9 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
"My family of 5 came to the Unguja Resort after a wonderful but exhausting safari through the Serengeti. We were looking for a place to relax and "recharge" for 4 nights before heading back to New York. What we found at Unguja Resort was paradise. We had no idea what the place was like as we trusted our travel agent implicitly. Unguja is magnificent. The owners Elies and Ralph could not have been more welcoming - clearly their goal is to make you as happy as humanly possible (I take great exception to the negative review about this property on this site). The hotel consists of 11 private villas some on the sea and others set back. The villas on the sea are open toward the sea and private. You have a downstairs bedroom, open bath and shower and 2 areas for watching the most glorious sunsets. The upstairs is a huge room with bed for additional sleeping. There are virtually no screened windows with most of the villa being open. You sleep under mosquito netting.
There is no tennis, no spa, no business center but there is a spectacular sea right outside your villa. The beach right in front of the hotel disappears at high tide which we found made it easier to get into the water by gliding in off the steps. Low tide was ideal for snorkeling right in front of the hotel where beautiful coral and fish abound in shallow water. The high salinity makes floating a breeze so don't worry. There was no current either with great visibility. The pool is beautiful with plenty of seating in sun or shade.
The friendliness and hospitable nature of the owners extends to the guests and friendly chatting with a wonderful assortment of guests is available but if you want privacy you can certainly be left alone. The food is universally delicious and they were willing to accomodate dietary restrictions. We were there over Christmas and the owners made a special dinner and gave us all presents - that is the kind of warmth they engender. They were even willing to send someone to Stonetown to purchase a bedspread for us that we had admired at the hotel so we didn't have to venture in in the heat.
There are a few downsides that I feel are important to mention. I know air conditioning is available in some rooms (not sure how many) and if this is important to you be sure to ask. On the ocean front villa we did not have air conditioning and it is HOT even at night. There was a fan in the downstairs bedroom which helps some but not in the upstairs loft. We had trouble sleeping some nights given the heat but we are used to air conditioning and really missed it. Many other guests did not want air conditioning and had no problems. There are also a lot of mosquitos at night and bug spray is a must. It made sitting out in our villa at night all but impossible while sitting by the pool was fine because the breeze kept the mosquitos away.
I also found the guy in charge of the dive concession, Nick, less than helpful. His attitude and people skills are in direct contract the the incredible owners who bend over backwards to help. He seems primarily interested only in diving with little care about the other activities offered. 16 of us went out on a dolphin/snorkeling cruise and didn't see a single dolphin. They also took us to a snorkeling spot which was far inferior to what we had right in front of the hotel. When we complained about the trip his attitude was clearly that he couldn't care less about it and was rude. We spoke to the owners about this and they immediately spoke to Nick. Not sure they will get results as I worry that he just doesn't have customer service skills so prevalent with everyone else at the resort. We did take the day trip to the private island because the owners really recommended it. It was outstanding and not to be missed. Thankfully we saw dolphins on the way, snorkeled, ate a great lunch and couldn't have had a better time.
I can't comment on anything else on Zanzibar because we only left the resort to take the 2 hour tour of the adjacent village given by a local guide and it was great and worth every minute.
My one last criticism of Unguja Resort is that it is too beautiful and the owners too wonderful making it the hardest place I have ever been to leave. I hope to be able to come back again."
- Travel date: Mon 31st of December 2007
Nice attitude of hosts and good location
"We are not novices to Zanzibar. In fact our Russian couple visited this exotic location for the third time. All in all we stayed at the Palms, Ras Nungwi, Chole Mjini, Fundu Lagoon, Emerson's and Green (they have been recently renamed to Hurumzi something), Tembo hotel, Matemwe Bungalows - that's a lot of famous places for us to build some expertise in the matter of Zanzibar hotel reviews.
We chose Unguja as one of 3 four-day locations during the latest trip. Why did we choose it? First, we liked the pictures posted on the site, then we liked that it was new, finally we liked that it was in the part of Zanzibar we never checked before - the very South. Now that more than 20 days passed and we are sure that we happily avoided malaria it's a good time to review several things about this hotel.
