Sounds of the Residence Zanzibar
The only sounds are those of palms floating in the breeze, and birds noisily cawing. Stunning azure waters shimmer beyond the dancing ripples of our private pool and I marvel at what an escape the Residence Zanzibar is, both physically and mentally, as my worries are reduced to sizzling embers.
Welcome to the Residence Zanzibar
This hotel is so exclusive, there isn’t even a sign to indicate its existence as you approach on the main highway. I am half wondering if our driver is lost as he takes a turn onto a dusty, unmarked track. The car slowly bumps, lurches and grinds along the interminable, rutted track surrounded by desolate scrubland. Surely, this can’t be right?
My mind imagines conspiracy theories laced with pirates and kidnappings, but then salvation appears. We round a corner to find a whitewashed guard building. Like a mirage, it gleams in the sun, behind vivid pink and red tropical flowers. The guard requests our names, and after checking his paperwork, the decorative metal gates lazily swing open, and I catch my first glimpse of nirvana.
A Residence welcome
A winding road leads through lush landscaped gardens to an open air lobby. As we gratefully stumble out of the car, I hear ‘Welcome, we have been waiting for you.’ Perhaps these are standard lines for guests, but nevertheless it makes me feel special.
A server silently appears with a cool towel and wearing a huge grin. A welcome drink of passion fruit and ginger follows as we leisurely complete the check in paperwork. This is not your usual check in – our room keys are brought to us as we drink in the views from the lobby seating area and we receive a personal briefing from Francisca. I can feel my stress melting away as we are herded into a golf buggy for the short ride to our villa.
Residence oceanview villas
The first glimpse of our villa is of a short driveway with dedicated parking for our bright pink bicycles, which magically appear just after our arrival. Large carved doors, like the gateway to Narnia, open to reveal a magical retreat.
We enter a cavernous living area with flat screen TV and views of the private pool and beach area. Double doors provide a tantalising preview of our huge four-poster bed and large windows reveal panoramic views of sparkling white sands and vertiginous palms.
I am so excited, I want to fling myself fully clothed into the generous private pool, or soak in a frangipani filled bath in the oversized bathroom. The Residence Zanzibar truly packs a punch and once you arrive, you will never want to leave.
These rooms are definitely ★★★★★.
The Residence vibe
This resort has an air of unassuming luxury. By day, you feel like you are marooned on your own personal island, rarely seeing signs of other guests, as an army of workers sweep the beach, silently appearing to lay a mattress on your chosen sunbed, before melting into the background.
I recommend one of the villas between 100 – 108 for greater privacy. We are in villa 105 and on the odd occasion we venture onto the beach to laze on a sunbed, we are always alone!! How can anyone complain having this beach to themselves?
By night, your fellow guests emerge from the gardens to dine at the poolside dining pavilion. Gluttons can feast on endless options from the buffet or opt for the set menu comprised of three courses. Unlike some luxurious resorts however, the Residence has no pretensions – the only expectation is that guests do not to wear swimwear to dine.
The only slight negative to this resort is that at low tide, a white scum sometimes settles on the shoreline, somewhat marring the view of azure waters, distant reefs and spice island dhows. This is the perfect time to don some reef shoes however, (get them from the watersports tent by the jetty) and wade out to the reef to catch a glimpse of colourful sea cucumbers.
Top tip: Do not attempt the walk without reef shoes, as coral cuts are seriously painful and take an age to heal!
We opted for a half board package when I booked this hotel but all-inclusive packages are also available. Personally, I think half board is ample as you can eat like kings, and Jason and I are accustomed to surviving on late breakfasts and an evening meal when travelling.
Breakfast is buffet style in the main dining restaurant. Mischevious monkeys, scamper around the deck, trying to steal leftovers. A rustling in the trees usually gives away their appearance, as they emerge from the foliage to provide entertainment for amused guests.
You can also have breakfast delivered to your villa for an extra $10 although we don’t bother, preferring instead to enjoy the walk or cycle to the dining room.
Most nights we choose the set menu, and are not disappointed. I opt for steak one night and am astounded by the half cow which arrives on my plate.
The food at the Residence is so enticing that I am going to share some of the divine, mouth-watering treats on the menu during our stay. Fear not, guests can select from a choice of two or three options for each course, so there should be something for everyone. Understandably, seafood is the star of the show!
Amuse bouche – pumpkin was my favourite!!
Spicy shrimp skewers with pickled mango dip (seriously, heavenly!)
Paja crab rissoles with chilli and tomato salsa and sweet potato tacos
Deep fried goats cheese served on a kaleidoscope of sauces
Mango and avocado salad with bacon crumbs and vanilla vinaigrette
Choice club steak with a baked potato and pepper brandy sauce (this was utterly sublime!)
Grilled seabass with pesto and lime served on wilted greens with steamed rice
Chicken roulade with spinach, mushroom and garlic
Served tuna steak with teriyaki orange and giner sauce, wilted spinach and sesame seed rice cake
Lamb cutlets with Dijon and pistachio crust served with saute vegetable and creamy mashed potato
BBQ glazed pork rib with sweet potato puree
Roast dorado with passion fruit glaze and coconut fried rice
Poached salmon with orange butter
Grilled jumbo prawn with a contrast of lemon, ginger and chilli
Desserts (Warning: you may want seconds!)
Banana caramel crepes with vanilla sauce (my personal dream!)
Passion fruit tart with frozen yoghurt
Chocolate tart with amarula liqueur cream
Warm pineapple and rum cake with cinnamon cream (seriously, I died and went to heaven!)
