10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Beautiful Honeymoon spot
"We've just got back from a 2 week honeymoon; a week at Ras Kutani / Selous Safari Camp and a week at Pongwe.
As others have said, it really is as beautiful as the website pics - a perfect white sand beach with lovely turquoise sea which is often as warm as a bath.
It's an incredibly relaxing place and the staff are unfailingly friendly and smiling. It's true that most of them struggle with English and don't always grasp some catering basics (on our first day we were brought cold tea and warm ice cream...) but this is all done in a very charming way and it's difficult to get too worked up about it.
The room is reasonably basic and the bathroom rather gloomy and austere but everything is kept spotless and the view is remarkable - we could step out our front door onto one of the best beaches we've seen.
Breakfast can be disappointing as it is a set menu which seems to be affected by the vagaries of local supply. Ostensibly you can ask for alternatives if you don't like what is on offer, but on some days there really wasn't a lot to choose from. It feels slightly obscene to moan about portion sizes and choice when there is so much poverty in the surrounding villages - but Zanzibar is an increasingly competitive market so they need to sort this out.
The swimming pool was still being completed - you can swim in it, but you have to clamber over a bit of a building site first. The pool when finished will be a big bonus as swimming in the sea is not possible when the tide is out.
Overall it was an amazing experience, never crowded, always chilled-out, no noisy kids or hassle from beach sellers, a very relaxed and comfortable evening bar, and all rounded off with a wonderful moonlit meal on the beach on our final day.
A final note - do take pens or pencils for the local kids. It means a lot to them and we couldn't get hold of any for love nor money, so we'll be sending some in a parcel shortly!"
- Travel date: Mon 13th of November 2006
"Unspoilt, peaceful and secluded (so you have to go atleast half board). We probably enjoyed the best 4 nights of our honeymoon here (although i wouldn't want much longer), perfect to unwind and do nothing all day. Colour of sea and the beach is stunning and scatttered with palm trees, and the gardens are thick with plants and greenary. Food not quite as amazing as they suggest, but sill very good. Make sure you have seafood platter one night, they'll even set up a candle lit table on the beach for you. Ideally ask for a room that isn't set back from the beach, but I'm being a picky now. Not 5 star service - but definitely 5 stars for friendliness and effort!"
- Travel date: Fri 10th of November 2006
"We arrived at Pongwe Beach Hotel after a dusty 6 days on Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. I had seen photos of the hotel and just hoped that it was as lovely as it looked. And it really was, it was slightly overcast, but warm when we arrived and we were greeted with a welcome drink and introduction about the hotel. When you walk through the lounge area the view and colour of the sea is to die for and the hotel has it's own secluded and beautiful beach that is raked every morning. There are plenty of palm trees, hammocks and loungers scattered around.
There isn't really anywhere nearby to eat or drink so we spent all mealtimes at the hotel and were not disappointed, the food was excellent and varied and the staff could not be more helpful.
There are 10 rooms designed as individual huts along the beachfront and they're very comfortable.
Tea and coffee is brought to your room in the morning before breakfast.
All the staff were very helpful and friendly, with a smile.
Trips to Stone Town and on the water can be arranged. We did a dive trip on Mmeba Atoll from a hotel in the next village up the coast.
I would definately recommend Pongwe for a totally relaxed holiday."
- Travel date: Wed 8th of November 2006
Pongwe Beach Hotel - Mazuri Kabisa
"You can read either version, but whatever you do - go to Pongwe !
1) A small, friendly and really private resort on the most stunning beach. Romance and relaxation at its best. You have to experience it for yourself. If you dont go you wont know !!!
2)The taxi trip (approx US$40.00) from the airport took us on tarred roads through about 1hr of Zanzibar colourful village life amongst endless palms.
The Masai security directed our taxi to the simple & rustic reception where Heidi and Mbwana gave us a warm smiley 'jambo' with the crystal clear ocean in the background - We had made the right choice. We were asked our names by literally each staff member, and you know what, they never forgot them.
As we walked through the bar/lounge/dining area to the room, our breaths were literally taken away by the colours, and setting of this most spectacular secluded beach. First impressions really are lasting. Our room was simple and very romantic, right on the beach. Presently there is no electricity, there is constant power supplied by generators until approx 0100hrs, but the generators are far away and dont disturb at all.
As a romantic dream destination or as a quiet & safe family holiday, Pongwe is the best you can choose!!! You just wont find another beach like it on Zanzibar. Remember, the tidal range along coasts with outer reefs is quite significant, so talk to the management and plan your day accordingly, close inshore swimming on the high and walking / wading out on the low ,admiring the fascinating marine life. Snorkelling at Pongwe is easy, fun and beautiful. Pongwe has a rustic boat for snorkelling or fishing and is definately worth the trip.
