Anne Beaty recently visited the enchanting Baraza Resort and Spa to give an independent review of this property in Zanzibar
Superlatives galore as you arrive at Baraza Resort and Spa - the enchanting lobby makes you feel like royalty as you pass through no less than nine arches each taking you to a beautifully dressed ante chamber - complete with golden couches, brass lamps and lanterns all in an opulent Arabic style. It looks breathtaking and the amount of space afforded to welcome you echoes the sheer luxury of this hotel.
Guests stay in individual, well-spaced villas with either a garden or ocean view. Each has a generous terrace area which has a choice of seating options and a private plunge pool. Surrounded by charming tended gardens rich with bougainvillaea and palms, whether you opt for an ocean view or not, your terrace is a relaxing place to be.
Inside your villa is even more opulent - an enormous bed decorated with drapes and throws, cushions and pillows and accented with dark Zanzibar wood and radiant lights and lanterns. The king-sized bathroom has more elegant decoration and has a stylish stand-alone bath with brass taps and golden drapes which makes a feature in itself, and was lovely to soak in with the mineral salts provided on a golden topped table next to the bath. There is a powerful shower, double sinks and separate toilet.
Our villa also boasts a large living area, with sofa, chairs, a desk, minibar and coffee making area and in an alcove a large, low daybed. These villas certainly have the 'wow' factor.
We arrived in time for the delicious lunch. It took us quite a while to wander around the entire buffet, deciding what to sample from the large selection of salads, freshly baked bread, freshly grilled seafood and meats, local dishes and desserts. Also, you could choose ingredients, and a chef would make you your chosen pasta recipe. The dessert cabinet looked like a French boutique bakery with bite-sized, exquisite offerings I found it impossible to resist. They seemed surprised when I asked for just one - clearly every lunchtime could be finished with a taster plate of desserts! Heaven. And if you can't decide from this selection there is an ice cream selection (which changes each day) complete with a range of toppings which is a popular choice. Since it is all-inclusive, lunch is complemented by drinks. We were offered sangria as well as the usual options today, and it was their take on traditional sangria - this one made with white wine rather than red.
Baraza will take into account your preferences for meal times, but the standard is a five-course evening meal every other night alternated with a themed buffet. We enjoyed the five-course menu, every dish of which is exquisitely presented and thought out. The service is impeccable. Breakfast is another pleasant experience with a huge and delicious looking selection. This is the only hotel I have come across where you can mix your own smoothie for breakfast!
To keep you going between these delightful mealtimes, afternoon tea is served with home-made sweet and savoury options and a selection of teas and coffee. With included pre-dinner cocktails, nibbles help them slip quickly down, and we found it all too easy to drink too many and wobbled our way into dinner!
Another unique element of Baraza is its spa. It is sophisticated and lavishly furnished throughout and set on a quadrant with a long lap pool in the middle. This morning we went to explore the spa. We swam in the deserted pool, lounged with our books before being collected by Thai ladies for a massage. Another beautiful room awaited me as the masseuse got to work on sorting out my knotty back! Afterwards, we relaxed in a huge, decadently decorated room on our choice of a golden day bed. We were given a restorative ginger tea and happily whiled away calm half an hour there.
Next to the spa is a tennis court, we had a knock around early morning although even then it was pretty hot and sticky. Nearby is the Baraza bazar and the kids club.
The kids club consists of a large, indoor area well stocked with toys and games. My children (3 and 6) would have their eyes out on stalks to walk into this charming room full of fun things to play with, and there are games to accommodate older children too. It looked perfect for children age 4 to 10. There is also a very shallow pool that children can use with supervision and an outside area with table tennis and foosball tables. The kids club is staffed during their peak months of July, August and December when children above four can be left here from 10 - 1 and 2 -5. Parents need to stay on site but would be perfect to allow a game of tennis or spa treatment while the kids enjoy themselves separately. Outside the peak months, children are welcome to come to play with a parent or carer's supervision.
The beach at Baraza is mesmerising - enormous palm trees cast shadows on the white sand. Each one bedroom villa has its own designated lounger on the beach, and there are plenty of others if you fancy a change. Waiters are quick to come and take your order, so we enjoyed a long cold drink on the beach. While we have been here, the high tide has been in the afternoon, and at that time the water is so warm it is like a bath, perfect for a gentle swim or float. It is shallow for quite a long way out which perhaps explains this.
Baraza is a highly recommended hotel whether you are a couple, friends or family, I hope to return one day!