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Sun, Sea and Sand: The Best Exotic Destinations For Your Wedding Abroad in 2019

Choosing the country and venue for your dream Destination Wedding is always a challenge. You’ve committed to making your wedding day that much more exotic by travelling for it, and so the whole world has suddenly become your oyster – and with 195 countries out there, the choice can seem a little overwhelming! However, narrowing down your options via the theme and style of wedding you want – from a beach ceremony to a stately manor wedding – is the first step in making this decision. So if you’re sat at home knowing you want to get married somewhere hot, then have we got the inspiration for you! Read on and discover our top 10 exotic destinations for your wedding abroad in 2019 – we promise you’ll fall in love with them!


Aruba is a tiny little island off the coast of Venezuela, and if you’re looking for an intimate destination for a small wedding, then this is the perfect place. So adored by the Beach Boys, Aruba is the jewel of the Dutch Caribbean, you’re in for a few days of clear blue skies, cool crystal waters and enviable white-sand beaches that will make everyone at home jealous. The perfect backdrop for your wedding photos!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Barceló Aruba Hotel offers 6 wedding packages with various price points depending on your budget – but all allow you to get married right on the beach. Whichever you choose, it is sure to be lavish and luxurious; with an on-site planner and team specifically dedicated to making sure your big day goes off without a hitch, you’re in good hands with the Barceló.

Photo credit: Barcelo Aruba

Photo credit: Barcelo Aruba

Read more: How to Get Married on the Beach


Zanzibar is the capital of Tanzania, an East African country with some of the most spectacular coastal views in the world. Known for its historic city centre – known as “Stone Town” – and for its rich natural resources (we’re talking the highest-quality spices here!), Zanzibar is a fabulous option for your Destination Wedding abroad. One of the less commonly frequented areas, your wedding here will be completely unique.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Zanzibar Collection

And where better to get married on this beautiful African island than at a venue with a view that’ll knock your socks off! Getting married at one of the Zanzibar Collection’s four beachside properties will give you some unforgettable memories. For a minimalist and sophisticated ceremony, followed by a luxurious reception meal for two, this is the perfect place to elope to – or to bring a small handful of your nearest and dearest.

Photo credit: The Zanzibar Collection


Indonesia may seem a long way to travel for your Destination Wedding, but it would be worth every second and every penny spent planning. Probably the most beautiful country in the world – stunning natural features include tropical jungles, waterfalls and active volcanoes – this is the ideal place for adventurous couples who want to do something totally different for their big day.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

If you’re not too worried about the technicalities of your wedding (as in: is it legal!), then you can “get married” pretty much anywhere in Bali – which gives you some truly spectacular options. Why not have your “ceremony” at the foot of the infamous Sibolangit Waterfall? Or along the breathtaking Borneo coastline? However, if you want something official, then you should check out the Kayumanis Hotel in Bali: a discrete retreat for a personal wedding.

Photo credit: Kayumanis Ubud

Photo credit: Kayumanis Ubud

Read more: Honeymoon in Indonesia: A Walk Through the Undiscovered


Another country that may seem rather far, Mauritius is the perfect island destination for an intimate and casual wedding day. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and the business of the city centres, Mauritius is a paradise just waiting for you to arrive. Spend the days before your wedding chilling along the beach with cocktails, and then have a simple ceremony in the sand.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

However, if you want something a little more up-market for your wedding, then staying at the Constance Prince Maurice Hotel & Spa will definitely float your boat… This award-winning venue has everything you could want for your big day – a planning team, a gorgeous room for your reception (with an in-house DJ to boot!), and an entire spa at your disposal. Did someone say “massage with an ocean view”?

Photo credit: Constance Prince Maurice Hotel & Spa

Photo credit: Constance Prince Maurice Hotel & Spa


Do we even need to explain the draw of Santorini, or is it obvious enough from the photos? Possibly the best Greek island (there are over 8,000 so we’re not wholly sure!), Santorini’s infamous deep blue and stark white buildings have captured the hearts of newly-engaged couples for decades now. Easily accessed, and more affordable than some of the other options on this rundown, Santorini should always be on your list of destinations!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in the world for weddings, and so your choice of photographer is incredibly extensive. It is more than likely that they will have been before, and so will know the best locations for a couples shoot, and will know how to balance the white background against your dress! Elianos Photography is one of these recommended photographers – one of the Top 10 in the UK, we would recommend you give him a try!

Photo credit: Elianos Photography

Photo credit: Elianos Photography

Read more: Weder and Julia’s Sublime Destination Wedding in Santorini

Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s “dry” season runs from December to April, so if you’re after a more affordable wedding (with guaranteed sunshine!) during the winter months, then this is the place for you! The epitome of exotic, Costa Rica is so far removed from life in the UK that you will feel as if you have landed on another planet. Get ready to enjoy a relaxed and tranquil wedding in this oasis of enjoyment.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

For a stunning wedding ceremony that you and your guests will never forget, take a look at the Hotel Villa Caletas. We’re going to be upfront with our reason why: it has a private beach. So if you’ve been dreaming of the perfect seaside wedding, and want to avoid tourists in the background, then you could not choose a better place. Alongside this, there is also an infinity pool, an award-winning restaurant service, and a serenity spa… So why not?

Photo credit: Hotel Villa Caletas.

Photo credit: Hotel Villa Caletas.

The Maldives

The Maldives feels like a place that only exists in Disney films. With sparkling sapphire lagoons that are too beautiful to be adequately described, and white sand beaches exactly like the ones you see on postcards, the Maldives is a paradisiacal location for your Destination Wedding. You’ll fall in love all over again, and once you have tied the knot, you’ll never want to leave!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Maldives is famous for its water villas, which are simply amazing. Enjoy your wedding night out on the water in a peaceful and serene location, and feel a deeper connection with nature; it’s a little different from getting married in your local church! Here you can make the most unique memories – check out the Meeru Island Resort & Spa for the most luxurious water villas on the island!

Photo credit: Meeru Island Resort & Spa

Photo credit: Meeru Island Resort & Spa

Read more: Why the Maldives is the Perfect Honeymoon Destination


We head back to Africa to discover another awe-inspiring location for your Destination Wedding. Kenya is an incredibly popular honeymoon destination thanks to its amazing wildlife and compelling cuisine, but it serves just as well for your wedding itself. Kenya is hot all year around on the coast, so there’s no need to feel restricted by season when choosing your location. Immerse yourself in a completely distinctive culture and enjoy these incredible sunsets!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Hemingways Watamu Hotel is one of – if not the most – luxurious hotels in all of Kenya. With ocean views that will make your jaw drop, and an in-house wedding service that will take care of every last detail for you, the Watamu is the ideal place to say your “I Do’s”. Have a personalised and special day at this amazing 5* venue, and then head off on a safari to celebrate!

Photo credit: Hemingways Watamu

Photo credit: Hemingways Watamu

New Zealand

New Zealand is frequently chosen as one of the best places in the world to live – so it makes sense that it would be an incredible place to get married too! With stunning coastal venues, but equally fantastic mountain and lake locations too, you can choose from an overwhelming variety of outdoor spaces for a wedding that can never be surpassed. Take the plunge and take a risk – New Zealand may be a million miles away, but it will also give you a million memories that no other place ever could.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

And one of our favourite locations to get married in New Zealand has to be Wanaka. A gorgeous region of the country, which boasts the famous Wanaka Lake, your dream Destination Wedding could only be made better by planning it with the Edgewater Hotel. Well versed in organising ceremonies and receptions, and with insider knowledge on the best spots for you and your partner to exchange your vows, we highly recommend this venue!

Photo credit: Edgewater Weddings

Photo credit: Edgewater Weddings

Photo credit: Edgewater Weddings

Photo credit: Edgewater Weddings

Read more: Tara and Greg’s Awe-Inspiring New Zealand Ceremony

Amalfi Coast

And finally, we go to the most classic Destination Wedding location of them all. Not just in for 2019, but every year, the Amalfi Coast in Italy has been chosen by a variety of star-studded celebrities for their own nuptials – including George Clooney! – so why not join them? Replete with rustic venues for your perfect vintage or bohemian themed wedding, and with incredible cuisine for your reception, Italy has to be the place!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Amalfi Coast, alongside the aforementioned Santorini, is one of the most highly-desired locations for a Destination Wedding – and there is a veritable boatload of planners waiting for you there. Local to the area, and with expertise in organising the most lavish ceremonies alongside on Italian coastline, La Calla is one of the best planners you could pick for your big day.

