Back in 2014 when I first visited Zanzibar I was looking for a decent option & close to some markets and good restaurants on the beach in Zanzibar. Back in 2020 when I wanted to go again to Zanzibar, Clove Island Villas – Zanzibar Hotels Beach – was by chosen hotel because I was on my honeymoon to Zanzibar and I wanted a more relaxed atmosphere.
Airport Arrival Zanzibar, Tanzania
My arrival in Zanzibar for the honeymoon was almost not going to happen as I was due to travel in mid March 2020 after the ITB Berlin tourism fair but it happened to be in the same time with the COVID 19 pandemic which was at the beginning in Europe and peak in Italy & Milan area.
My flight was with Ethiopian Airlines via Milan but it was canceled and had to find a new way of getting into Zanzibar. In the end I have found a late minute flight from Brussels to Zanzibar with TUI Belgium and then booked the departure flight with FlyDubai from Zanzibar to Yangon in order to avoid again Milan and not to be quarantine back on arrival in Yangon (which did happen in the end on my arrival back in Yangon as I had some travel history to Germany. Can read the full story here.
After a decent flight from Brussels to Zanzibar (a direct one with no layovers) we arrive on time in the evening in Zanzibar. It was only our flight on that hour but as you might know the Zanzibar airport is quite small and not to much had been changed in the past 5 years. We have decided to go on the right cue but one local clerk after our temperature was check decided to take me and my wife to a separate room. I was a bit worried at that time as my body temperature was a bit high but due to the flight, tiredness and AC in the plane.
I was not alone in that room – soon found out it was the VIP Room – with AC, chairs and sofas. More than 20 people were there and most of them were traveling with kids. Our passports were taken in order to be checked and it took a lot of time; probably on the normal line would have been not that long; but at least it was AC. As I presented my wife visa for Tanzania and since Romanians don’t need visa for Tanzania (free of charge actually due to the good relationship on the past of Ceausescu with former leaders) after more than 25 minutes we were finally cleared and went to take our baggage and go to our hotel in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar Airport Transfer to Clove Island Hotel
Most of the hotels do provide transfers from Zanzibar Airport to Beach Hotels in Zanzibar at a fee of 50$/transfer. But from my point of view since most of the hotels in Zanzibar are on the luxury side and do charge more than 100$/night or even more it would be a good selling point to either have the transfer included in the price or have it at least one way free of charge. But from my understanding is that they just rent the car from a different rental company and have to pay to them.
The prices for Zanzibar Airport Transfer to the beach hotels in Zanzibar vary from 30$ to 50$/per way and if you think it’s a lot have to take into consideration that it’s more than 1h and 30 min drive a lot of Km!
Since our arrival was late and I knew I would be tired I just wanted to have all the services taken with the Clove Island Hotel Zanzibar directly and not to get complicated with a different provider even if it was 10$ cheaper.
After taking the luggages headed to the exist. At the exit there were up to 20 persons waiting for clients but with no sign. I thought they were just persons who wanted to sell you the airport transfer. I did the mistake not to save the hotel phone number and it took me more than 10 minutes and probably paying more than 20$ in date fee from my provider from Romania to search the internet to get the number. Maria answered the phone (the person which I did the talk via email – the hotel manager) and told her on a high tone ( I was a bit upset that no one was waiting for us) that the driver was not there. Then she told me to go outside and then i have realized that the drivers were waiting after a long tunnel ( 15 minutes away from the first exit) and there I did find my driver & name on the board.
Clove Island Villas & Spa located on Makunduchi Beach a souther beach of Zanzibar is 70 km away from the airport and more than 1h and 30 minutes away so the price of 50$ per way I do consider fair.
Check in @ Clove Island Villas – Beach Hotels in Zanzibar
This was my first disappointment when I have arrived at the Clove Island Hotel, late in the evening. Flight was on time but since it took me a while to find the driver I arrived after 10pm. Since the hotel even if it’s a 4* hotel in Zanzibar does not have a proper reception (like most of the European or Asian hotels); there was no one waiting for us from the manager side. Only 1 staff was there to handle to us the room keys and lead us to our room.
The second disappointment was the lack of fruits & some snacks in the room on our arrival. The restaurant was close (last order is around 9pm) and since no other restaurants or shops were nearby we did not have any option for food for that evening rather than our snacks & some food we had from Berlin; lucky room had a fridge and managed to store our food safely.