The road - it's a good news that it's the paved road up to the entrance - you will not have this luxury in places like Ras Nungwi or Matemwe Bungalows.
Bungalows - nice modern design - we liked them a lot. There is a short private path (5-7 meters) from the house to the seafront, there's a couch at this path where you can sit and watch a dramatic sunset - this is absolutely amazing and one would generally expect a huge price tag for a thing like that. And this place is quite moderately priced (still). One more good thing - the water is abundant - nice pressure at the shower, several basins, including one at the bedroom - this one is not as obvious as it may seem (we had grave water problems at Matemwe Retreat)
We like to swim. And the water at 28 degrees Celcius is very inviting. Another good news - approximately 50% of the time the water is high enough to allow swimming right from the shore without half a mile walking through the hordes of sea urchins (which is exactly the case at Matemwe Bungalows)
Activities are traditional for a place like that. Diving - there are somewhat remote (30 minute motor boat ride) sites like the Dolphin Wall - very nice with few people - wish I studied them more. Snorkeling - you can do it at the site right next to the hotel - sort of OK, but alas if you like to watch the marine stuff only from the above, Unguja vicinity might not satisfy you - it is definetely inferior to Mnemba (Ras Nungwi, Matemwe Bungalows). Fishing - this one was good. We got up at 5, watched a beautiful sunrise on the way, watched dolphins (they are abundant there) and caught a big wahoo, and a medium-sized barracuda. If we were more experienced the catch would be surely bigger - all in all we had 8 bites. We came back at 12 and at half past one the chef served us the barracuda steak. Beach - there's a remote white sand bank (1 hour motor boat ride) - very clean with nicely sloped shores - no urchins and you could swim only 10 meter into the ocean. The water is quite clean so that you could snorkel - not much to see, though. When we got there we found ourselves in the company of a bunch of not very happy people - they all arrived in one small boat, they grouped in the middle of the bank desperately trying to understand why they came there - I would too - it's a place for a honeymoon couple or a romantic couple like ourselves or a small group of close friends but not for 20+ dudes. Luckily after half an hour they embarked and disappeared leaving this paradise for the 2 of us. We had an amazing lunch there.
Hosts. They are great - very helpful and supportive. I understand, they want to build the dream of theirs - wish them luck. I was fool enough to get sunburns on the first day in Zanzibar - they gave me a full bottle of their own sunscreen. I had a problem with my regulator - they fixed it. Well, in return, I replaced the batteries in the private safe box from my personal stock....
Food, wine, and bar. There is a small bar (for 3 couples). As we were 3 couples at the moment, we had no seating problems. Smart music, nice chat with new friends - very lovely. Food is quite good. It is just like that. If you are searching for gourmet experiences you should check the Palms and Matemwe Retreat - the food there is exclusive but the price tag of these places is double to Unguja.
Is there something which could be improved? I would suggest a minor shift in the attitude of One Ocean Guys who provide water activities. No, they are not rude, they are quite nice and helpful. But sometimes these little touches.... I declared myself that I am quite an experienced diver right from the start. In fact, I have done more than 50 dives in Zanzibar area only by now. And during the first day I had to check local sites which, alas, are quite boring. During the second day the dive instructor offered me to dive from the shore. That was weird, and I realized that the problem was they were not enthusiastic about driving me alone (assume, gas is not cheap there, and the price is fixed). Well, I did not argue - I just brought the other couple for diving. Even then the instructor said he had to discuss the matter with the captain. Then he returned and solemnly declared that the far site diving was possible. The second weird situation was when we went to the bank - it is advertised as a full day experience, it costs hefty 180 dollars, hence, I started to be annoyed when the same instructor said that we would have to move back at 1:30 or 2 p.m. at the latest so that the captain could avoid hitting the dark. As this conversation took place at 10 a.m. and we were still at the hotel I was wondering how long it takes to get there and how long we would stay there (it's getting dark at 7 p.m.). The way took a little more than an hour so that we were there at 11:30 and at 12:15 we were offered to have a lunch. I refused firmly: "we have lunch at 1:15 and we get back at 2:30". Well, if it were not our last day and we ordered a taxi for 5 p.m., and there were no grave clouds threatening with the thunder I would insist on staying until 4 - the place is gorgeous. Anyway, if you plan to dive, be specific - you want to check the best spots (which are not local) - and refuse to take less. If you go to the sand bank explain - it's the whole day rather than 1 hour experience - I am sure they will not argue.