Photo credit: La Calla Wedding Planner

Photo credit: La Calla Wedding Planner

Organising a Destination Wedding is one of the most exciting things that you can do when you find “the one”. So choose one of these beautiful destinations to make your big day that much more romantic, and discover a whole new corner of the world as well!

This article by Issy Emmitt appeared in the online edition of Zank You on 27 Nov 2018 and is available online here.
All text and imagery in this copy of the original article is the property of their respective owners an is used here only for illustrative purposes.

Breezes Beach Club review on TripReporter.co.uk

Usually when you hear the words “Indian Ocean holiday,” your immediate thought is, “OK, I’d better sell the family silver, then.”

But there is a place you can visit in the Indian Ocean without parting company with an arm and a leg – and it’s called Zanzibar. Unlike more ostensibly chic destinations such as Seychelles and the Maldives, the Tanzanian island is eminently affordable.

For instance, you can stay at Breezes Beach Club & Spa on the as yet undeveloped south-eastern coast of the island, and still have sufficient change for several of their trademark “Zanzi-Politano” cocktails. And what’s more, there is not far to walk back to your room after sampling them. A night at Breezes on a half-board basis costs from just £75 per person.

The hotel is one of four very appealing neighbouring five-star properties in the Zanzibar Collection; the others, which have played host to everyone from Bill Gates and the King of Belgium to Mick Hucknall and Michael Flatley, are The Palms, Baraza and Zawadi.

As its full name would suggest, Breezes Beach Club & Spa is situated right on Bwejuu–Paje Beach. This five-mile strip of white sand is often completely empty. It is also free of the usual hassly salesman trying to sell you cold drinks and sunglasses.

Beautifully landscaped with mighty palm trees and enticing palm umbrellas, the hotel has 75 rooms, all furnished with items made by local craftsmen. But it is spread over several acres, and so it still feels very spacious. Thanks to Breezes’ stunning ocean-side location and glorious garden, it is also very easy on the eye.

The garden is an explosion of colour, with spectacular bougainvillaea, hibiscus and frangipani bursting out of every corner. It is little surprise to learn that the hotel employs no fewer than 25 full-time gardeners – their splendid work is there for all to see.

The public areas of Breezes are equally attractive. They are open to the elements and have marvellous views of the sea. They are covered by amazing roofs woven by local craftsmen out of palm leaves. Like thatchers in the UK, these experts pass their knowledge down the generation.

Breezes has three bars and several restaurants, too. These all draw on Arabic, Indian, Persian, Asian and Swahili flavours and utilise the local seasonings which have given Zanzibar the name of “The Spice Island.”

The restaurants include The Sultan’s Table which can accommodate up to 15 diners in a wonderful treetop location. Guests can also have a dinner for two at The Tides, a gorgeous private, glass-encased cabana right by the ocean. They can take lunch as well actually on the beach under a delightful home-made pergola.

We have lunch underneath a mature, spreading mpuri tree (which is native to Zanzibar) at the Breakers Grill. The hotel makes the most of its proximity to the ocean, and the seafood is fresh out of the water.

I would definitely recommend the barbecued slipper lobster and the crispy red snapper fillets enhanced with seven spices. The hotel also gives guests the chance to be instructed by the chef on how to make your very own Swahili chicken coconut curry.

In addition, the hotel offers treatments at the Frangipani Spa, Meditation and Yoga centre, kayaking, kite surfing, windsurfing, snorkelling, beach volleyball and a reef walk where you can stroll out as far as 1.5 km from the shore to see starfish, urchins, anemones and coral reef.

Breezes enjoys an enviable climate twelve months of the year. The island, which sits 25 km off the coast of mainland Tanzania and 6° south of the equator, has warm weather all year round.

But perhaps more than anything the key to Breezes’ appeal lies in its tranquillity and sense of relaxation. No one is in a rush in this very peaceful place. Guests at this hotel live by the Swahili motto “poli poli”, which means “slowly, slowly.”

From the moment you arrive at Breezes and are handed a welcoming cooling face-flannel and a glass of hibiscus juice at reception, your shoulders immediately unclench and you feel the weight of everyday stress slipping at once from your shoulders. In a trice, you are more than happy to exist slowly, slowly.

When you’re at Breezes, it is not hard to follow the advice of the Zanzibar native, Freddie Mercury, who in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” famously sang: “Be cool, relax.”

Tell me more about Breezes Beach Club And Spa

The Zanzibar Collection. Room rates at Breezes Beach Club from £75 per person per night.

Kenya Airways 020 8283 1818 operate daily B787 Dreamliner flights from London-Heathrow to Nairobi with daily connections to Zanzibar. Economy tickets cost from £421pp and Business Class tickets from £2,300pp including tax.

This article by James Rampton appeared on the Trip Reporter website and is available online here.

The best Black Friday travel offers

Perhaps the most anticipated shopping day of the year takes place this year on 23 November, and Flight Centre is offering a sneak peek of its best value-for-money destination deals you could bag for a steal this Black Friday.

There’s no reason shoppers shouldn’t put a fabulous holiday or two into their basket. Start planning now to secure a last-minute year-end special or trip to usher in the new year.


“A short four-hour flight from Johannesburg with easy connections from other major cities, visa-free, with no complicated travel inoculations or health requirements, Mauritius is as convenient as it is beautiful,” says Nicky Potgieter, Flight Centre Leisure Marketing Leader.

Enjoy beautiful beaches and sea that’s every shade of blue and turquoise imaginable, with sunny weather year-round. Even in winter, temperatures across the island rarely drop below 22° C on the coast.

Mauritius caters well for all types of travellers and budgets. There are family-friendly favourites such as the Radisson Blu Azuri Resort and Spa, the adults-only Radisson Blu Poste Lafayette Resort and LUX* Grand Gaube, the last word in luxury. Another fantastic all-rounder resort is The Ravenala Attitude. There is something for everyone.

Who should visit: Everyone, from honeymooners to families or travellers looking for a natural postcard-perfect beach break.

Need to know: There are direct flights available from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Mauritius is a good value for money destination, but travellers can save even more or treat themselves to an upgraded resort or room by snagging a Black Friday deal.


If morning yoga and meditation sessions, hiking, surfing, temples and beaches, gets your heart racing, then look out for Flight Centre’s Bali specials.

“I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life in Bali,” says Beckki Lo, who visited with her boyfriend in February. “We were staying at a resort on the north coast, with a small private beach and volcanoes in the background, and we rode out on a little boat to watch the sunset – and saw dolphins!”

Bali is a year-round destination (even in the monsoon season there will be days of sunshine, perhaps just a bit windy), although some say that the shoulder seasons of April, May, June and September are good to visit. May to October sees some of the best waves for surfing. South African passport holders don’t need visas for stays of up to 30 days.

Who should visit: Spiritual seekers, surfers and travellers seeking a holiday that encourages wellness and self-reflection.

Need to know: South Africans can fly into the capital, Denpasar, with connecting flights available from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Image credit: www.iol.co.za

Image credit: www.iol.co.za

Leigh van den Berg, a South African freelance writer and author of lipglossismylife.com who has been staying in Thailand since April, recommends the country for any first-time visitors to Southeast Asia.

“I have always felt incredibly safe there and, because Thailand’s tourism industry is very well established, most people speak English, and you have easy access to any product or service you could ever wish for as a traveller. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a 7-Eleven…”

Who should visit: Everyone but especially those travellers who want an affordable beach getaway with some great culture, nature and affordable, delicious food.

Need to know: Look out for fantastic flight deals to Thailand. There are connections to Bangkok from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.


A 3.5-hour flight from Johannesburg, sun yourself on a pool-side lounger, watching the dhows sail past. Step back in time wandering the winding alleyways of Stone Town.

Known as the Spice Island, the ancient Kiwengwa caves, watersports, quad biking and even kitesurfing at Breezes Beach Club and Spa, home to Zanzibar’s first kitesurfing school, are some key attractions. Keen golfers can perfect their swing at Sea Cliff Resort and Spa, boasting the only nine-hole golf course on the island.

