The day had arrived. My birthday!! In my eyes, a birthday is a landmark occasion to be celebrated regardless of age. It’s an excuse to have fun, do nice things and speak to everyone you care about on the phone, so what’s not to like!? Last year I was in Spain with my family (click here to see birthday shenanigans on the beach) and this year I found myself in another far-flung corner of the globe…in Zanzibar. I wanted to do something extra special on the day and there was one place I knew would be fit for the job- Essque Zalu. Anything which gets full marks on tripadvisor and has a website so damn beautiful you have to save it to your favourites to view on rainy days suggests that you’re onto a winner. A boy oh boy wasn’t it a treat and a half….
Arrival in the lobby felt like we had just been plonked into the middle of a Star Trek set or the imagination of a sci-fi novellist – cavernous ceilings, curving stone walls, attendants in minimalist tunics and trousers and no reception desk at all, just white space and hidden doors. Another attendant hurried away with our suitcase and we were soon to follow. We were shown to our ‘room’. Walk in wardrobes, a bed big enough to deserve its own postcode, his and hers towelled robes and more living space than most London flats, it was quite something.
Not having packed enough clothes to even fill one segment of the wardrobe, the moving in process was somewhat speedy. And besides, all I had my eyes set on doing was trying out the pool and going for a birthday swim.
Refreshingly cool in the scorching heat, the most wonderful colour and mojito-fuelled, my swim was pure bliss. Again, the resort was almost completely empty with just a couple of honeymooners- some already bickering, others spending their time admiring their box fresh sparklers glinting in the sunshine and whispering sweet nothings into each others’ ears. Cute or sickening, it’s up to you to decide. What this did mean though is that they all (all of about 6 people) were preoccupied elsewhere which left the pool (…and its infinity) to us.
Mini pontoon-like jetties jutted out into the water so that you could just slip and slide from your sunbed straight into the water…almost like the swim equivalent of a ski-in-ski-out chalet!
The stretch of rugged coastline beneath the hotel wasn’t the most serene of places due to the annoyance of people bombarding you with flyers for snorkel trips, boat rides, cruises and the like….but it was beautiful. We spied a much quieter spot though….the best seats in the house….
After a long hard day spent horizontal or submerged in the pool it was time to spruce up and make our way to the fancy a la carte restaurant at the hotel. Seeing waiters in pristine white aprons, rows of polished cutlery and tablecloths ironed to perfection was a new experience for Zanzibar, although it seemed to have lost any charm at the expense of fanciness. I had a chorizo and squid ink-linguine (impossible to photo well in pitch-black), all washed down with the most delicious margarita. The posh food was lovely, but in no way could it top the grilled octopus of the restaurant shack from a few nights ago. The hotel itself didn’t look half bad at night though!!
For breathtaking views, pure luxury and the most idyllic lounging and splashing experiences on the Eastern coast of the island Essque Zalu should be your first port of call. If you can afford to splash out for a night then it’s well worth it, but make sure you do get out to experience a bit of charm, some hearty food and sand between your toes, not just plush fluffy bath mats and plush jetty decking.
Having stayed for just a night it was time to pack up our things almost as quickly as they were unpacked and head northwards to our final destination. Used to having guests perhaps somewhat fancier than ourselves the polite staff at Essque Zalu were eager to get us a car, knowing that our next stop was literally next door in somewhere far less glamorous and mich less expensive.
Stick around to find out about our next Zanzibar pit stop on A Stylish Review