Wednesday, 11 July 2012 12:09 PM
Sarah Gibbons discovers five-star paradise in the exotic island of Zanzibar
“It’s a free African massage” our taxi driver chuckled as we bounced and lurched along the bumpy road leading to Essque Zalu Zanzibar just off Ras Nungwi – the northern tip of the exotic Tanzanian island. Moments later we reached the main gates of the hotel and entered in to an oasis of calm and tranquillity – and wonderfully smooth driveway.
I immediately knew we were entering a very individual hotel. Instead of heading to a reception desk (the hotel has none) we were met by a ‘navigator’ who greeted us personally. Whilst we refreshed ourselves with a cool towel, we were led through the open-plan atrium, cleverly designed so that when you walk through the curving marble walls you’re hit instantly with the breathtaking view.
And it really was breathtaking – a panorama of turquoise (so vivid you weren’t immediately sure where the infinity pool ended and the ocean began) surrounded by the thatched Makuti roofs of the hotel’s villas, peeking through the manicured hedges and leafy palms.
Luckily for us, our suite boasted the same view from our private balcony. A very spacious suite fitted out with native materials, we also had several seating areas inside as well as a vast marble bathroom stocked with Asprey London products to enjoy.
Eager to make the most of every moment we quickly changed and meandered down the hotel’s pier (complete with a bar and restaurant as well as various seating areas in which to enjoy the view) to watch the sunset with a cocktail. A frozen mango daiquiri to be exact.
As we sipped our drinks the blazing sun descended, transforming the sky into stripes of crimson and purple, silhouetting the figures of local fishermen trying their luck for one last catch.
The hotel and its distinctive structure was completely lit up as we made our way to Market Kitchen – one of two dinner venues – for a bite to eat.
Being by the sea, my mind was on seafood and I wasn’t disappointed. We were treated to a cured, sesame coated carpaccio of tuna with papaya salad which instantly melted on the tongue, followed by a prawn broth with a real hit of spice. Our main course was a breaded breast of chicken served with potatoes and a rich sauce and finally a decadent coconut parfait. By the end of the meal I was already looking forward to breakfast; I knew I was in for three days of indulgence!
Our next few days were spent lazing on the sunloungers, nicely arranged in pods of twos and fours around the pool, and taking in the idyllic vistas of the Indian Ocean, breaking only to saunter down the beach or visit the hotel’s bars and restaurants.
The restaurant on the pier – The Jetty – made for the ideal lunch spot to escape the scorching midday sun. Listening to the sea lap below us we tucked into warm naan bread and houmous, grilled swordfish served with tzatziki, avocado and couscous.
The hotel’s staff certainly made sure we relaxed (especially after we mentioned that we had just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!) and were very attentive throughout our stay; always brimming with warmth. I felt this to one of the hotel’s real strengths; by the end of our stay many of the staff knew us by name and vice versa. The hotel’s manager also made regular appearances ensuring we were enjoying our stay and offering us his top tips for what to see and do.
As if we weren’t relaxed enough already, we decided to treat ourselves to a full-body massage at the Zalu Zanzibar Spa healingEARTH Retreat on our last day.
I opted for a 60-minute Afro Essence massage which promised to relax and de-stress, ensuring ‘inner peace’.
It began with a foot ritual which involved exfoliating and massaging my feet. Already feeling pretty de-stressed, I was led to a therapy room for my main massage. An hour later, I felt utterly relaxed (and half asleep) with every knot in my muscles thoroughly kneaded out with the aid of the massage products – a blend of indigenous African plants and oils.
But, alas, my time at Essque Zalu Zanzibar had to come to an end. With one last look of longing at the view that had surrounded me for the last few days and a farewell to the staff who had spoilt me, I reluctantly made my way to my taxi that would take me to my next stop – Stone Town.
A double room costs from £429 per night. For more information visit www.essquehotels.com/essque-zalu-zanzibar