Zanzibar’s multicultural cuisine is as delicious as it is cheap. Eat chapatti fresh off the grill, sip on sugarcane juice, munch on kachori (deep fried balls of mashed potato) and feast on huge lobsters grilled in butter.

Who should visit: Those looking for an exotic beach getaway or who have an interest in history and culture.

Need to know: Domestic low-cost carrier Mango operates three direct flights each week to Zanzibar from Johannesburg.

This article by Jenna Berndt and all linked/embedded content appeared on the IOL ZA website on 21st November 2018 and is available here.

ZANZIBAR – A Delicious Destination

Zanzibar’s uniqueness has many facets and two of them, in particular, are its cuisine and culture. A mecca of Swahili and Islamic tradition, Africanism, heritage and history, if one does not imbibe the culture, one cannot succeed at indulging in everything this island has to offer. The pure magnificence makes it rather difficult to decide on a firm favourite but allow us to try.

Descending off the East Coast of Africa is this Tanzanian archipelago. Flying over the country, the mass of water swells into the horizon as the raw, natural beauty mesmerizes you. The crowning glory of the island is, of course, the azure waters. Glorious, crystal blue and completely translucent, it’s utterly intoxicating. You’ll never in all your life witness such a dreamy sea and as the waves gently crawl to the shore, you’ve landed.

A quick and easy three-and-a-half-hour flight from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, allows you to witness unspoiled beauty and the ultimate holiday indulgence without tedious travel time. Remembering your best beach holiday just got a whole lot easier.


For the best view on the island

Zawadi Hotel

This is what we like to refer to as barefoot luxury. In the finest arc of the Zanzibar Island lies this exquisite hotel. As the scarlet rays from the sunset begin to deepen and you arrive at this maritime oasis, you’ll instantly be swept off your feet. It is everything the website promises and more, your expectations will be met, and we have no doubt you will want to return as much as we did.

Arriving at this exclusive location with all-encompassing views of the striking ocean, you’ll soon realize why Zanzibar has reached the top of everyone’s “if only list.” The hotel boasts nine villas all abundantly spacious, all alike in size and design and all with breathtaking views. Because the hotel is situated on top of a cliff, you’ll gingerly prowl the area as you marvel at the plump hillsides. Each villa is named after an animal, in Swahili, and so Pweza the octopus was our residence – a sanctuary beyond measure, with cascading ceilings, warm grey tones and furnishings contrasting the exterior landscape and a private plunge pool. Plus, we were extremely pleased to discover that the hotel is extremely serious about creating a plastic-free zone. They use only paper straws and you will not find bottled water anywhere in the hotel, except in the rooms.

There are moments when a lie in is mandatory, but this is not the place. We recommend setting the alarm for 6:00 am, brewing a warm cuppa and relishing in the mornings sunrise as the welcoming baboons swing from the palm trees. Then put on your sneakers and head to their bountiful vegetable and fruit garden and try fit in a run through the rolling banana fields. They have created this inspiring 1km flat track, which caters to your every whim and wheeze. It is an extraordinary adventure and as you run past the chicken coup you’ll feel deeply conjugated to Zanzibar and all its glory.

As time thickens so does the humidity and so do the hunger pangs. Time for breakfast and yes you guessed it, overlooking the awe-inspiring landscape of the white bleached beaches and cobalt blue waters. Breakfast is a culinary journey of the juiciest fresh fruit, freshly baked croissants, eggs any way you choose and a rich cup of caffeine to go with it. If none of these tickles your tastebuds, request anything you like, your wish is their command. The staff and chef will ensure each meal and every bite is just as you like it. Dinner is a five-course adventure with the freshest seafood, caught the very same day; grilled red snapper enhanced with fresh herbs, smoked carrot coulis and vegetable millefeuille, it’s simply orgasmic. And whilst your taste buds are tingling so are your ears because you’ll enjoy traditional Taarab music, started by a Sultan in 1870 and known as the soul of Zanzibar. Influenced with musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, The Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

This all-inclusive experience is what dreams are made of…


For all-inclusive luxury

Baraza Resort and Spa

This unique resort is exactly how life would be if the sultans never left the island. Set in another realm and certainly allowing for the ideal escape for ordinary mundane city life. You are transported to a world where smoking shisha is routine, bathing in Sultan baths is commonplace and indulging in the five-star Frangipani spa (with incomparable therapists from Bali, Thailand and India) becomes mandatory.

In the reception area sits traditional, Swahili and Arabic architecture, serenaded by classical pieces, luxury woods and brass lanterns. The interior is exotic and unfamiliar; it’s a fusion of Arabic, Swahili and Indian design transforming and elevating your vacation the moment you arrive. It is clear that the overall intent is tranquillity, especially in all the villa styles. There are thirty villas with options of an oceanfront villa, a Sultan villa and a garden view villa, all with the choice of one or two bedrooms, ideal for a family getaway or a romantic escape. The Sultan’s lounge bed, dramatic arches and the plunge pool are highlights and so is the freestanding bath with deluxe products that they create themselves.

It would be easy to think the Baraza Resort and Spa is just another commercial all-inclusive resort, but it is not. It is so much more. Days are spent in luxury, alongside stellar service and the most superb dining with an offering of three restaurants. There is an adult pool to dip into after your spa experience as well as another pool in the main area, a beachfront view, daily Hatha yoga classes, sweet-smelling cocktails at Hova Bar, cooking demonstrations, Swahili bands playing in the background, beach bike rides and high tea served daily in the tea lounge. Oh, did we mention they have their own watersports centre and all activities (not motorized) are included. Also, just 300m from the resort is the water club where you can learn to sail or kite surf.

However, the cream of the crop has to be the seaside luncheon.

In the afternoon we were treated to a self-indulgent three-course lunch, under the palm trees, beside the surging waters, in fact, you couldn’t possibly get closer to the sea. With dishes that included crab and avocado salad, coconut three ways; panna cotta, Crème Brule and freshly made ice cream. The grand finale though, had to be the grilled cigal dish and fish fillet with Creole sauce, dauphin potato and crisp vegetables. cigal is of the lobster family and famous in Zanzibar, it goes down sleekly with a glass of Chenin.

You couldn’t ask for anything more…


For a five-star gastronomic journey

The Palms Zanzibar

This is a beachfront sanctuary with six private villas. The hotel, which opened in 2002, is so authentic you’ll instantly get that holiday sensation. Pop on over for a beautiful fine dining experience and eat what you want, when you want. That’s the beauty of this restaurant; they cater to your every fantasy because you make the rules at The Palms. You’ll be wined and dined with deliciously marinated slipper lobster with tart Zanzibar grapefruit, grilled and succulent red snapper fillet cooked with precision and, the bell of the ball, exquisitely self-indulgent, their pumpkin cheesecake. Not only is the setting exceptional with vibrant coloured silks and fancy white linen but the service is unmatched too.


For a lazy beach luncheon

Breakers by the Beach at Breezes Beach Club and Spa

They should be called Breakers on top of the Indian Ocean because you cannot get any more intimate with nature. Snuggled by the seashore, this lunch spot should not be shared, it’s that special. The space evokes that all-encompassing vacation vibration and the food is nothing short of wonderful. Is there anything better than sipping on a glass of chardonnay and nibbling on freshly caught crispy salt and pepper calamari? Or why not taste their coconut crusted prawns or green papaya salad or their legendary seared tuna niçoise salad with a frothy sweet passion vinaigrette. A 10/10 dining experience.


For a selfless selfie

The Rock Restaurant Zanzibar

It is unforgivable to visit Zanzibar and not visit the Rock, especially as it is known as the worlds most acclaimed restaurant. Firstly, you need a selfie in front of it, secondly, it is the coolest location suspended on the Indian Ocean and thirdly you should go when the tide is high because the only way there is via boat. It’s a cherished experience, definitely not to be missed. So, while you’re downing a traditional Dawa cocktail (local Konyagi gin, honey, tonic and water) don’t forget you’re on a floating restaurant.


The only thing you’ll regret after leaving this delicious destination is that you didn’t do it years ago.