We spent 10 days just relaxing soaking up the gammas on the beachbeds or hammocks, swimming, wading and snorkelling and destressing from the rat race. Daily laughs with the Pongwe family, including trying to get Amena (bar lady) to make up strange new cocktails. Plenty of board games and books on hand too.
Even with all the rooms full, we still felt like there was almost nobody around and the only noise you here is the wind rustling through the palms.
The beachside pool is almost complete, just the decking left to do.
The daily set breakfasts and dinners were great, fresh ingredients, plenty of variety & nothing too heavy. If you want anything else all you have to do is ask in advance and nothing is too much trouble. Candlelit dinner on the beach is a must, at least once. If you can make the sunrise, it is very beautiful.
You can hire reliable mountain bikes, cars, motor bikes from the resort at good rates if you want to go exploring and this is a lot cheaper than the taxis.
Annette and the Pongwe family are greeat fun, give personalised service and do everything to ensure your stay is most memorable.
We have to go back though because we didnt meet Val, the owner and need further lessons on how to capture the full moon from Annette. Besides that, life really is tough when you are lazing around on that beach in Africa..."
- Travel date: Fri 20th of October 2006
Nice place in Paradise
"Stayed here for 4 nts Sep 2006 after safari in Kenya & Tanzania. Ideal beach location - absolute Paradise! Small hotel with local feel. No crowds. Most beautiful beach we've seen anywhere and is outstanding for long, safe walks, especially at low tide when you can walk about 1km into the sea in ankle-deep water. Coconut palms, hammocks, beach cots, perfectly white sand, cool ocean breeze - get the picture? Rooms are in 7 duplex and triplex bungalows along the beachfront. Ours was within 10 metres of the sand with outstanding beach & ocean view. Lovely room with colorful decor. Table, chairs, beach beds on patio in front of room are a nice touch. Bar and restaurant have simple furnishings and are comfortable. Food at lunch and dinner are excellent, breakfast is hit and miss. Set menu for all meals but there is a choice of starter and main course at lunch and dinner and there is also possibility of having meals tailored on request so no worries here. Menu is posted at breakfast time and you are asked to pre-order your lunch and dinner. Half-board option is good value for big eaters, i.e. if you typically eat three courses at dinner, otherwise we recommend that you order and pay only for what you want to eat as main-course portions are large enough to satisfy an average appetite. Dinner served on the beach on request - no problem. There is only brackish sea water for showering and washing. Communicating with staff can be difficult - only a few are fluent in English. There are several service staff in the restaurant and bar and they all seem to do the same thing and don't seem to keep track of who has already done what so expect to be asked the same questions several times, e.g. Have you ordered your lunch/dinner yet? What time would you like lunch/dinner? Guest requests are often slow to be handled - we think because many of the staff don't understand what you are asking for so they do nothing. This becomes a bit tedious after a couple of days. Each day your bar and restaurant bill for the previous day is presented to you for your review - we noted that mistakes were frequently made and so checked it carefully before signing. This hotel does itself no service here and must rely on the honesty of it's guests as we even noted absent charges from our tab a few times. There seems to be an ongoing effort to improve the service but it is clear that this establishment has a ways to go yet. Otherwise, this is a remarkable place and we would stay here again without question. The shortfalls in service are more than made up for by the great beach location and intimacy of this island retreat. The location is not great for excursions as it is on the Northeast coast of Unguja, about 45 mins to 1 hr from Stone Town. Recommend taking tours from Stone Town instead. Also, hotel prices for excursions are much higher than in-town rates."
- Travel date: Tue 10th of October 2006
Perfect for relaxation
"Stayed in Pongwe for 6 days in September before moving on to another hotel in Zanzibar.
Pongwe is situated on a beautiful beach - 10 bungalows and reception/bar/restaurant.
The resort is very relaxing and peaceful - hammocks and sunbeds to lounge around on all day and piles of boardgames to play with a beer before a 3 course dinner.
Food at Pongwe often seems to be mentioned in reviews and on the tripadvisor forums - there is a set lunch and dinner menu (both 3 courses), but the staff are more than happy to make any changes you would like or prepare something to your personal specifications.
If you are looking for a quiet hotel where you can relax 100%, read, swim, sunbathe and play the odd game of Scrabble whilst eating fresh seafood and being looked after by the smiliest staff you will ever meet, Pongwe is perfect for you."