Roast mango tart with frozen yoghurt
Decadent chocolate brownie pistachio with vanilla ice cream
Jason and I much prefer a set menu but one evening, a beach barbecue buffet is the order of the day. This is one buffet which dispels any pre-conceived notions of buffets, to which I have a strong aversion when travelling. I prefer someone to wait on me, rather than feeling like I have been transported back to the school canteen!
The only downside with the buffet is that there is no in built mechanism to stop you from returning from more. The seafood prawn skewers are a delight to my taste buds – hints of lime and chilli coating succulent flesh, crisply cooked in front of my eyes.
Surrounding by blazing bonfires (think episodes of Survivor and you will get the picture), we gorge on a vast array of salads, roasted vegetables, skewers and seafood. It is beyond incredible!! We eventually have to force ourselves to quit as ours stomach threaten to burst!
Final food thoughts
Take note, I am not a big foodie but our evening meal was one of the highlights of my day. Just re-reading the day’s menus (each one personally printed and delivered to your room) has me salivating. I can imagine the taste of ginger teasing my taste buds, the succulent flesh of the giant prawn or the juices of the steak assaulting my senses.
Sadly, I was unable to capture more photos of the sumptuous food but I can honestly say, that I did not bore of eating at the same restaurant each evening.
The only slight downside to the restaurant is that sometimes the drinks service is a little slow. This is however, a small price to pay for heaven on earth, especially when the wine is as delicious as the Spier 1692 Chardonnay.
Things to do
Jason and I are not your typical beach bunnies. Our holidays usually involve lots of sightseeing, DIY trips, tennis, running and every other conceivable activity. The problem with the Residence is however that it is so incredible, that leaving is too painful.
Apart from a brief visit to the local village, we decide to embrace the magic of the resort and luxuriate in our surroundings, preferring to laze around the pool or get active in a variety of ways (don’t be rude now….not like that!!).
Bicycles – Driving Miss Daisy
One afternoon, I find myself leisurely peddling around the tarmacked pathways of the resort with a huge grin on my face. A slight breeze leaves me windswept but I don’t care. I shed the ‘professional image’ of home and abandon myself to singing songs from the ‘Lion King’. When in Africa right?
I pass bemused staff, laughing at my rendition of ‘Hakuna Matata,’ but never has this song been more apt. If ever there was a slogan for a resort, then the Residence really is the home of ‘no worries!’
Honestly, having visited briefly, I would advise against visiting. There is nothing much of interest there and arranging the trip can be more hassle than it is worth. If you are keen to visit though, keep an eye on the daily itinerary, as guided walks to Kimikaze take place throughout the week.
Take to the water
For water babies, there are kayaks, pedaloes and hobie cats. Jason and I have never sailed a hobie, but if you are unfamiliar with how to operate them, fear not. The watersports team will accompany you and show you the ropes. Within no time, you will be skippering your own craft.
We enjoy moments of pure bliss, skipping across waves, spray soaking our faces and clothes. Even on days with little breeze, we potter out from shore and bob in the shallows soaking up the sun. The calming lilt of the boat even lulls me to sleep one morning.
A game of tennis anyone?
A pristine tennis court hides amongst the colourful gardens, fully equipped with floodlights for those wishing to avoid the blaze of the tropical sun. Notwithstanding the mild groin strain I am suffering, I find it incredibly hard to concentrate on playing, as the rustling of leaves and sound of scampering monkeys distracts me.
The wild, bleached hair of the Colombus monkeys is occasionally visible in the trees, but any attempt to capture them on film results in failure as they shyly retreat.
Jason and I run regularly and a week in the tropics is not an excuse for a week off. It is however, a refreshing relief to run or work out indoors in the well equipped gym with icy air conditioning. It’s glass wall overlooks lush tropical foliage, providing an enticing backdrop for your workout.
You may prefer to run outdoors, and the pathways circling the resort offer a circuit of around 1.4 miles. I recommend early morning for these as the sun is too intense after 9am. Even before that, you will be breathless in minutes due to the extreme humidity and heat, but what a place to run!!
Once you have pushed yourself to the limits, you can ease your weary muscles by plunging into the spa pool, where jets massage your aches. Rarely, do we see anyone in there so it may be a pleasant alternative to your own private pool.
Unusually, I don’t indulge in a treatment, largely because I struggle to tear myself away from stunning beach views, and the luxury of our villa. I thus have no view on the spa, but a spa promotion of a couple’s massage for two for $130 for 60 minutes is on offer during our stay. Normal massage prices start at $130 for one so this is a great deal.
I generally found prices to be in line with what you would typically pay in a upmarket resort in the West, so if you wish to indulge, simply budget with that in mind.
Finally, there is a kids club which seems to do a great job of keeping kids amused, plus cooking classes and other organised events. The daily itinerary is delivered to your room each evening so you can plan accordingly.
Africa is the continent to which I have least travelled. This is only my fifth African country, and most times I visit I am not sad to leave. However, leaving the Residence, is like leaving a part of my soul behind. I feel physical pain on the morning of our departure and the only consolation is that I know I will be back.
Waking each morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach, or monkeys scampering over our rooftop, are memories I want to bottle and preserve forever. Each day, I jump out of bed and rush to push back the curtains and blinds. With little concern for modesty, I drink in the kaleidoscope of orgasmic colour before jumping back into the drape covered four poster, a cocoon of tranquillity. The Residence is truly heaven on earth.
Where is your heaven on earth?
If you have been somewhere which stole your heart, feel free to share. We are always looking for luxury inspiration…
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