This article by Bianca Spinner appeared in Hello Joburg magazine and is available online here

When Paradise Gives Back How One Family Transformed The Island Of Zanzibar

Tales of Zanzibar’s white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, spice trade, and an ancient stone town have enchanted many. Marked by Swahili, Portuguese, Omani, and British influences the island is one of the few places in the world where so many cultures peacefully coexist. There is also a fascinating family that had sought out this beautiful land to create a truly unique development that honored these various cultures and traditions while also giving back. Many even credit them with why the tourism industry in Zanzibar is doing so well.

Well before journalists or travel writers ventured to the beaches of Zanzibar, the Raguž family decided to become the first real investors in sustainable tourism here. It wasn’t long before the Raguž family’s properties became legendary. Armed with degrees from the Cornell School of Hotel Management, they created a privately owned collection of beautiful boutique hotels which remain family-owned and run, with great attention to detail, and excellent service. Unlike many foreign business owners, they decided to build and operate their hotels with a local workforce, and they still seek to grow the local economy in every way possible.

The architecture in their properties is a celebration of the local design, with beautiful arabesques and filigree reflecting the skills of Zanzibari craftsmen. But the Zanzibar Collection isn’t only about viewing the islands’ culture; it’s about experiencing, embracing, and renewing it. Guests have the opportunity to take part in a vast array of local activities, from learning to speak Swahili, practicing palm weaving, visiting local clinics and schools supported by the Zanzibar Collection’s charity, and learning to cook signature local dishes. The Collection also offers East Africa’s only National Geographic-affiliated PADI 5 star Dive Centre.

The outdoor pool at Zawadi.

One of our favorite properties is their newest – the tranquil & stunning Zawadi Hotel, which offers the best ocean views on the Island. Zawadi sits atop a cliff with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, with a pristine, sandy white beach forming where the cliff recedes. A short, stone-hewn staircase provides near-private access to empty beaches, from which guests can enjoy the stunning views and also swim in the ocean and snorkel directly in front of the hotel, even at low tide – a feature unique to Zawadi.

The Zanzibar Collection includes three other properties. Located just a few kilometers down the beach from Zawadi is the boutique resort Baraza Resort & Spa, recently voted as the No.1 Hotel in Africa and one of the Top 20 Luxury Hotels in the World on TripAdvisor. Baraza is a magical place you have to see to believe. Each of the property’s 30 villas are truly luxurious, with sprawling courtyards and plunge pools. But Baraza also evokes the heritage of Zanzibar dating back to the era of the Sultans, featuring beautiful brass lanterns, antiques and carved stucco throughout. Those looking for a romantic getaway can check out nearby Breezes, an award-winning luxury hotel known for its beautiful carvings, rich fabrics, and tranquil atmosphere. For something even more intimate, the Palms offers an ultra-exclusive small retreat, with just six ocean-view villas and unparalleled personalized service. The Palms was also recently voted as one of the World’s most Romantic Hotels by Travel & Leisure.

The Raguž family also took great pains to build their hotels in a responsible, sustainable way: with villas run on solar-powered heaters, and they use a state-of-the-art waste disposal and recycling system. An environmentally-responsible desalination plant is used, so that all water is produced and processed locally, not taken from the village source. The Collection also runs an in-house produce garden, promoting local agriculture and avoiding the need to import expensive foreign food. Where possible, they prioritize purchasing materials or supplies from the local village and purchase food from local fisherman, who sell them their catch of the day as part of their broader effort to support the local community.

The Collection made key decisions to support the local economy, too. Tourism makes up one-fifth of Zanzibar’s economy, and the Raguž family works to support the industry in every way possible. Nearly 90 percent of staff are graduates of the local hotel school, or people who were part of the original construction team and have undergone intensive training programs, English classes, and other professional skills courses. Many employees have been a part of The Zanzibar Collection for twenty years.

At the same time, their charity “The Zanzibar Collection for Bwejuu” is dedicated to developing the local villages. So far, the charity has assisted the school with guests also contributing with gifts and donations. The charity is also focusing on building relationships between the local community and staff. Every year, staff and management organize a cleaning exercise where all go to the village and personally clean up trash, and teach local families about responsible waste disposal. Perhaps most inspiring is the work they have done to help fund and construct the brand-new Maternity Clinic in Bwejuu and getting foreign charity group from Sweden to build the neo-natal clinic. Prior to its opening, Zanzibar only had just a handful of medical clinics, and no facilities dedicated solely to ensuring pregnant mothers had the prenatal, birth, and postnatal care they need. Babies and children are also vaccinated and monitored at the clinic.

Few places offer so much or make you feel as good to support. To learn more about these properties please visit: www.thezanzibarcollection.com

This article was shared by MSNBC Editor’s Choice on 1:51PM 11/12/2018. See the full article here

Arabian Nights in Baraza

Songs, stories and the spirit of the past at the Zanzibar Collection

Words by Carolyn Burdet

Three tall Maasai tribesmen, dressed in cotton robes of orange the colour of flaming sunsets, stand perfectly poised on the shoreline, a silhouette against the white sand. We are in Africa, this is the Indian Ocean. The sea is clear as aquamarine crystal, the wide horizon curved as a watermelon.

If you aimed your telescope from atop a ship’s mast to steer the galleon out into the Indian Ocean, you’d have the Maldives in sight, dots of sandy beach. Little sailing boats lilting in the sand give no hint of a turbulent past, of shipwrecked sultans and slave ships heaving with the misery of human cargo.

From the moment the pilot on Kenya Airways greeted us with ‘Jambo’ we are in the heart of Africa. We breakfast in the creative hub of Nairobi, and by sunrise the plane is circling the crater at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, rising high above the clouds, before we land in Zanzibar, an archipelago of islands off the east coast of Tanzania in Africa, a paradise on the silk trading and spice route in the Indian Ocean. Now we are staring out at the Indian Ocean, as Maasai tribesmen disappear from view.

Many tourists arrive in Zanzibar footsore from trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, for a restoration week by the beach… or dusty from a game drive safari on mainland Tanzania, Kenya or Zimbabwe.

There is no big game on Zanzibar; the big five here are zebra fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish, striped Moorish fish, and trumpet fish, darting in and out of the coral reef. This is an ocean playground of diving and snorkeling. Dolphins dance off the southern coast of Zanzibar, and whales migrate in the ocean’s depths off the east coast.

A path of wooden slats stretches towards the sea as we step across shallow rockpools to a boat waiting to take us to Mswakini lagoon. The only people in sight are oyster-catchers on the sandbanks at low tide. Wading thigh deep, hoiking our shirts above the waves, we climb aboard the creaky wooden boat, and the skipper hauls a rusting anchor onto the deck. We head out to the sparkling turquoise lagoon.

Swimming from the boat across the currents to the coral reef, our diving instructor Hassan sings through his snorkel. Bubbles rise from oxygen tanks as divers surface, gasping in wonder at hearing whale song under the sea.

Back at Paje, a five-mile stretch of fine sand, Breezes is a lighthearted, barefoot resort, one of the hotels in the Zanzibar Collection. Kayaks and kite surfboards are propped up against palm trees on the beach outside the watersports centre, and a blackboard boasts tropical fish seen on today’s snorkelling trip on the reef.

Baraza reception

A lunch for castaways is set up on the deserted beach at The Palms, under a makeshift gazebo of bamboo sticks with billowing white drapes. Silver service on the sand, white linen tablecloth, ice buckets, menus on banana leaves, napkin rings in the shape of giraffe and zebra carved by Maasai in striped zebrawood nodding to the safari connection on mainland Tanzania. This is the closest it comes to paradise.

Next day the Indian Ocean beckons with brightness. We take an early morning reef walk at low tide, collecting shells on the sandy beach at Bwejuu Paje, a stretch of powder fine white sand listed as one of the most glorious beaches in the world. A few fishermen are tending their dhows, traditional sailing boats, sea-beaten and flaking as they lilt on the sand.

An elderly woman from Bwejuu village is burying coconut husks in the sand at the water’s edge, her head wrapped in a scarf under the blazing equatorial sunshine. Coconut fibres are seasoned in the sand, then used for ropes and building materials for village houses, made with mud brick walls, palm leaf roofs and picket fences around the outdoor kitchen where families cook bean stew and rice with coconut milk over an open fire. In Bwejuu, village life has been untouched since the 11th century, a simple subsistence lifestyle based on coconuts, spices, fishing and a well for clean drinking water.