- Travel date: Mon 2nd of October 2006
Beautiful location, but a little disorganised
"My boyfriend and I spent 6 nights in Pongwe after a wonderful safari in the Selous. I have to say I was not expecting the scenery to replicate so exactly the beautiful photos on the hotel's website. But it really is as beautiful as it looks. The beach is lovely and the sea is a luminous green/blue. The staff were very welcoming and the room was spacious and clean. The food was very good. But my own slight grumble was with the dining arrangements. There doesn't apear to be any organisation in the dining area and I half wonder if this is because they are too many staff. I appreciate the hotel was fully booked and consequently busy at dinner times, but if we were asked once what room we were in, we were asked a million times. Then there were the daily 'have you had your starter?' questions. I would also say that if you can possibly eat on the tables on the beach, do so as I felt the dining area had an almost 'unrelaxed' quality about it, which is a shame, as the food was so enjoyable. On a number of occasions, drinks were ordered that never arrived etc. Pay a few more dollars for the seafood platter on the shoreline - fabulous. We watched the moon rise over the sea as we ate our's, which was an amazing experience. The day trips from Pongwe are extremely expensive, so we didn't bother, which is a shame. I would highly recommend Pongwe - the staff were attentive and there is no denying the beach is wonderful. A pool is almost completed as an extra."
- Travel date: Thu 21st of September 2006
"What can we say.....!! Pongwe is the ultimate paradise hotel! with beautiful beach side bungalows set a few feet away from the most spectacular beach in the Indian Ocean. Gorgeous white sand, immaculatly cleaned every morning by the wonderful staff. Stunning views over the ocean from the friendly restaurant/bar. You cant help but relax. We stayed for 15 nights on our honeymoon, in August, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Everyone inc. the ground staff, security staff, cleaners, restaurant staff, etc, made us feel extremely welcome and always looked after us with a smile! Heidi and Val are great, nothing was ever too much for them! If your idea of a holiday is complete relaxation combined with a stunning setting, with fantastic food and friendly, helpful staff, then Pongwe is definatly for you.If you want a 5 star hotel where you are waited on hand and foot, then i would reccomend finding somewhere else. Although the rooms are basically (but elegantly) furnished, with no minibars, etc, they have the most fantastic of views and the comfiest beds! besides, when the staff are this helpful, you dont need a minibar. After staying in many different countries around the world and experienced many cultures and hotels, we would heavily reccomend Pongwe to anyone and we look forward to the day when we can return!"
- Travel date: Sun 17th of September 2006
Pongwe Beach, what a place!!!!!!!
"My new husband and i stayed at Pongwe beach for the first 6 days of our 10 day stay in Zanzibar. We loved it there!!!
The staff were lovely! They were attentive and were always happy to help us at any time of the day or night. We spent alot of time with the firendly and very interesting staff, finding out what it was like to brought up on such a beauitiful Island. When we got to our room we were amazed when we were greeted by champagne on ice and the most beautiful four poster bed. The room was magnificant and the view from the room was breath-taking. The beach and crystal waters kept us captivated for the duration of our stay and we sun-bathed and snorkelled almost every day. The food was deliciaous and we were really spoilt by being seated on the beach for almost every meal. If you come to Pongwe you must try their seafood platter which was to die for and cost us only a few dollors more.
I have read some bad reviews for this hotel and we can only think that those who have written them have done this because they want Pongwe all to themselves. We will Definitely be back!!!!!!
Thanks Val, Ali, Heidi and the rest of the lovely staff,
Janine and Nick, Kent xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"
- Travel date: Wed 6th of September 2006
Ultimate relaxing stay
"August 28 - September 1/06
We came to Pongwe after a week's safari in the Masai Mara.
We were looking for a quiet place to enjoy the sea and each other and Pongwe Beach Hotel was absolutely it.
Management and staff bend over backwards to accommodate the guests, without being smarmy.
As with many resorts around the island, colorfully attired Masai patrol the grounds as security and are incredibly efficient as such..
The snorkelling was amazing. We chose to walk out just before low tide turned and swam to the coral mounds which were easy access.
The meals are well thought out, delicious and balanced. Having said that, the odd time that we preferred to have something other than what was being offered on the set menu, our special requests were handled without a problem.
This place is perfect for romance and/or kicking back for some serious quiet, but wouldn't be the best place for small children or young people looking for ongoing activities and nightlife.
Although the swimming pool was not yet completed by the time we left, it was to open in the next couple of weeks which will make this place perfect!
Admittedly the trip from Canada is a long one, but one worth making to stay at this paradise retreat.
Christina & Claude West
Bedford, Quebe Canada"
- Travel date: Tue 5th of September 2006