Last disappointment was that the room did not have any special arrangement; I did not ask for one but as I mentioned a few times in my conversation with them would have been nice to have some specific decorations.
In the fridge we had one bottle of water which could have been refill by request everytime we wanted.
Rooms @ Clove Island Villas – Beach Hotels in Zanzibar
Clove Island Villas in Zanzibar is a small boutique hotel in Zanzibar which has only 8 rooms available and in the future 2 more bungalows buildings to be build. This makes the hotel a perfect one in Zanzibar as is not very crowded and it created an intimate feeling.
There are 3 room category type: Deluxe Villa, Deluxe Suite with Sea View and Villa with Suite View and Deluxe Suite with Sea View – is the category I have booked as wanted to have a kitchen in our room. For longer stays it would be the perfect option if you plan to cook and to save some money while on holiday in Zanzibar. This suite has a balcony, garden view and private entrance and 28 m² which was a great room size.
Room came with a big bed; mattress was quite hard but if you would have wanted some soft one would have been provided. I wanted to get accommodated with a hard mattress since the one from home was a bit too soft and no request was made.
Mosquito net was provided as well but was not completely covering the bed but taking into consideration that malaria is not present on the island, mosquitos are only annoying not dangerous. Plus every evening the maid would come and spray anti-mosquito.
A sofa was provided as well and a TV; the location of the TV was quite weird as in order to watch it you would have had to stay in sofa and not on the bed; so TV was useless and open it only 5 minutes on last day to see what TV channels were.
Room come with a complete kitchen (from utensils – fork, knife) to a cooking hood, kitchenette, a small fridge (but quite big inside).
A bit wooden cabinet was available as well; it looked strange it was was later to found a refurbished one from old wooden parts.
Bathroom @ Clove Island Villas Zanzibar
Last time when I have stayed at Domokuchu Beach Bungalows (now Hotel on the Rock Zanzibar) I was excited about having an outside shower; not anymore. Being at tropics there are many spiders and other insects which can make the bite quite painful so I was glad that these time I have chosen a hotel with an indoor showroom.
Shower was great and big pressure; it did not have a glass separation which made the water leak on the main area and made the floor a bit wet and had to take outside mat)
A dryer and nicely put in a wooden basket and the bath soap & bath cream were locally made and fill up almost every day by the staff. Local species were added close to the toilet to make the room smell nicer.
Breakfast & Food @ Clove Island Villas Zanzibar
Breakfast was served everyday from 8am to 10.30am; there is no need for an early wake up as being at the beach & on holiday we don’t have to wake up too early. . The breakfast is great: fresh juice, fruits, toast, cheese, eggs of your choice, pancakes, jam and Nutella and a selection of meat. pancakes and egg and made as you want (fried or omelette) and only on request. Fresh juice had different flavours every day and the toast come with a different jam type everyday. Coffee was very good as well. If you wanted more than one glass of juice it was possible.
But for a long stay like many tourist do in Zanzibar it would have been great for a more diversity from one day to another; same thing happened to my previous stay in Zanzibar; same food everyday. I know the supply chain is quite limited on a island but you have to be a bit ingenious to make the selection better. I remember when I was accommodated in Riad in Marrakech even if the breakfast was more or less the same in other days different kind of cakes were offered.
Food at the restaurant has a selection of local dishes as chapati, calamari, Ndizi Ya Nazi ( green banana in coconut sauce), Wali Ya Mboga ( local rice with coconut sauce served with beans and salad), Curry Pumpkin (served with basmati rice), Pilau Ya Kuku ( traditional chicken pilau rice served with salad) Pilau Ya Nyama ( traditional beef pilau rice with salad), local and fresh seafood ( grilled octopus, jumbo prawns, tuna fish), chapati wraps and curry dishes.
Price was a bit high from my point of view: at least for the local dishes which started at 8 to 11$/dish. Food was great and with good size; most of the time I order only some side dish for evening and for lunch only a main course.
My wife order once some Spaghetti – it was not bad but my advice is to try to order local food as european food tends not to be very popular within the cooks outside Europe and we will be disappointed and hungry after that.
