After a few nights in Stone Town, we headed to the north east coast of Zanzibar, to the town of Matemwe. The ride there was eventful (see my previous post) but we eventually arrived and were happy to have a beautiful spot to relax for a few nights. We decided on Matemwe due to its close proximity to the Mnemba dive site. Below I’ve outlined how we spent our time there and some tips!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Villa Kiva, which was a beautiful oasis and the perfect place for us to spend 4 nights. Kamila (one of the owners) met us on arrival and was so warm and friendly, we felt instantly welcome. We booked through hotels.com for a rate of $80 USD per night, which was one of the cheapest options in the area despite it being so nice. We did visit other resorts for meals which were more expensive and did not seem as nice.
Our room (which was likely one of the least expensive as it was closer to the entrance and did not have an ocean view) was spacious and comfortable.
The pool areas (there are 2) were a great place to relax in the late afternoon, and the cabanas close to the beach were beautiful. Towels for swimming are provided, as are reef shoes (during low tide you have to walk out quite a bit in order to swim). Though James and I were diving 2 of our days there, we appeared to be the only ones who really left the resort. It was clear most people were there to relax and just enjoy the conveniences of having everything they needed in one spot.
The hotel is clearly targeted at western tourists, and the prices are reflected as such. Most items (drinks, meals, etc.) are listed in US dollars. When we first arrived we noticed the minibar prices and quickly decided to venture into the nearby village to pick up some water for our room. As with Stone Town, it’s not easy to find beer or wine in the villages so on the occasions we felt like indulging, we did so at the hotel or restaurants. The store where we bought water was only a 5 minute walk; if you walk outside the entrance of the hotel and turn left at the first road you will see it just down the road. Water was $1,000 TZS (about 40 cents) for 1.5L instead of $3.
Breakfast is also included in the cost, and is a great spread of yogurt, cereals, fruit, pastries, vegetables and an egg bar. Though we didn’t partake, we saw other people also ordering French toast and pancakes from the egg bar.
Where to eat
Our hotel did have a restaurant for lunch and dinner as well which was largely western/Italian with a few Swahili dishes thrown into the mix. Compared to other places we’d eaten in Tanzania it was quite expensive, and we weren’t overly impressed with the food we had there. The first day we split a pizza for lunch which was very average and went to the restaurant for dinner. We saw a fish curry on the menu and decided to try it, but were disappointed. The fish was very dry, which is surprising for a dish where the meat is meant to be cooked in the sauce!
On the second day, after our dive, we checked out Seles Bungalows just a few minutes down the beach and were pleasantly surprised! So much so that it became our go-to for a late lunch/early dinner each day. We tried the fish curry, chicken curry and chicken chapati – all of which were delicious. The best meal we’ve had in Africa so far was also at this place; red snapper cooked in coconut sauce. And as a bonus beer was reasonably priced!
What to see/do
The close proximity to Mnemba makes this an ideal location for diving and snorkeling. We did 2 days of diving with One Ocean who seem to be one of the larger dive shops in the region. Though there were quite a few people diving, both days James and I dived just the two of us with one guide. The corals were pretty awesome and we saw more eels than I’ve ever seen.
On the second day we also saw lots of the smaller, more interesting ocean life like nudebrinks, cleaning shrimp and sea slugs. Unfortunately we don’t have much captured in pictures as the dive housing for our camera opened on on second dive the first day. While the camera survived, we didn’t want to risk bringing it for day 2!
The cost for diving was quite reasonable (at least in comparison to Australia and Fiji) costing us $210 USD per person for 4 dives over 2 days, including equipment.
We woke up every morning for the sunrise which was spectacular. If staying on the east coast of Zanzibar I’d definitely recommend it. And it was a great time of the day to get a bit of exercise in before it got too hot!
The last thing I’d recommend to do is simply just relax! It seemed most people staying at Villa Kiva were quite content going for a swim in the morning, sunbathing on the beach and then digging into a good book in the afternoon. It really was an excellent place to unwind which is precisely what we did on our last day before heading to Rwanda!