Giggling children follow us from the village, shyly sharing currency of seashells as a token of friendship, hugging the books we gift in exchange. Everywhere we go, children peep round from trees and ask, hopefully, “Book?”. Vanilla and cocoa are grown in this luscious island, the theobroma trees laden with heavy pods. The spice forest yields glamorous secrets: nutmeg and glossy red mace grow within cases like jewellery boxes, ylang ylang is prized by parfumiers, and lipstick fruit is named after the juicy scarlet pips worn as make up.

Fisherman with dhow

We visit the community spice farm on Unguja island, where cinnamon trees are stripped of their spicy bark for medicinal use for fevers, headache and stomach cramps. The villagers in Kizimbani village grow cardamom, vanilla, fruits and cloves in the spice forest. Boys shin up coconut trees for fresh coconuts, and children run around playing like the tiny quail chicks scuttling to and fro in the pineapple patch. Music is playing, families are singing, women in colourful printed robes are stirring spices into the communal cooking pots over a smoky open-air fire, as a boy weaves baskets of palm plaited with jasmine flowers.

Jozani forest of eucalyptus, redwood and mahogany trees at the heart of the island is home to indigenous Red Colobus monkeys, blue monkeys with their characteristic Mohican, and brightly colourful birds, like the golden tinkerbird. The northern tip of Zanzibar has saltwater mangrove swamps where lobster-red crabs poke a claw among the gnarled tangle of tree roots.

Child behind tree, spice forest

Back at the Baraza hotel a campfire is blazing in a fire pit on the beach. Three luxury boutique hotels in the Zanzibar Collection sit along this stretch of beach, set in lush tropical gardens of soft pink bougainvillea fluttering like butterfly wings, poppy red hibiscus flowers furling like parasols in the midday sun, and umbrella shade from tall trees that drop wooden seed pods shaped like canapé dishes.

Breezes and Palms are built in the style of safari lodges with traditional thatched roofs. The Safari bar is in a vast open-sided yurt under a thatched roof. Breezes bar is a safari tent built around a vast Mvinje tree trunk, a giant conifer from the island’s forest. It is drenched in references to Zanzibar’s place on the spice and silk routes, purple and gold silk cushions and glass topped spice racks as tables.

Breezes was the first hotel in the Zanzibar Collection, opened 20 years ago with the first spa on the island. Families are welcome here; the swimming pool is a lozenge close to The Breakers beach barbecue grill, where you can throw on a sarong and eat fresh seafood, red snapper or surf and turf with your feet on the white sand. A beachfront dining pavilion is booked for weddings and lantern-lit private dinner parties, where guests can enjoy the view without being seen.

Beachfront dining

The villas at Zawadi, meaning ‘gift’ in Swahili, on the headland along this pristine coastline, attracts honeymoon couples. Villas dotted around the garden are built like a modern kitchen extension, an open plan living room with sliding glass window walls to a terrace, each with a plunge pool and ocean views. The contemporary palette of bleached driftwood, chalky white and dolphin grey, and walk-through power showers, gives no hint of the history of time or place.

The Palms from the Zanzibar Collection could be on a desert island. Less flip flops, more Gucci loafers, it’s so exclusive it has only six palm-thatched suites, each with a private cabana on the beach and a tub on the shaded deck, and guests meet for sundowners in the vast bar with colonial style teak floors.

The Palms bath

On the other side of the huge arched wooden doorway in the gardens is Baraza hotel, built on the dreams of an Arabian palace.

The Raguž family, who own The Zanzibar Collection, had run safari holidays in Kenya. When they came to Zanzibar, they fell under the spell of the Indian Ocean and its long stretch of white sand. There was nothing but coast, forest and the village. They built the infrastructure of roads from Stone Town, brought electricity and piped water supply to the village of Bwejuu, and to their hotels, bringing the neo-colonialisation of the tourist trade.

Mrs Raguž’s daughter Nathalie, an interior designer based in Nairobi, designed the architecture and interiors of Baraza with her husband Adriano Fusillo. The décor is a fusion of Arabian opulence with Swahili arches, Indian wood-carved furniture, decorated brass lanterns, antiques and bespoke handmade furniture evocative of languishing on the Sultana’s curtained chaises.

Baraza is a calm, cool palace, colonnaded corridors of twinkling mosaic and white minaret cut-out windows in the dazzling white walls. “Arabic interiors are usually very opulent with a lot of colours and patterns and decorative items,” says Nathalie. “We used just one colour in the fabrics, in different textures, and brass lanterns against the cream backdrop, so the beautiful views wouldn’t be overshadowed.”

Wandering radial mosaic paths, to get the full maze of the palace into view, it’s hard to shrink the sheer scale into perspective. Estimating the number of minaret archway windows along the corridors is like counting the holes in a Tetley tea bag.

Cultural influences carried on the trade winds are celebrated at Baraza, with feasts of African and Zanzibari dishes of cinnamon and coconut scented rice, spicy Persian, Indian and Asian curries and warm, fluffy local Swahili bread.

Breezes, The Tides

Nathalie and her sister design the Palacina range of clothing, wisps of painted chiffon kaftans, silk dresses, and crisp linen menswear shirts, made by their own team of tailors, who sew the fine bed linen and soft furnishings for these boutique hotels.

Nathalie wanted to create a magical place that was never over the top. “Zanzibar always had a magical connotation about it. It was important to us that it felt relaxed and understated.” Decorative stucco carving around the doorframes was created by local craftsmen etching patterns into the cement with small knives.

Baraza pool

At Baraza, the concept of indulgently unwinding in luxury stretches before you as wide as the Indian Ocean. Laughter peals around the grounds as gardeners collect coconuts. A lizard basking in the sun darts at the movement of a shadow, a gecko dances on the path. Gharib, an all-knowing courtier in this palace, whispers a few words in Swahili, and a glass of chilled hibiscus juice made from the pressed flowers, arrives carried aloft on a brass tray.

Be a recluse in the library, a leather-bound hideaway of bookshelves. Lie by the oceanfront pool as an ice bucket is brought with chilled wine or bottled water to quench the afternoon ardour. Salute the sun at a Hatha yoga class with ever-smiling Sree, a yogi from India. Retire from the heat to the luxuriant spa and recline on the gold curtained throne beds of a Sultan’s harem, sipping ginger tea in a heap of pummelled unfurled tension after a Balinese massage.

Baraza spa pool is set within a formal quadrangle courtyard of white quartz gravel. Swimming alone at dusk with the underwater music, a murmuration of swallows swoops over the rooftops as the constellations twinkle in the sky.

Baraza bathroom

Winding along mosaic-tiled cloisters, twinkling in the candlelight cast by rows of brass lanterns, we pause by a fountain in the inner courtyard. “What can we expect of Stone Town tomorrow?” The general manager Jaume’s turn of phrase is as allegorical as Gabriel García Marquez. “So many emotions. She’s like an elderly lady. No longer as beautiful, perhaps, but so many memories in her eyes.”

Baraza living

Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, has seen every era of history. The House of Wonders, Beit el-Ajaib, was the first building on Zanzibar to have the miraculous inventions of electricity, tap water, a lift and a telephone. The building stands immense, an imposing Brutalist while hulk carved with inscriptions. Cannons from Portugese gunships line the dock. Portraits of Sultans and Princesses deck the walls of the wood-panelled city museum, an abandoned Sultan’s residence with echoes of the Arabian royalty who lauded over this tiny realm. The Sultan’s bed creaks with exhaustion at the tales of the 99 concubines who bore his sons. An ornate Venetian glass chandelier presiding over the ballroom is incongruous in this deserted palace on the brink of the Indian Ocean.

In 1896, the British Navy defended the Sultan when his brother tried to seize the throne, deciding the brother was “somewhat weak in the head”. The shortest war in history lasted 45 minutes and ended the matter. Poetic love letters framed in the museum tell the true story of the whirlwind romance of a princess in exile in Victorian times. The Sultan’s daughter, Princess Salme, scandalously eloped with a German officer, then after being tragically widowed implored her brothers, the Sultans of Zanzibar and Oman, to let her come home.

Passing a shady shop doorway in Stone Town, a glimpse of a curved obelisk, a tusk, is testament to the loss of elephant life by poachers for the illegal ivory trade. The island’s elephants were slaughtered by Portugese colonialists, and the last leopard was killed in the belief that they were associated with the magical tradition that was driven out by Arab rule.