Finally, one more time - superb place, superb hosts, would like to check it another time for more diving and fishing."
- Travel date: Mon 24th of December 2007
"It was our honeymoon and we had planned to stay at one of the beautiful white beaches at the east coast, however the day before departure we heard that the resort at the east coast was overbooked and we were transfered to Unguja Resort. To be honest we were a bit worried of not having the beautiful beaches around our apartment.
On arrival we were surprised directly by the beautiful looking resort and our appartment was really as big as we had seen on the website (seeing the pictures at home we could not really believe that it all was just one apartment but it's really true).
Though no large sandy beaches in the direct vicinity, the ocean probably even looks more beautiful than in the east. It's possible to go for an ocean swim and some smaller beaches can be found close to the site. However the swimming pool is very attractive as well. East coast beaches can be visited e.g. by taxi.
Food and service were very good and the management, a Dutch couple, was very friendly. The private terrace with ocean view and the coffee, tea and cookies served at your apartment early before sunrise was really very relaxing.
We had a wonderful time."
- Travel date: Wed 5th of December 2007
"We didn't know what to expect when we arrived having not heard of the resort and we were truly stunned. What a relaxed and friendly welcome to a gem at the south of the island. We really wanted to just get away from it all and not be in a pretentious hotel and the individual private villas turned out to be perfect for us. The beauty of the resort is the small number of villas there so it is a very personal experience.
The design of each villa was wonderful - built beautifully out of local materials in a fun open-plan design, and positioned in such a way that we had a totally private view of the sea without being overlooked by other guests. Our villa was literally feet from a coral cliff that dropped straight to the sea at high tide and exposed white sand at low tide, which the local villagers combed for clams.
We wondered if there would be enough to do, but in fact the atmosphere was so peaceful that we just wanted to relax and soak it up. We did take a couple of terrific boat and dive trips, which were professionally run and enormous fun.
The staff were friendly and welcoming, and the food delicious and varied. You could be as sociable or as private as you liked too - either chatting with fellow guests at dinner and the owners at the bar, or finding your own quiet spot.
This is a great place for people seeking rustic charm and personal service in a beautiful setting that feels really connected with its surroundings."
- Travel date: Sun 2nd of December 2007
where dreams met reality
"We spent 2 weeks in Tanzania and finished with 4 days in Unguja Resort. That's the most charming, calm, relaxing, beautiful place we've been to. Villas are vast clean and nice. Like shells which inspired their design they are open, protecting and organic.
Ralph and Elies are very welcoming people, respectful of their guests. Strangely they don't have dollars in their eyes, they just want to rule a great place, respect the village they are settled by, let you enjoy the beauties of Zanzibar. They've got blue ocean waves in their eyes.
The staff is very nice too, they seem to be so happy.
Diving was great with Ocean one (try to bring a proof of dive baptism before going, that'll be cheaper).
The beach is perfect for views and walks, not for sea baths. However we didn't miss it, we went diving and used the pool.
Just to finish a curious topic about Unguja : although it is not required nor suggested every night people dress up for dinner and talk to each others sharing a drink, yes talked, yes shared. That gives you an idea how this place is magic.
Go here for relax and beauty.
Oops, the food. Good at lunch, very good for breakfast and excellent for dinner. Houray for the cook."
- Travel date: Fri 30th of November 2007
Beautiful place, Beautiful People
"We stayed at Unguja for 14 days End of September to beginning of October. This place is a 5* resort on a 3* budget, the rooms (if you can call them that, they are more like houses) were beautiful with gorgeous views of the Indian Ocean. Elise and Ralf were absoluteley brilliant, helpful to the extreme, organising your trips at a percentage of what you pay through the larger resorts. The food was lovely, with a set menu, although the chef will make you anything you fancy, you only have to ask.
