a bright array of cushions from where you can enjoy the view. These rooms often get a lovely sea breeze, and do not have air-conditioning.

In contrast, the three Boabab villas are all set inland and face into a little small garden around a baobab tree. Though you sacrifice a sea view, you also gain a private plunge pool, which is perfect for those wanting a little solitude and don't want to lounge around the main pool. These rooms are air-conditioned.

Apart from these differences, the rooms are very much the same. Both are very large, detached villas with white-washed walls and a high makuti thatch roofs. Each villa has a main outside door, made from palm-tree wood, through which is a large open area, almost like an entrance hall. Curved walls act as partitions to create a toilet, which has a closed door for privacy, an open-sided shower room and an open lounge. Both of these areas face outwards, either across the sea, or into the private garden.

The oval lounge area has a bench (a “baraza” – Swahili for meeting place) which is moulded out of the wall and dotted with colourful cushions. This private spot is a great place to lounge around and read a book away from any other guests.

Then set slightly back within the villa – behind solid double palm-wood doors is the bedroom. This is a large, cool room which is very simply furnished. There is a large bed set right in the centre of the room, hanging space for clothes and a chair. Behind the bed you will also find twin sinks and a full-length mirror.

Above the bedroom, reached by a flight of stairs, is a loft space with a day bed. It can be quite atmospheric at night here with the sound of the waves and the sea breeze.

The bathroom is a simple, sparse, elegant space with walls and shelves to provide a large shower area and washbasin. Local toiletries, soft towels and kikoys and kangas are provided.

The beds have mosquito nets…
…and there is air-conditioning.
1 of

Family Seaview Villa

The two family villas has the same construction and design as the other villas, but have a slightly different layout.

At the rear of the villas on the ground floor is the main bedroom with en-suite facilities. Next to this is a lounge and kitchenette

Upstairs, there is a small lounge, and two bedrooms, each with twin beds and en suite facilities.

The bathroom is a simple, sparse, elegant space with walls and shelves to provide a large shower area and washbasin. Local toiletries, soft towels and kikoys and kangas are provided.

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