These are not the only cruel trades of the island’s history. We are guided through centuries of the dark years of harsh rule by Portugese traders, who dealt in ships laden with human cargo, an evil trade in 20,000 slaves a year from Africa and Asia.

Stone Town

A museum to commemorate the slave trade is in a square near Christ church. We emerge blinking into bright daylight from the despair of the dungeons. A man outside is singing the hymn Lord of All Hopefulness in Swahili. Another Zanzibari man with a stall of freshly picked bananas outside the church across the square joins the hymn in deep baritone. It’s a song of redemption, unspeakably moving, balm for the sadness.

The slave trade eventually ended 100 years after Livingstone’s treaties were signed, upheld by the British Navy patrolling the seas to prevent the Sultan from transporting slaves. The island expelled the Omani colonial rulers in 1964 and became part of Tanzania, a democracy where Swahili is a unifying language for many tribes and cultures.

Palaces and embassies lie abandoned. In the crumbling colonial grandeur of Stone Town, a handsomely restored building owned by the Aga Khan stands crisp among the flaking plasterwork of the fading grandeur of surrounding buildings.

Baraza bar

Baraza is a dream of how this World Heritage site could be after restoration. We are on the roof terrace of one of the minarets of the hotel. Isaak moves silently in his long gown, pouring a decanter of the island’s local medicinal nectar, cane spirit infused with honey and ginger poured over crushed ice, his voice as mellifluous as the honey in the cocktail.

The House of Wonders in Stone Town now stands empty, stripped of its fixtures and fittings when the government offices closed, the artefacts of an era sold off at auction. The writing desk and Bakelite telephone on the wall behind the reception in Breezes are from the House of Wonders. Arabic lanterns and brass kettles, Swahili tradition for welcoming guests, line the shelves; ebony wardrobes decorated with ornamental carving techniques learned from Indian craftsmen are inset with bone.

Baraza bedroom

At Baraza, the ebony chaises, canopied daybeds and an elongated armchair for adorning the Sultana’s arms with henna, are familiar from the museum. An ancient snaggle-toothed piano looks shipwrecked. It can no longer hold the tune, but it holds the island’s history. Hand-carved wooden chests speak of treasure, buried in the sand centuries ago. It’s rumoured the treasure is still undiscovered.

Mr Bindu the village storyteller holds us spellbound. “The African Queen Manu Mwana held sway on the island, until Persia decided to settle as rulers. The Sultan of Oman sent his sons. The brothers set out from Persia, sailing on the Indian Ocean for a long time, when their dhow ran into a storm.” Mr Bindu pauses for us to take in the scene. “One brother was carried north by the ocean currents to the island of Pemba. One brother was swept ashore on the island of Unjuja and started walking, carrying on until he reached Stone Town. One of the Sultan’s sons was captured by pirates off the coast of Africa.

“The fourth brother was eaten by a shark. Only his hand remained. It was washed ashore at Stone Town and found by fishermen.” There is a slight gasp, candles flickering at the change of air. It is a warm evening, with a gentlest of breezes from the Indian Ocean. We had been lulled by Mr Bindu’s deep sonorous voice delivering centuries of the island’s history, through African Queens, Persian palaces, local island tribes, and dates of shifts in power from the Ottoman Empire. The story of the pirates is listed in history books, but the shark leaving only a hand could be a tall tale.

Later, the moon rises like a smile, gracing the beach bonfire party. Then home to the lap of luxury in the villa with its own plunge pool, its deep copper bath tub the size of a ship, to dream the dreams of Arabian Nights, with muslin drapes swept around the bed.

Flights from Heathrow to Zanzibar via Nairobi and Kilimanjaro

How to help
Baraza for Bwejuu is the Zanzibar Collection’s charity in support of the local village. The village kindergarten depends on donations for food. If visiting, donations of books, clinic supplies and simple (non-battery, non-mains) solar lights are greatly appreciated, and the local school is in need of a working laptop. For more information see https://baraza-zanzibar.com/baraza-giving-back/


A beachside stay on Freddie Mercury’s home turf makes for a chilled out holiday

The neighbourhood

The white-sand Paje beach on Zanzibar’s east coast, where the Indian ocean is calmed by an offshore reef, is an hour’s drive from the airport and the capital Stone Town. It’s home to a string of hotels and lodges and within striking distance of the small towns of Paje itself and Bwejuu, and the wildlife reserve of the Jozani Forest with its red colobus monkeys.

The look

Restrained modern beachside chic: a guarded driveway leads down to a simple reception area framing the swimming pool and beyond it the stunning ice-blue sea, with the hotel’s vintage fishing dhow – now used for snorkelling trips to the reef – moored dead centre. The nine private villas, to the left, are basically big, white, glass-fronted boxes looking out over private terraces and plunge pools to the sea. The mirror-lined bar has an Ibiza-ish vibe – the decor throughout is white and light blue – while the restaurant is more African, with a steepled roof and rattan furniture. The hotel sits on two cliffs, with a central staircase leading down to a sandy terrace created by the owners, and then to the beach, which gets cut off at high tide; a breakwater creates a lagoon for all-day swimming. It feels very private.

The design has a clean, Ibizan feel

The vibe

Service is relaxed and friendly and the mood is grownup. Zawadi is better suited to adult couples than families, though its owners, the Raguz family, also own the more family-friendly and Arabian-influenced Baraza further along the beach, as well as the Breezes and Palms hotels: a benefit is that you can visit their other properties for dinner or a spa treatment.

Bed and bath

Like everything at Zawadi, the huge beds are focused on the breathtaking view, and sit dead-centre in the rooms (each given a Swahili name for a sea creature) with a bank of wardrobes running behind, facing the bathroom. There’s a well-stocked minibar: beer, soft drinks and water are free, but wine is charged at $25 (£20). (Certain wines, high end spirits and champagne are also charged for in the bar and restaurant). There was a TV that we didn’t switch on – why would you, with that view? – and dependable wifi, plus a medical kit with sting relief cream (we’d been badly bitten on safari before arriving). The bathroom has a free-standing oval bath and a hand-built curved shower cubicle that looks like it was modelled on a conch shell. The furniture and fabrics are all locally made.

Beds are positioned to take in the view

Food and drink

Great use is made of local seafood, from snapper to giant prawns, and the food is superlatively cooked, though Zawadi’s restaurant caters perhaps too obviously to European and North American tastes. Each meal has five courses, including soup and palate cleansers and slightly poncey puddings. Again, it’s worth checking the option of visiting Zawadi’s sister hotels: we had the best lobster I’ve ever tasted served to us on a private beach table at Baraza.

Pools, spas and public areas

The gym and spa are small (again, you can use the more sumptuous hammam-like spa at Baraza) but – nice touch – there is a landscaped running track through the hotel’s gardens where food is grown for the kitchen, and chickens kept for eggs. The pool, illuminated at night with blue light, beautifully offsets the sea, and here or on the lower sand terrace you never feel too close to fellow guests. Staff arranged a wonderful snorkelling trip to the reef for us, and a trip to Stone Town embracing its bustling market, the house Freddie Mercury was born in, the architecture from its Omani rulers and British governors, and a sobering museum commemorating its role as the hub of the east African slave trade.

The hotel is as beachside as it gets

Nuts and bolts

Room count: Nine

Freebies: All food and most drinks, though premium spirits and some wine and minibar items are charged.

In the bathroom: Frangipani Spa products.

Wifi: Free, and good.

Extra charges: Laundry charges (eg $14 for a pair of trousers or dress); late checkout (until 6pm) available for a fee.

Minibar prices: Beer, soft drinks and water free, wine $25.

Disability access: No, but sister property Baraza is wheelchair accessible.

Pet policy: No pets allowed.

Bottom line

Best thing: The sense of relaxation, privacy, and the stunning view.

Worst thing: There’s live entertainment during dinner (common on Zanzibar, but irksome). Beware of sea urchins in the ocean.

Perfect for: A laid-back decompression after a safari, or a romantic break.

Not right for: Families.

Instagram from: Poolside, with the sea beyond.

Room rate: Zawadi villas start from €640 (£570) a day, Baraza one bedroom villas from €750, and one bedroom ocean front villa from €800.

In a nutshell: A jewel of a barefoot-luxury hotel nestled between cliffs on Africa’s spice island.