Although you are a little isolated, getting around the island is pretty easy, if sometimes scary with the crazy taxi drivers, but that just adds to the experience!!!
Unguja has it's own dive resort, the highlight being the dolphin trip, as you are so close you get the added benefit of going out later than the other boats. On our second trip, we were the only boat in the water, and the only people on the boat. Jumped in the water surrounded by 20 wild dolphins, who are more than happy for you to be there, playing and swimming alongside you....... one of the best experiences of my life!
All in all, it was the best holiday of our lives, and we are looking forward to returning!"
- Travel date: Fri 26th of October 2007
Amazzing Rooms and Great Hosts
"I stayed at Unguja Resort in March 2007. It was a great place to unwind at the end of my holiday. The rooms are enourmous - the best I have seen in the region. Not only is there a large bedroom but also a lounge area, an upstairs deck with a separate bed, a very large bathroom and an outdoors area. The food was very good too. Best of all were the management who were exceptional hosts - a very friendly couple who went out of their way to make me feel welcome and meet all my needs. The diving was great - the dive instructor is extremely competent. The dive sites are virtually unexplored in this region. NIght diving was available. We saw dolphins both times we went for a sunset cruise right next to the hotel and in great abundance. We were even able to jump in and snorkel with them.
In summary, a great hotel where you can't fail to relax and enjoy yourself."
- Travel date: Sat 17th of March 2007
Comments on Unguja Resort
"We stayed in Zanzibar at Unguja resort during Christmas 2006. We stepped into paradise after an exhausting safari! We stayed in a massive sized bungalow. Really, too much room for two people, but with a simplistic luxurious feel. We were amazed at the decor on the walls made from natural objects. I took pictures and plan to copy their ideas in our vacation home.
You can enjoy a shower practically on the beach, as there are no walls between you and the beach. Beware of passing fishermen!
The resort is isolated, so make sure you have everything you need when you arrive. It truely is a "get away."
We hoped to take advantage of diving while we there, which was why we booked this particular resort, a significant upgrade from our original vacation package. So, we were very dissappointed to find out that there was no dive center as of yet. However, I understand they have a working dive center now. My fiance' was able to go on an exploratory dive with the owner and was very impressed with the nearby potential dive sites. We hope to return one day just to dive those sites!
The food was extraordinary. We were able to indulge in the authentic foods of zanzibar. My only suggestion would be, to come up with first courses other than soup, as it is quite hot everyday. Nonetheless, the soups were delicious!
We hoped to have sun, sun and more sun. But we were dissappointed again, it was cloudy and rainy for the entire 5 days. It did begin to clear on our day of departure. We were told this was unusual weather. There was a hurricane off the coast of Madagascar. We unfortunately, caught the weather and our bungalow was soaked with water from the rain. The only room that didn't get was the bedroom, as it had a door to close out the elements. Housekeeping was prompt in cleaning up all the water from our bungalow.
The owners are very hands on with all aspects of managing the resort.
Inspite of our unfortunate mishaps, we do recommend this resort to anyone who wants to escape the pace of your busy life and indulge yourself with beautiful surroundings and great food!"
- Travel date: Mon 26th of February 2007
One of the best
"We were recomended by our new friends in Stone Town at the Zanzibar Palace Hotel to Unguja as the newest and possibly the best beach/diving resort at a sensible price on Zanzibar. Not being located on the fashionable side of the island but being in the south, facing west was against all our original intention.
But what good advice, Unguja Resort is brand spanking new and whilst it still needs to grow into its landscape a little, its situation, facility and ambience is magnificent. The warm welcome from the owners and five star treatment were just the icing on the cake.
Wonderful 'apartments', no 2 in our case, with every room open to the ocean:bedroom, bathroom, wc, sitting room and a first floor space used as extra bedroom or just for lounging ,again with views of the ocean, just magnificent.
Wonderful sea bathing and a terrific dive centre.
We enjoyed this resort for four days without being divers and without feeling the need to go 'exploring' .
We were one of the first guests there, our concern is that in future we will find it difficult to get a reservation!"
- Travel date: Thu 22nd of February 2007