When we were researching which part of the island to spend our week long retreat we knew we wanted three things: a beautiful beach bungalow, as few tourists as possible, and a white sand, turquoise water beach. We picked the eastern side of the island and opted for Matemwe, which is a little further north. Both the north and south parts of the island have more of a, "beach resort" vibe and are known for their full moon parties, something Brian and I had zero interest in (32 going on 65 apparently). So, Matemwe felt like the perfect choice, plus Brendan and Brit stayed there as well. Bonus points! After searching through AirBnB, (sorry, Parker! I tried Homeaway too!) I found a fifteen room property called Panga Chumvi and asked if they could work with our budget. It never hurts to ask, and I'm so glad I did! They were kind enough to waive the second person fee bringing the grand total to $60 a night (including breakfast and free WiFi, which was the best we've had so far)!
All the rooms at Panga Chumvi are steps from the ocean but some, of course, had the million dollar view. We put our budget first and picked a double room right behind the ocean front bungalows but still close enough to be able to fall asleep to the sounds of crashing waves. When we arrived, Brian and I were so giddy with excitement they must have thought it was our first time seeing the ocean. The property is more beautiful than the pictures allow. It feels completely private and secluded with swinging hammocks and palm trees the only thing standing between you and the Indian Ocean. As we were walking to our room, I kept looking around trying to hide my confusion. They were taking us to the very first beach bungalow. The Mac Daddy of all beach bungalows. Brian and I kept shooting each other "OMG OMG OMG" looks while trying to keep cool (and failing I'm sure) as we stepped on the giant private patio literally sitting on top of the water leading to our ocean front room. WHAT?! You're telling me this is home for the next week?? As soon as Becky (one of the managers) closed the door, you would have thought we just won the lottery. I don't even know if words were coming out, just noises. How did we get this room?! Turns out, somehow Brian and I were the only guests at Panga Chumvi for that entire week even though August is high season (which is why we booked so early). Becky, bewildered himself, told us that this was super rare and everyone was checking in the day we left. Works for us!
The plan for our week in Zanzibar was to relax, catch up on some yoga (me) and running (Brian), relax, eat all the seafood on the island, relax, scuba dive, relax, and catch up on the blog. We only succeeded on two of those, eating and relaxing. I did manage to squeeze in a couple (one) morning yoga practices, Brian went on some beach runs, I think we were able to get one blog post up, and we ended up snorkeling vs scuba diving due to an issue with my ears (I SWEAR). We also had talked to some folks who said the water was really cloudy and cold. Add on the $180 per person price tag, and we were okay skipping out on this excursion. We'll have plenty more opportunities ahead of us.
Some activities we hadn't planned on which made for a great week included renting a scooter and almost getting arrested (more on that later), me getting beat up by an eight year old school girl (I'll explain, promise), FaceTiming with friends (yay!), almost getting stranded out on the reef during high tide (whoops!), getting completely annihilated by jellyfish, and binge watching the entire first season of Stranger Things (OMG ITS SO GOOD WE WANT MORE).
I'll leave the stories for another post (Brian said my posts are too long) but for now we hope you enjoy this beautiful Zanzibar sunrise! You may even catch a shooting star or two 😊.
A quick note on Zanzibar for anyone planning a trip
As I said, we LOVED Matemwe. It was everything we wanted. An untouched landscape. We would go hours without seeing anyone and it made us feel like we were on a deserted island; however, the beach wasn't exactly what we were picturing. It is still very much a, "working beach." The sands are powder white and beautiful, but like any other island where you find more donkeys than cars, it isn't "maintained" the way a beach resort is. And since there are lots of coral and rocks in the water, only parts of the ocean are the pretty turquoise color you'd imagine. There is dried seagrass strewn across the expansive beaches during low tide, and during high tide, there is no beach at all (which was fun and also adventurous when we would walk home from dinner at night). The water comes right up to the edge of the hotels/bungalows, and the wind really picks up in the afternoon. Also, during low tide, all the rocks, coral, and slimy seaweed are exposed which doesn't make for the prettiest view, and unfortunately (for some, not me), you can't swim.
Having said all that, the beach is BEAUTIFUL, and Brian and I were more than happy to give up just a tiny bit of aesthetics to have a more private, non- touristy feel. If you want more of the beach resort vibe and waters you can swim in all day, the northwest part of the island (and possibly the south, we can't say because we didn't visit) is your winner. It definitely has more of that picture perfect beach you'd think of, but with that, comes all the people. We went up to Nungwi (the scooter ride from hell) one day and really enjoyed our time there but were always craving to return home to Matemwe.