Zanzibar’s East Coast – Introduction
The East Coast of Zanzibar has a superb succession of long, wind-swept and palm fringed beaches. The further south you go, the beaches seem progressively more wild and naturally flotsam strewn than their northern neighbours. Although many of the hotels make an effort to sweep their areas of beach, these regions are prone to fluctuations of seaweed in the early months of the year. Nevertheless, the sand is remarkably fine and clean, with knee high drifts to relax into under the palms, and these shining pale beaches seem to stretch on and on and on.
The East Coast is naturally divided into north and southern regions by the formation of the coastline, which is also followed by the roads. Turnings lead from the central main road to the northern reaches of Matemwe (Pwani Mchangani), Kiwengwa and Chwaka, and a separate route leads to the southern beaches of Paje, Bwejuu and Jambiani.
There is a wide choice of accommodation along this coastline to suit all budgets, although this coastline is highly favoured by the Italian ‘Club’ hotels, many of which cater exclusively to Italian package tours. These tend to be very insular, and their guests generally do not stray far from their in-house facilities. A few welcome direct international bookings, and these are listed among other accommodation recommendations below.
Zanzibar’s East Coast – Chwaka
Chwaka Bay is a lesser-visited region for tourism, despite being the spot chosen by the colonial government for their beachside repose. A few old double-storey, balcony and veranda clad structures from this era stand in dilapidating evidence today, long since taken over by the Zanzibari government as ‘rest houses’ for ministers to entertain guests and then allowed to fall into sorry disrepair. The sandy roads and pathways at this rural junction between north and south are rarely travelled, and the ocean here is millpond smooth, as it is protected by the pale sandy peninsula that extends across the bay. It is in this atmosphere of strange quiet and reserve that the Chwaka Bay Hotel, PO Box 1480, Tel: 2233085/ 2233005, Fax: 2233777, stands among the palm trees; a collection of 10 round white-washed bungalows set back in tropical gardens around a central makuti restaurant and bar. The hotel is run by a combination of Swedish Zanzibari and Zanzibari management, and popular with a mixed European clientele – especially groups. The rooms are comfortable, clean and well appointed with private bathrooms, hot running water and fans, and all areas are pervaded by an idiosyncratic atmosphere of Swahili decorative flair. The walls of the restaurant and central reception are brightly muralled with maps of Zanzibar island, and adorned with the faces of presidents past and present hung in shabby frames. The restaurant claims to provide delicious sea food in local and international styles, and is pleasantly open-sided, although sea views are limited. The hotel is oddly arranged behind the main road that divides it from the beach, and staff are possibly rather more keen on the days when clients are absent than those filled with the effort of working, but this is a very quiet and private location providing decent accommodation for the price of $40 per double, (on a b&b basis), with just $10 per person for an extra room. Meals are $15 for half board, or $30 for full board.