This article (and all embedded/linked content) by Nick Curtis appeared in the Independent magazine and is available online here.

The Ultimate Guide to Tanzania: A Safari and Beach Vacation in One

Proud to be featured in People Magazine!! … Please see the full feature here.

If you’ve been dreaming of going on a wildlife safari, Tanzania should be high on your travel bucket list. The East African country is home to some of the best national parks for spotting the Big Five (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo)—as well as gorgeous white sand beaches, so you can peel off your dusty safari clothes and end your vacation with a coconut in hand.

On a recent trip with my girlfriends, I got to do just that, but not before learning a whole lot about navigating Tanzania first. Arguably the most important thing you need to know before you go is how to pronounce the country’s name. After telling everyone I knew that I was going on a 10-day trip to Tan-zuh-nEE-uh, I quickly learned on arrival that I was actually in Tan-ZAN-ee-uh. Yeah, I know.

Because we wanted the best of both worlds on our trip—a little adventure and a little R&R—we split it into two parts: the Serengeti and Zanzibar.
An elephant at the Four Seasons Serengeti watering hole.
An elephant at the Four Seasons Serengeti watering hole.

Part 1: The Serengeti

Deciding on which national park to visit can be daunting. Arusha offers stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, while the Maasai Mara hosts a huge amount of wildlife and doesn’t attract as many tourists as the Serengeti. Really, there is no wrong choice. But we decided on the Serengeti because it’s one of the largest and most famous parks in Africa. Plus, it’s where the late Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of Parts Unknown.

The Four Seasons also runs an incredible lodge in the Central Serengeti. Have you ever wanted to sip a dawa (Swahili for medicine, and a popular cocktail in the area made of vodka, sugar, lime and honey) poolside, while an elephant comes to take his own drink (though clearly not as tasty) from a watering hole just 100 feet away? You should, because it’s life changing.

 The Four Seasons Serengeti
The Four Seasons Serengeti

Most, if not all, of the lodges and camps in the Serengeti are all-inclusive because the nearest town is an eight-hour drive away, so the food is a serious consideration when choosing an accommodation. The Four Seasons Serengeti has three amazing restaurants where the food is just as good as the sweeping grassland views. Make sure to stop by the Boma Grill where members of the Maasai tribe will teach you their traditional jumping dance mid-dinner.

The game drives throughout the park, which the hotel can arrange for you, are offered as full and half-days, but it’s recommended to opt for the full-day drive because the animals can be quite spread out in such a large park. On the drive we booked through Mario Tours and Travels, we saw all of the Big Five except for rhinos, but were told that’s typical because the heavy poaching in the area has nearly wiped them out. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see one of the animals on the hunt. We witnessed a leopard track down a warthog for lunch (poor Pumbaa) and it was one of the coolest moments of the entire trip.

You’ll be away from the hotel for most of the day, so remember to pack lunch or ask your hotel to put something together for you. There aren’t many food options to buy from throughout the park.

If you don’t think you have room in your suitcase for DSLR camera, take out that extra pair of shoes you probably won’t wear. Trust me. While on the game drives, it’s best not to rely on your phone for pictures because the wildlife can sometimes be far away from the roads and there’s no off-roading allowed in the Serengeti. You might also want to bring a pair of binoculars, though our tour guide had them in the truck for us to share.

 Hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti.
Hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti.

The other thing you can’t miss is a hot air balloon ride, even if, like me, you’re afraid of heights. The balloons glide so slow and often low to the ground so you can see the animals that I never felt scared. Serengeti Balloon Safaris is one of two companies running rides in the park and will arrange with your hotel to pick you up and drop you off. The cost is around $600, which includes an outdoor champagne brunch at the end, but it’s worth the splurge.

In addition to the animals you’ll see while in the air, the car ride to the balloon take off spot is before sunrise (it’s early, yes, but our jetlag made it easier to get up) so you’ll see animals you might not otherwise see in the day. A hippo crossed directly in front of our car on the way, and it’s extremely rare to see them out of water. If we weren’t fully awake before that, we certainly were after.


Part 2: Zanzibar

Four days was the perfect amount of time in the Serengeti. By then we were ready to trade the bush for the beach. Zanzibar, an island off the coast of East Africa just a two hour flight from the Serengeti, has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, luxury hotels, water activities, and the historic city of Stone Town.

The Zanzibar Collection runs four resorts on a strip of the Bwejuu beach at the east end of the island and about one hour drive from the airport. Each of the hotels is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but cater to different types of travelers.

The Zawadi is the newest of the bunch with a modern, Hamptons-esque décor style. It sits on top of a cliff, so the views alone make it a wise choice. It’s made up of only nine private suites, making it right for honeymooners or those after a quiet, relaxing stay. The Palms (my favorite hotel by far) is similarly small but with a more island tiki-bar vibe and has some of the friendliest staff on the island. The lunch on the beach by Chef William under a palm leaf pergola will make you question every other vacation you’ve taken.

The Palms Hotel in Zanzibar

The Breezes and the Baraza are the larger and more family-friendly resorts. Baraza has a more luxe feel with gilded décor and intricately carved wood furniture, all handmade specially for the hotel. Unlike the Breezes, which has more traditional style hotel rooms, Baraza has all private villas (for both families and couples) that are tucked behind lush greenery.

Stone Town, Zanizbar
Stone Town, Zanzibar

Though its tempting to lounge by the crystal clear water all day—the hotels have private lounge chairs and huts for every villa so it’s especially tempting—make sure to take a trip to Stone Town to visit the spice markets and walk through the cobblestone streets. Because the island is predominantly Muslim, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders and legs when visiting the markets, so make sure to bring along a sarong. After you’ve worked up an appetite in Stone Town, the Beach House oceanfront restaurant is a must for a quick bite and a gin cocktail.

This article (and all embedded/linked content) by Ana Calderone appeared in the People magazine and is available online here.

Spice of life

The Zanzibar Collection is proud to be featured in Harrods Aviation’s Halcion Magazine; please find the original feature here.

Over the centuries merchants, traders and pirates have all succumbed to the attractions of Zanzibar. Today, the island’s tourism offering is hitting new heights of luxury.

There’s an authenticity to some places. Despite time’s inexorable march and the creeping pervasiveness of the ‘modern’, some things just ring true. So it is with Zanzibar, a tiny tropical archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. An eclectic mixture of heritages provides Zanzibar with a unique identity. Archeological remains suggest there has been human habitation here for at least 20,000 years with classical texts from the 1st century AD mentioning the main island.

Down the centuries Persian, Indian, European, Arab and Chinese traders have made use of the islands’ location and their capital’s sheltered harbour. This has given the underlying Swahili culture a more global, exotic feel. The archipelago is also known as the African spice islands due the production of cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.

From Vasco da Gama in 1498, through the Sultanate of Oman 200 years later and on into a British protectorate in the late 19th century, Zanzibar was governed by outside powers. Britain’s main interest in the island was due to the political impetus to abolish the slave trade.

Baraza Resort and Spa - Reception

For my visit to this exotic corner of Africa I am staying at the luxurious Baraza Resort and Spa. The word baraza means ‘bench’ in the local dialect and refers to focal points in community life. The resort is part of the family-owned Zanzibar Collection that comprises four
hideaways, all with different identities.

This particular property is an hour’s drive from Zanzibar International, an airport whose name is far grander than the sight that greets you on landing. Having said that, a new terminal is under construction.

Baraza has just 30 one- and two-bedroom Arabicstyle villas, all with private plunge pools. Eight of the accommodations, including the Presidential villa that has seen various celebrity guests in residence, look directly onto the tranquil Bwejuu-Paje beach from their secluded verandas. These villas feature exquisite fittings and a powerful air-conditioning system that fights the heat valiantly. The emperor-sized bed provided the most comfortable night’s sleep I can remember.

There are three dining options to choose from, all with excellent standards of cuisine. The local fusion of cultures has given birth to a wide range of dishes that incorporate local spices and flavours. Being an island means many seafood specialities but other options are abundant also.

