The Residence is a small group of luxury hotels that are located in the Maldives, Mauritus, Tunis and Zanzibar. Although I’ve visited Africa a couple of times I have never made it to Zanzibar before. Traditionally one went on safari and then stopped over in Zanzibar for some relaxing beach time before returning home. Having said that political changes in the country have meant that luxury international tourism is relatively new there.
The Residence (along with a couple of other large groups) are the first to explore this market properly. With a new international airport on its way and flights direct from the UK on the horizon, suddenly Zanzibar is poised to be the next big beach resort location. We flew with Qatar Air via Doha and it would be an easy and fun add on to any trip to Doha.
The locals are charming and friendly, and despite scare stories from elders who had visited in their youth, I felt totally safe the whole trip. Which really just left us able to enjoy the beautiful island and resort.
The resort is about an hour and a half drive from the international airport (when we visited the road was being worked on so was worse than normal). The large property with bicycles and golf buggies to get around, runs along a white sand beachfront with large palm trees and tiered rooms set in tropical landscaping. The resort has the beach to itself (although there is a small village at one end of the beach, which allows you to watch the locals head out fishing etc). The tide effects the beach a lot, at high tide the sand is white and soft, at low tide the water pulls out so far that it leaves the beach looking like a desert for several 100m before the sea edge. During these hours the locals walk out to fish but I tried and saw a few too many creatures in the sandy mud which put me off. These hours make for excellent beach combing as with so much of the beach exposed you can find treasure! Purple and pink cockles shells and bit of coral are scattered across the whole beach.
The hotel is a lovely combination of a relaxed romantic vibe and a family friendly schedule. Every evening a daily program is placed on the bed to let you know what is happening the next day, from weather to food and activies. I very rarely saw children or other guests around the resort even though it was 90% full, this was partly because many people stayed in their private pools and partly because the children’s club was so well organised. It was set a little away from the rooms and had scheduled entertainment everyday, from donkey rides down the beach to henna painting, pizza making, water gun fights and face and t-shirt painting. I don’t normally like ‘family-friendly’ resorts (not yet having children myself) but I really liked the fun low key atmosphere it gave the resort. It meant everyone was friendly and relaxed, there was no pretensions and you could relax in your flip-flops at supper. There were two supper options; the buffet, which followed a different theme every night and was very popular with families as it often included live music and open kitchen elements, and then a set menu on the beach front which was always delicious and tended not to include any young children. I also loved that breakfast in the room was included, I think one of the most luxurious things about being on holiday is staying in bed late and having room service on your deck. We did this almost every morning, it was bliss.
There are two types of rooms at the resort. Beach-front and Garden. Both types of rooms come either in one or two bed options, all are suites and all include private pools. The rooms have a traditional tropical decor with wooden beds, white mosquito nets and double ended baths in inside/outside bathrooms.
I found the best room for privacy was 220 and the best beach front rooms were 103, 104, 105, 106, 110, 111, 112.
The Spa is run by british beauty brand ila. The spa design is based on a Japanese meditation garden, with little pavilions for treatments. I had a full body massage and loved it. The therapists were friendly and the spa was very relaxed. Perfect for first time spa goers. You can also get couples treatment rooms, which have their own shower and changing room. Great for privacy.
The Main Pool
The main pool area also links to the Restaurant that serves the breakfast buffet (which is good, I really liked the pancake station), lunch and the set menu for supper. It is also on the beach-front and very close to the waterspouts centre. We went for drinks here often after beach combing and had supper here most nights. The pool has a glass edge which was lots of fun.
We sailed most evenings (the wind is best in the morning and evening) and then walked the beach at sunset. They also offer a lovely sunset drinks and canapés on the pier every evening.