As we reached Matemwe, we were pleased with the air-conditioned and well-cushioned bus as we bumped our way through the sandy roads of Matemwe village to Matemwe Bungalows.
We were met with cool flannels, coconuts and friendly hosts. Rose, the manager and his wife Gina, welcomed us and we were shown around the lodge, stopping first at the spa where we were treated to a free 5-minute massage. That wasn't long enough to deal with my knotty shoulders but was an excellent advertisement for the massages they offer, and with more time I would certainly book a treatment there. There were three massage areas, 2 of which look out to the ocean.
Looking out to sea would be a real treat and prices seemed very reasonable. The restaurant area is open and built on a beautiful wooden deck overlooking the ocean and down along the beach. The hotel boasts two beautiful pools which are sunny at different times of the day. The upper one is an infinity pool with a beautiful view of the ocean, the lower one is more sheltered and pleasant for a breezier day.
All the bungalows have beautiful views, and it's founders (2 visionary Swedish girls) had the foresight to plant a garden when the bungalows were first built. This is now well established, with beautiful tropical plants, and were chosen to grow well in dry conditions - thus not using too much of the island's precious water. What we see now has been 25 years in the making and is home to a family of monkeys and bush babies that you can hear in the evenings.
The bungalows themselves fit into the scenery well, with palm thatch roofs and whitewash walls. Each one has a private path to it and enjoys a secluded feel and beautiful view. Each one has a verandah with a sofa and hammock outside and a relaxed, spacious interior. Each one has slightly different decor. Our bungalow had a mezzanine level with the additional bedroom upstairs. The bathroom is enormous and has a shower and beautiful stone, oval bath, two sinks and separate toilet.
The Matemwe bungalow setting is absolutely gorgeous - azure waters, and on the beach, the white sand is the softest sand I have ever set foot on. It is like walking on a beach full of talcum powder. The beach is palm-fringed and punctuated by local fishing boats.
The Bungalows and Beach House share a private beach, but locals go about their business just beyond, and we loved watching the fishing boats going in and out of the beach and a colourful group of young people going to their Koran lessons. Some giggling girls practised their English and laughed more with my attempt at a few words of Swahili. The group left, but one young girl lingered behind to play catch with a tourist family on the beach, a lovely moment.
Meals at Matemwe are a lovely experience looking out over the sea. The options are chalked up on the board, and at lunch, today, being unable to decide, we shared an avocado & bacon wrap and fried octopus and fries which came beautifully presented. Desert was raisin and sultana or ice cream or tropical fruit French-style tart - we ordered both between us again.
As the sun got lower the breeze today made it too chilly to sit by the pool, so we changed and went down to the lovely 'boat bar'. Included in our package was a delicious cocktail of the day. We convinced one of the staff to teach us how to play Bao - a game where the object is to win all of your opponent's stones - it can be very long but is utterly absorbing and from that point of view is a total escape... I am beginning to leave all my stresses and first world worries behind...
Dinner was on tables on the sand by the pool, lit by candlelight. I can imagine being with your loved one this would be a fantastically romantic setting. The service as ever was impeccable - a friendly waiter brought each course not too quickly and with not too long a gap.
I had a vegetable pakora which was delicious, followed by blue marlin cooked in banana leaf with a lovely white wine sauce and perfectly cooked vegetables and rice or potatoes. Dessert was a hilariously phallic-looking banana fritter complete with cream that tasted really good. Louise had carrot cake with Amarula sauce.
If you're looking for some relaxation and new experiences, then look no further than Matemwe Lodge, Zanzibar Tanzania. The perfect getaway from all your everyday troubles.