While Zanzibar is a Muslim country, plenty of alcoholic cocktail choices are available, usually tailored to the locale. I would personally recommend a ‘Zanzipolitan’, the watermelon juice providing much-needed refreshment in the Dhahabu Lounge before an evening repast of mouthtingling delight. However, if I could find but one negative in all this comfort and first-class service it would be that there appears to be a dearth of plug sockets in the villas – the accoutrements of the 21st-century traveller dictate ready-at-hand power sources. Personally, I would have liked a screened-window option for natural air occasionally rather than the ubiquitous air conditioning. But it’s a only small grumble.

Baraza is a five-star resort (and was chosen as one of the World’s 60 Best New Hotels on the Condé Nast Hotlist of 2012), but just down the coast lies an engaging opportunity for extravagance. Zawadi Hotel is a collection of nine villas (soon to be 12 – all with plunge pools) that presents itself perfectly as a private, intimate getaway retreat perched atop a cliff with its own small, private beach.

Zawadi Hotel - Private terrace

Where Baraza is all about history and heritage, Zawadi has been conceived with an entirely different mindset: soft greys and blues underline its place in the modern world. It’s easy to imagine the exclusive whole-retreat rental option being taken up by a group of close friends and relations. From €5,760 (£5,100) per night a private, luxurious, all-inclusive break might work a treat.

A further step up on the privacy-and-luxury scale, the Palms (the third of the four resorts) is again distinctive within the Zanzibar Collection.

Six spacious private villas, designed in colonial style with dark woods and palm frond roofs, all have over 130m sq of living space with two en-suite bedrooms and walk-in dressing rooms. Laid out around a central pool and a large bar/restaurant, the tranquillity to be found here is only disturbed by the breaking waves as the tide approaches only 50m away.

The Palms - Private beachfront banda

If your Learjet only has limited capacity, then an all-inclusive stay, encompassing the six villas at the Palms, can be all yours from €4,050 (£3,570) per night.

It’s not just sun-soaked lounging by the pool, though. Baraza has the Frangipani Spa with its cornucopia of options to soothe and sate the ravages of age and the stresses of ‘real’ life.

I opted for a deep tissue massage from a pocket rocket from Bali named Rusti who had cast-iron fingers so strong she could have squeezed milk from coconuts with her bare hands.

After her effective ministrations I floated back to my villa a good three inches taller. Access to the Frangipani Spa is included within the rates for both Palms and Zawadi and the ginger tea served up after your treatment is simply divine.

The authenticity oozes from Zanzibar, even during the monsoon season in which I visited. From teeming downpours springs verdant lusciousness that serves to prove the integrity of the natural world. It all just leaves you with a soul-sating relaxation that will live with you long after you fly away.

Zanzibar is accessible to private jets but, having raised this with Jaume Vilardell, the group general manager of the Zanzibar Collection, he confirmed that travel arrangements would have to be negotiated directly with the Zanzibar Airports Authority. The transfer from the airport to the resort, meanwhile, can be organised directly with the hotel.

This article by Tim Griffiths was published in Halcyon Magazine, issue 2018-1 and is available online here.

Zanzibar, the island that adds spice to a special holiday

My husband had disappeared beneath the waves for such a long time I feared he would not come up again.

Finally he emerged, whipped off his snorkel and mask and spluttered. “I have never seen such fabulous fish,” and dived below again.

A morning snorkelling in the warm waters off the coast of Zanzibar is a pretty special experience. Even on a cloudy day.

But you don’t even have to swim to see the colourful sealife zig zag through the water. Just looking down while walking out to the boat was mesmerising enough.

I imagined how wonderful it would be to have the whole family here enjoying this magical experience together.

There is even a coral reef running along its eastern coast, so shallow in parts you can go on reef walks. Zanzibar is well known for its diving but just a few inches below the surface you can watch zebra fish, angel fish, clown fish and pipe fish dance among the coral.

There are few words that instantly evoke exotic spice and romantic paradise as Zanzibar does.

The island, six degrees south of the equator, off the coast of Tanzania, is probably not on your bucket list of must-visit destinations, but it should be.

Balmy, beautiful and fascinating, with a rich history and faded charm, Zanzibar is ideal for older travellers looking for a haven peppered with white sandy beaches and lots to do.

Just 60 miles long, 25 miles wide and 25 miles from mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar has a population of just over one million so it‘s not exactly crowded. But avoid visiting during the rainy season. Best times are: December to February or June to October.

The place to stay is one of the family-owned Zanzibar Collection’s four boutique hotels on the south eastern coast.

Baraza Beach Resort is the ‘all inclusive’ jewel in the crown.

More evocative of a Moroccan palace with hanging lanterns, and capacious villa suites decorated in gold furnishings, you can’t hope for a greater contrast with a chilly weekend in Blighty.

Carved wood furniture and huge comfy beds with generous terraces and outside plunge pools simply add to the luxury; it’s worth splashing out a bit extra for an ocean view and beach access.
Prices from €642 for a garden villa for two people, per night, all-inclusive excluding flights.

A long stretch of white sand fringes the lush tropical gardens where lofty coconut palms gently wave you toward the turquoise sea and shocking pink bougainvillea welcome you back.

After your swim – apart from the sea there is a lovely outdoor pool – you can choose between three restaurants (one for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Expect lots of locally- caught fish and seafood including sea urchins, tiger prawns and baby lobster as well as beef filet served in coconut milk, with Cajun spices vegetables, salads and vegetarian dishes.

You can even make your own breakfast smoothie from freshly picked fruit, or tuck into a selection of international and cooked cuisine, juices, yoghurt and porridge.

There’s a good selection of wine and cocktails too – I loved the zing of the Zanzipolitan – vodka and watermelon juice.

Relaxation and wellness are bywords at Baraza. There are two daily yoga classes given by a fabulous young teacher from Kerala who has been practising hatha yoga for 15 years and will tailor the class to you and your family’s ability.

Breezes is more of a family resort built in an older style of dark woods – with large open communal areas, outdoor pool, and pockets of intimacy – such as a tiny dining space offering honeymooners – or couples celebrating a milestone anniversary – a romantic dinner for two.
Prices from €95pp per day half board for a standard room.

Palms is a 1920s colonial-style adults-only resort of just six villas. Ideal for a special family holiday, celebration or chance to escape to somewhere different.

You can hire the whole place from €4,050 for exclusive use including all meals and drinks for 12 people – minimum five night stay. Ordinary prices from €675 (all inclusive meals and drinks) per villa per day, based on two people sharing, excludes flights.

Zawadi is the here and now adults-only resort, comprising nine fresh, airy, light villas – evoking modern Zanzibar. You stay in vaulted thatch one-bedroom suites and with a private pool and views of the ocean. There are 55 staff waiting to cater to your every whim.

While the countryside is rich, lush and fertile, Zanzibar is short on architectural wonders. But there are some handsome colonial-style hotels evoking a more opulent heritage such as The Emerson Spice Hotel, and watch out for old homes with carved chains in the wooden surrounds of the ornate front doors; they denote the homes of former wealthy slave traders.

A fascinating site to explore is the East African Slave Trade Exhibit – Zanzibar was a slave trading post (1800-1909) when it was ruled by the Sultans of Oman.

The exhibit traces the moving and harrowing history of the slave trade including photographs and a moving art installation of chained sculptures in the grounds. Slaves from Africa were shipped in to be sold to the Arabian market. And continued even after the British had abolished the trade.

Nearby is the cathedral Church of Christ which stands on the site of the former slave market.

You will hear a lot about the Anglo-Zanzibar War – a military conflict fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The Brits instigated the war because the Sultan refused to end the slave trade. It’s significance is that it lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, marking it as the shortest war in history. A new Sultan was installed who abolished slavery in 1897.

Other attractions include the Jozani Forest – the island’s only national park. While Zanzibar boasts no big game, unlike its neighbour Tanzania, people come to see the red colobus monkey (native to Zanzibar).

As Zanzibar is synonymous with spice a visit to a spice farm comes highly recommended; although it is surprising to learn that all the spices were brought from India, Asia, Europe and South America.

Nutmeg came from Madagascar, cardamom, tamarind, lemon grass and turmeric from India; green oranges, red bananas, green and red cocoa trees from South America and avocado trees from Malaysia.

The spice farm, an hour’s drive from Baraza resort, has examples of spices and fruit grown on the island including pepper vines, vanilla, pineapple, Arabica and robusta coffee.

And if ladies forget their make up an alternative lip gloss is available – the bright red tandoori (lipstick) fruit.

See the source article here.