Once I have order some balsamic rice and salad which turned to be a very good choice. Since I wanted to eat less rice on my holiday I did not order to often this dish but I do recommend to order it
Chicken wraps were not bad either but something was missing. But french fries were very good and had order them several time; I do actually miss those french fries as they were very good.
My wife order fish one day for lunch; as they it more fried time and not with many sauce on it she did not like it too much these way of cooking.
As mentioned earlier prices were a bit too high and I am not a person who likes to spend too much money on food; I prefer local, small restaurants and stalls. Clove Hotel is located a new area in southern Zanzibar and there are not too many options to eat outside as in Paje or Jambiani for example.
4 You Makunduchi
The setting of the restaurant was very nice: wooden chairs and a boat type table.
Likely we have found a newly open local restaurant: 4 You Makunduchi. Price were at half or even more and you could pay in local currency and in USD at a decent exchange rate. Needless to say we came daily to the restaurant and eat every day. Once we have ordered the Seafood platter which was amazing. Juice was great too. Even if you had to wait a bit longer for the food (only 1 cook) and not so many clients the waiting did worth!
Menu did change every few days and catch of the day was different on each time we went there.
Swimming Pool @ Clove Island Hotel Zanzibar
When it was low tide and impossible to swim in the ocean the best way to relax and enjoy was at the great swimming pool at the hotel. Water was very clean (at least every 3 days it was changed) and cleaned daily in the morning by the staff. It was a strange format and deep of the swimming pool as in the upper part it had more than 2 meters and even more probably (they should have written down the depth of the swimming pool)
Beach @ Clove Island Villas Zanzibar – Beach Hotels in Zanzibar
When I have decided to go ahead with the booking with Clove Island Villas I knew it did not have the best beach in whole Zanzibar. Like the Nungwi & Kendwa Beach which are considered to have the best beaches in whole Zanzibar. I was looking for a quiet beach with not so many beach boys trying to sell you a trip or a souvenir every 5 minutes and not to enjoy your holiday which you did pay a few thousand bucks. I have nothing against the beach boys of Zanzibar – they do need to have an earning (our driver from Clove Island used to start as a one and it’s dream is to have it’s own car and business). Everyone can dream can fulfill it’s dream but privacy and to know when to stop disturbing it’s important as well.
During my 7 days stay on Clove Island I have seen only 2 times a beach boy which tried to sell me a trip and when I said no politely he did not try again to sell me the trip. Most of them do make a honest living and next time I would probably book a village tour as they know better how to explain the local culture to you.
You should be aware that this area does not have the best beaches in Zanzibar – but a) the resort has a great pool and b) the area offers a lot of other things you don’t get elsewhere, like: 1) biking in a local, friendly village, 2) best dolphin tours in Zanzibar combined with morning fish market on the beach 3).
As you probably know Zanzibar has a low tide and a high tide; when low tide occurs you can literally walk kilometers in the water (but special water shoes are a must due to the corals) and high tide when water literally comes very close to the hotel and can not even go more than 3 meters and it’s already too deep!
Our beach was clean daily and if not in the evening when high tide was coming the water was a bit too dirty and not such a nice feeling to swim in the Indian Ocean.
Being a local beach, you can see seaweed plantation; how the locals are growing it; the techniques and of course can take great photos as well.
For 8 nights at Clove Island Hotel in Zanzibar I have paid 760 USD with breakfast included; it was not in high season but and the end of the season and beginning of the pandemic in Europe (mid March). Room was booked months in advance and it was non-refundable. Because I needed to change the flight I had to come earlier in Zanzibar and change the dates; luckily Maria (the russian manager) was very helpful and fast in replying with the new availability.
Most of the tours I have booked directly with them and car & driver and services were more than OK.
For the Woman Day my wife received a small present from the polish manager at the hotel; it was a nice gesture.
The place is too quiet. If you are looking for a quiet place in Zanzibar without parties, music or beach boys this is the place. But some activities or special nights would have been great if organized. I remember the BBQ nights on the beach when I stayed on Paje – great food and relaxing evening and of course more income for the hotel.
Would I stay again at Clove Island Zanzibar? The answer is YES and NO. Yes because the services were great; food excellent ( a bit expensive), quite beach and great stuff. No, because on the last day we went for the sunset and that place had a very nice beach and water with no tide; even if it was a bit crowded with some locals and kids the beach and the sunset were great and I did spotted some hotels in the area to stay.