North Zanzibar

After some further investigation we have decided to search for accommodation in the Nungwi or Matemwe area. It seems that the Mnemba atoll is very good to dive at.

I have found several hotels in those areas worth investigating so we are going to narrow the selection to about 5 in Nungwi village and 5 near Matemwe Village. Next step, to email each and see what the responses hold.

We don’t get too complicated on our first round of questions. We don’t specify dates, just a general time. Questions: My wife and I are visiting your area in early December do you have accommodation at that time? What are the rates? Does this rate include breakfast and taxes? If not, how much are they? Is it possible for you to provide a transfer from the airport? How much does it cost? How far are you located from the village of Nungwi (Matemwe)? Is it possible to walk and if so how long does it take?

With one key stroke the inquiry has been sent and we are one step closer to finding a place. Usually we do not receive responses from all the inquiries so the first sort is easy. Next we look to see if all of the questions have been answered or at least an attempt made. Then we look at the amenities verse the price. Sometimes we just get a “good feel” from the email. Weird I know but it does happen. Anyway, we try to whittle the number of possible candidates down and send out a more detailed group of inquiries.

The next day we have responses from all 10 places. So much for the easy first cut. In the mean time I have been searching sites like Trip Advisor that review travel destinations. I read the reviews and try to see where the guests are coming from. The very positive reviews are often missing the fine points but for the most part they are honest, the ones you have to watch are the really negative ones. If they have something to say it is important to understand what they mean, but a good portion of the time even though the review is what is perceived it is written by a person that is pissed for one reason or another and must be viewed with that perspective. Another type of negative reviewer often has high expectations and wants 5 star amenities and thought that maybe the 2 star priced hotel should have them??????

By reading the info available on the web I whittled down our numbers not necessarily by eliminating any bad ones but more by choosing the ones that seemed to have that little bit more. We are down to 7 and our second round of questions.

One of our first questions was worded “How far are you from town and how long does it take to walk there?” Every hotels answer indicated how far they are from Stone Town. They must have thought we were crazy to ask how long will it take to walk because there was not one closer than a 45 minute drive. After explaining that the first question was misinterpreted our reworded question reads “How far are you from the nearest village?” Next we ask if the village has eating establishments, grocery stores, tourist shops and general goods shops. We explained that we are not interested in half or full board options and asked if there are places in the village to eat or other resorts within walking distance that we could eat at. We inquired how one is suppose to keep valuables safe when not in the room, does each room have a safe or is there a safe or safety deposit box at reception. For the hotels in Matemwe we asked how much a taxi would cost to travel to Nungwi and for the ones in Nungwi we asked if they are located near any night clubs explaining that we are generally “early to bed and early to rise” type of people.

It seems that the customer service aspect of the Zanzibar hotel industry is quite refined. Either that or they are hurting for business. We sent off our second round of emails last night and by this morning we had all 7 replies with very nice emails. This is not making our choice any easier. We did eliminate one because they only have half board rates and we want to see what other dining places are like. Six more to go. That should leave us with one.

After receiving the emails yesterday morning Debbie and I spent the day pondering and discussing the choices available. Most of the time the talk was logical which didn’t really seem to get to many decisions but since this decision was causing us both lot of stress the talks were sometimes heated. Those didn’t seem to progress the situation either.

By 9pm we had chosen Matemwe as the place to go and narrowed it down to two possibilities. The Tanzanian Retreat Hotel and The Panga Chumvi, both small hotels, both on the beach and both somewhat unassuming. The differences are the Retreat has a pool and the Panga is owned and operated by a local crew. I think we are leaning towards the The Panga Chumvi.

Morning of the fourth day. We are at this moment in the process of contacting Rebecca at the Panga Chumvi Hotel and seeing if in fact we can get a room. This should relieve some of the angst the has been floating around here lately.

Six days into the process and it is done. After some confusion as to which rooms cost how much and what we had asked for, we opted for the individual type ‘cabins five steps from the beach. I sent the deposit and hope we have secured what we think we have. If not, oh well, as long as we have a room.

List of resorts (hotels) we looked at and why we discounted each.

Nungwi Area: This area looked good to us but we had to make a decision and it was as much as a gut reaction as logical consequence. This area is much busier than Matemwe and that is good but we think the traffic would be mostly other tourists and they would be the impetus for the area’s growth meaning that this area would not be too much different than a lot of other place we have visited elsewhere in the world. Second, from reviews and the website we felt that the dive operator, OneOcean, which only operates fromMatemwe, seemed like a more reliable choice. There is every likelihood we will visit this area, we’ll get a taxi or jump on minibus and head out of the day. It is only 30 or so minutes down the road.

1. Flame Tree Cottages: It is a bit on the expensive side and the reviews on Tripadvisor had a few minor concerns like the WiFi often did not work but the hotel computer had no trouble connecting. (We had to use some criteria???) (Second cut)

2. Langi Langi: We decided to stay in the Matembe region. (Third cut)

3. Smiles: We decided to stay in the Matembe area. (Third cut)

4. Tanzanite Resort: We had to make a cut somehow and I did have a few ‘ifs’ from Tripadvisor. It was also 25 minutes walk to Nungwi and the reason for staying in Nungwi would be to be close to village. (first cut)

5. Nungwi Inn: The best part of the reviews is the restaurant. We felt we could patronize the restaurant without having to stay there and there were some iffy room reviews. (first cut)

Matemwe area: We chose this area because it is quieter, and not so influence by foreigners like us. Quite a conundrum, eh. Sometimes being a tourist doesn’t make sense. We think it will be important to have some down time after 3 weeks of moving locales everyday and Matemwi is a better bet for that. As mentioned above we think the dive operator in this area looks very reliable.

1. Nyota Beach Bungalows: Only OK reviews and it is the farthest place from the village. (first cut)

2. Matemwe Beach Village: Looked like a good place. A bit expensive and they only had rates for half and full board. We like to try other places to eat and we would not be able to eat the 4 course meals that are on offer with dinner. (second cut)

3. Seles Bungalows: Looks like a nice place but it does not have a pool and one of the other places we are looking at seems to be an equal but is less expensive. (third cut)

4. Zansibar Retreat Hotel: ( there seems to 2 place with similar names, we are not interested exclusive high cost retreat) This was the last one to fall off, it had a pool, good reviews, looked good in the photos and reasonably priced. Basically it was a virtual coin flip and we chose the other place.

5. Tha Panga Chumvi: The chosen place. (sounds religious, eh!) The place is simple, and $100 per room per night. It has good reviews, the photos are nice enough and the emails received were prompt and cordial. So we have emailed with our request for 5 nights stay.

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