10 Days in Zanzibar

August 10, 2014

Part 3: Matemwe to Nungwi (3 Days)

Where To Stay?

Sad to leave Matemwe and Villa Kiva, we headed to our second and last beach resort, the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, just outside of Nungwi in the north of the island. We arranged a ride from Villa Kiva which wasn’t too expensive and got there within about 30 minutes. The village of Nungwi is a major tourist hub. You can find a wide range of beach resorts, restaurants and shops here.

  • Ras Nungwi Zanzibar

Tourism has boomed here in recent years and what was once a quiet fishing village is now home to dozens of holiday resorts. The nearby village of Kendwa is more relaxed and popular with backpackers. It apparently also boasts an excellent beach, one of the few unaffected by the tides.

We decided to spoil ourselves for our last few days by staying at the fancier Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. Located outside the village of Nungwi, it occupies a little hill overlooking beautiful yet strange turquoise water a bit murky, probably due to the currents washing up white sand. South African-owned, this place caters more to couples who pretty much come directly to the resort after their mainland safari.

  • Swahili BBQ Zanzibar

Dotted on the hill are a hundred or so bungalows, very comfortable with great air conditioning and a small balcony. Most bungalows face the garden, which also has a small ocean facing pool. The resort is home to a dive center which is extremely overpriced as well as to a games room, a well-stocked bar and 2 restaurants. Breakfast here is OK, with nothing out of the ordinary. If dinner is not included in the price of your stay, you’ll pay about $20-30 pp if you opt in and do so on BBQ night where staff prepares a delicious selection of meats and seafood. You’re almost certain to also be serenaded by the house band playing ‘Hakuna Matata’, a favorite among tourists (though originally really a song about how hospitable Kenyans are to visitors…).

If you fancy something a little bit more laid back, head to the adjacent Sazani Beach Hotel which is a simple eco-friendly resort, serving a modest yet excellent dinner comprised of local Swahili food.

The beach at the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel is not bad at all. While the water is a bit murky from the currents washing up the white sand, it is swimmable nearly throughout the day and you don’t have to worry too much about sea urchins, though sandals are recommended. At low tide, you can enjoy a nice stroll along the beach and find some beautiful spots to privately enjoy the ocean views. There has been some theft along these beaches so just be sure to notify the security guard that’s present on the beach that you’re going for a stroll and don’t take with you unnecessary valuables.

  • Ras Nungwi Tropical Beach Zanzibar

The stay here was mostly about relaxation, working on our tan and catching up on some reading. The one excursion we did take was a walk from the hotel along the coast to the village of Nungwi. We left in the morning when the tide was high and walked on the hillside path until we got to the lighthouse. When at the lighthouse, cut down towards the beach, past the ‘marine park’ and start walking along the beach towards the village. It’s a nice walk and you get to see dozens of fishing dhow boats coming back with their bounty and children playing in the ocean.

The village itself isn’t amazing and there’s not much to it but if you’re here, you might as well take a look and see how the locals really live, just have some modest clothing with you to respect local culture. You can then walk around the hotel area which is quite congested, with a narrow strip of sand that disappears when the tide is high and a decent wooden boardwalk where you can grab lunch and groceries at one of the restaurants. One the way back, we took the beach route back to our hotel which was quite a nice walk.

  • Nungwi Village Zanzibar

Any Regrets?

  1. Overall the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel is good by all standards but lacks the simplicity and tranquility we experienced at Villa Kiva. If you do choose to stay in Nungwi, you might as well stay here or at least in this area which is much prettier and quieter than staying in Nungwi itself.
  2. The Nungwi area as a whole was more expensive and less tranquil than Matemwe. If you’re looking for serenity, try the more laid back villages like Matemwe and Jambiani.

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15 comments

    1. Hi Kate

      It was pretty random and the diving folks didn’t tell us the name. I remember there were a few empty stalls and locals, so I’m guessing there’s a market there on some days. I’m sorry I don’t remember more, as it was one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen. If you really want to know, as the guys at One Ocean Diving for the name.

  1. Thank you for such great info. Just wondering about the best way to manage money while on the island? Did you carry a mixture of dollars and local currency? Travelling next month 🙂

    1. Hi Rebecca

      I had a few hundred dollars just in case but at the airport, I took out local currency. There’s also an ATM in Stone Town. If you won’t be heading to Stone Town, maybe take more USD with you as the ATM in the airport ‘could’ be out of service or not have enough cash. You can use your credit card in all the major hotels / dive centers, but that’s about it. Have a great time! So jealous!

  2. Hi,

    I am planning for a 7 day trip to zanzibar in march with my girlfriend. I wish to see the island as much as we can and last 3 days for diving ) can you help us with a itinerary and low cost/ decent hotel ideas please.

    please email me on chrish@asdubai.org

    Thank you so much

  3. Avichai, great info and well written. It has been very helpful in planning for our family’s summer trip to Zanzibar. תודה

    1. Shalom Hadas!
      Glad you found this useful and thank you for taking the time to comment. Have an awesome time with the family in paradise!

  4. Thank you for your great blog!
    I’m currently planning a trip for me and my partner is September. We have 5 full days on Zanzibar, 3 of which we will use to go on a PADI diving course, but I can’t make up my mind between Matemwe, Nungwi and Kendwa! I’m currently leaning towards Matemwe, but I’m a bit worried it might be too quiet for us? We have no interest in full moon parties and clubbing, but do like a bit of looking around shops and having a drink in a bar with ambience, so not sure if that is available in Matemwe? I’m worried Nungwi might be too far on the other side of the spectrum :s. Please let me know your ideas!
    Charlotte

    1. Karibu Charlotte!

      That is indeed quite a dilemma. Matemwe does not have much of a nightlife scene at the time I visited nor were there village shops you could stroll to. It is a quiet place though there are 1-2 bars along the beach at some of the resorts (walking long distances on the beach at night is not recommended in unlit areas). In Nungwi, what you could do is sleep where I slept (Ras Nungwi). It is away from the busy Nungwi scene and the resorts can arrange taxis at night if you want a bit of action. During the day, you can actually walk to the village and back. Hope this helps. If you do happen to use booking.com to book your accommodations, consider doing so via this specific link and if you have more questions, shoot them my way >> https://goo.gl/VdQM9O

  5. “At the airport, you’ll be hinted by the porters to give them some money in return for your bags” Can you explain better this situation? How much money? Thanks

    1. Hi Sara

      This may or may not be the case but it did happen during my visit. Basically, the airport has no mechanical belt that takes the bag from the check in counter to the plane. There are porters at every counter and they take your bags to a loading area. When you finish the check in, they’ll approach you and ask for a tip. Be sure to have a few 1$ bills handy.

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