The Residence, Zanzibar—A paradisial home away from home
As soon as you venture out of the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, the tropical magic of Zanzibar, with an expanse of greenery against the psychedelic colors of the skies, starts tangling you in a spell. In our case, the appeal heightened as we skirted the township to drift further to the southwest coast towards our intended place of stay—the Residence Zanzibar. Cocooned in gorgeous greens and adjoining a palm-fringed beach, the upscale property is a secluded lair, a hideaway for the weary wanderer.
The surprise welcome:
The drive from the airport to the resort took over an hour, but time flew by as we reeled under the island’s mystique. By the time we docked, a cloak of dusk had descended over the premises. Much to our surprise, it proved to be a blessing in disguise. We’d been bumming in the open reception seating for only a few minutes when we encountered a strange creature. The size of a cat, this animal traversed the threshold full steam, with its furry, upright tail scraping the air behind him. It took to a treetop like an ace acrobat before Husband could yank out his camera from his trouser pocket.
‘It’s a nagapie or bushbaby, a common sight around here,’ smiled Adam, the front desk manager.
Various geckos, chameleons, and multicolored lizards made our acquaintances as we waited for the ride to the villa, sipping on the fresh tangy passion fruit and mango juices.
The luxe resort, spread over 79 acres, has 66 villas across various categories depending on the requirement and preferences of the guests. Narrow pathways sculpted amidst groves of mango, fig, and coconut palms, mingled with ferns and hundreds of assortments of wild flowers, connect the villas to the reception and dining areas.
Magenta-pink bicycles, the same shade of bougainvillea vines creeping in and out of the dense shrubbery, are parked at the entrance of your shack. The guests can enjoy strolling or biking around, drinking in the charm of this former forest. However, a golf cart driven by competent staff is just a phone call away.
Each vintage luxury villa, be it a garden or ocean view, is equipped with a private plunge pool. We had an oceanfront lodging, proffering us sublime views of the sea.
The villas are sizable, sprawling almost up to 100 square meters each. The spacious lodgings have separate living rooms, enormous bathrooms with soaking tubs, indoor and outdoor showers, and are garnished by Zanzibar-style carpentry.
The turndown service kits out vintage-style mosquito nets and replenishes bug repellents and fragrant sanitizers at the end of each day.
Playing hide and seek with the local fauna
The private pool concealed by a thick, leafy bush interspersed with patches of hibiscus and lilac flowers is an ecosystem in its own right.
The sunbirds and humming birds flitted and fluttered around the hibiscus hedges; dragon flies danced, buzzing and dipping in and out of the water. And a host of other beautiful crawlies kept the outdoor patio alive.
The Blue Sykes Monkey, a daily visitor, loafed on the coconut palms and rooftops, gawping at you with curious eyes to gauge your friendliness quotient. He took to the ground now and then to check if some forgetful guest had left the patio doors open.
A rare species of shy antelope, Ader’s duiker, crossed our paths several times before disappearing into the folds of this luscious sanctuary.
Husband even spotted a green snake outside a neighboring villa resting in the thick moist wood. Of course, we sent a word to the reception and the occupants of that particular villa. Eastern Green Mamba or smooth tree snake? The poll is still out.
Giant coconut crabs hung out on the beach at night, contributing to post-dinner entertainment. (watch the video here)
Ibis, herons, and sea gulls frequented the beaches every morning, making breakfast arrangements for their kith and kin.
A taste of gracious Zanzibari hospitality
The warm and accommodating staff ensured the resort never slips its prestigious position on popular travel websites.
Chef Arjun and graceful manager Pritam guaranteed the kids could enjoy their stay to the full extent. A sumptuous Asian-style dinner was available on request and at no special charges over the half-board tariff.
Guards dressed in traditional Masai costumes and efficient servers welcomed you with huge smiles and boisterous traditional Swahili greeting “Jambo!” It surprised me to find that a waitperson even remembered how Husband and I liked our coffee after just one day of stay, and that too when the property housed a fair bit of crowd.
The kids-club staff was the icing on the cake. My children took traditional culinary lessons, painted t-shirts, fabricated beaded bracelets, and even did crab hunting.
The sunny carefree laughter of Rahma, the kids-club staff, as she pursued the ghost crabs on the beach is how I would sum up my stay at the property. Vibrant, joyous, and bustling with life.
The local flavor
Traveling with two kids under-ten years compelled us to opt for a beach resort rather than a city hotel. Left to our devices, the two of us would have preferred Stone Town’s hotels to soak in this mystical island’s sights, smells, and culture. But despite the retreat being away from the hustle-bustle, we didn’t miss out on the zest of Zanzibar.
Traditional delicacies regularly popped up in a buffet-style meal; local singers, dancers, and performers regaled us every night. The kids even had access to a short masterclass in Swahili.
In a heart-warming turn of events, a local singer sang a popular Bollywood number- tum paas aaye, to regale us. As the Hindi lyrics emanating from the throat of the traditional African attired man filled the air of the foreign land, our hearts burst with pride. Indian content riding on Shahrukh Khan’s shoulders has undoubtedly transcended borders! Catch a glimpse of the performances here.
And then it turned out to be a little girl’s birthday. Oh! You should have seen the electric energy that hemmed the room. The servers piped foot-tapping numbers, shaking African maracas, bells, rattles, pirouetting around the birthday girl. It was an absolute delight to watch them. Catch a peek here.
Truckload of amenities
Like any other five-star property, the Residence provides several other facilities for its guests.
Deep breaths before I rattle out the list—24-hour tennis court, a gym, a yoga courtyard, spa suites, a steam chamber, sauna and jacuzzi, and an air-conditioned library with indoor games and bookcases with books both in English and other languages amongst others.
The boat house provides complimentary kayaks, paddle boards, catamarans, and other water sports gear.
The trump card for luring the social-media-savvy crowd is a fish tank infinity pool pouring into the Indian Ocean.
The jetty took the top prize with us—a wooden walkway leading you into the azure sea with a hideout to let your hair down while sipping on cocktails. Only, in my case, it was fresh passion fruit juice.
The seraphic sight of the sun taking refuge in the open arms of the Indian ocean, with its aurous remnant still gallivanting across the dome, is like none other.
With its understated elegance and wooded tropical landscape, the Residence is your go-to place amongst the beach resorts. Their hospitality and graciousness are a bonus.
The location allows you to witness beauteous sunsets, something that you may miss on the eastern coast of Zanzibar.
On all accounts, the property scored over and above except the dirt road leading to it. Studded with bumps and potholes, the fifteen-minute drive on the rain-defaced alleyway is not one of the most comfortable journeys. The roadway was apparently out of the jurisdiction of the owners and a government protocol. But a mended road would do them a world of good.
You can check out my other posts chattering about this beautiful country here.
Check out the hotel website: Zanzibar Resort | The Residence Zanzibar Official Site (cenizaro.com)