Hotel review: Kichanga Lodge, Zanzibar
Kichanga Lodge is located on the south eastern coastline of the beautiful island Zanzibar and is where we spent a week of our travels this summer. We decided to stay at Kichanga Lodge as we hoped it would offer something a bit different to the standard resort style hotels seen elsewhere on the coast and somewhere we could relax post safari and before I went back to school.
Kichanga Lodge is about 1 1/2 hours drive from Zanzibar airport and Stone Town, once off the main road it’s a pretty bumpy gravel track road up to the lodge. As we arrived in the evening it was already dark so being able to hear the Indian Ocean so close by but not see it was rather odd but made me excited for the reveal in the morning. We were greeted from our airport transfer by owner Nigel and other members of staff who helped us to briskly check-in and explained half-board arrangements, this was great as we were pretty tired at this point even though the hop from the main-land is a short one we had been up on a game drive at 7am so were ready to eat our evening meal and hit the hay.
The next morning waking up to this view was bliss, and it being our first ever Indian Ocean trip very special indeed.
One of the benefits of staying at Kichanga was that rather than being just one of many many hotel rooms at a resort we instead had our own ocean front villa that had not just one room but actually 2 bedrooms, walk in wardrobe room and bathroom. The villas are detached so there is a great sense of privacy and each has their own veranda area where you can keep out of the sun and relax away.
The villas are modestly decorated and designed in a natural style so that you can hear all the sounds of the island at night, this is quite relaxing after a while but was alarming on our first night as you can hear birds on the thatched roof and I hate birds! The villas are great for a casual and relaxed holiday but I would say if you were visiting on your honeymoon and expecting opulent room surroundings then they’re not for you as they are quite basic. The villa was always superbly clean however with bottled water replenished daily.
I think if the villas were spruced up a bit with things like proper blinds that stay put in the wind and a slight upgrade to the shower and bathroom fixtures then it would be a great place to stay for honeymooners as well as every other type of holiday maker.
The food and drinks
Unbelievably I didn’t take ANY pictures of the food or drinks from Kichanga Lodge. Breakfast and evening meals were included in our half-board package and meant we could sample all of the delights on offer at the buffet in a morning and enjoy a three course meal each night. All meals are served in the main lodge building and you are assigned your own table for the duration of your stay.
Breakfast provided lots of variety; cereal, fruit, continental style meats, cheeses and bread, cooked options such as bacon, sausages and an egg/omelette station where you could also request pancakes which were my favourite paired with a banana and a drizzle of honey. Each evening all guests dine together with everyone more or less gathering the lodge for drinks and pre-dinner snacks from 7pm onward and then being served their meal from 8pm or whenever you choose to be seated. The menu is set for everyone and posted on a wooden board during the day so you can see what you’ll be eating – this was ideal as if you have a particular aversion to a certain dish or ingredient then you can let the staff know and they will offer an alternative. We only had to ask for something different on one of the days as the other half isn’t partial to spicy food, but every other meal was great. Plenty of fresh fish and seafood including lobster one evening and a traditional Zanzibari grill buffet another.
There are two bars at Kichanga Lodge, the main bar near the restaurant serving all the usual cocktails, wines and spirits and if like me you are partial to a herbal tea or coffee after dinner.
The second bar is down by the beach and is home to all those beach cocktails you dream about when not on holiday! You can still get the same spirits and wine as served up at the main bar but it might just take a little bit longer than going for one of the special beach cocktails. During the day you can order a variety of dishes including pizza, pasta, burgers and salads which are served in the main building or by the beach. These aren’t included in the half-board package but we found prices to be reasonable and this was the same for the drinks prices. Between 2pm and 4pm each day, afternoon tea is served at the beach bar and is an ideal pick me up before dinner.
Kichanga Lodge really comes into its own when you start to realise just how much of a stunning location you are in. The lodge prides itself on having one of the best beaches on the whole of Zanzibar, and it really does look like paradise. There are several steps down to the beach but that just makes it all the more worthwhile, especially when this is the view from the top of the stairs.
There aren’t rows and rows of loungers, the sun beds at Kichanga have been crafted out of natural materials and nothing looks out of place on the beach, even the gym works with the surroundings!
The beach really is the selling point of the hotel, it’s so beautiful, so peaceful and relaxing. Not at all like the other resorts down the coast that have many more guests fighting over loungers that just doesn’t happen at Kichanga and we were all the better for it. There’s also a massage hut where you can book a simple but excellent massage for a fraction of the cost of a larger resorts spa. Most days were spent reading and sunbathing, dips in the clear azure coloured Indian Ocean or pool or enjoying a stroll on the beach with drink in hand.
Another aspect of our stay at Kichanga Lodge that set a high standard was the great service. Everyone employed at the lodge was so friendly and great to talk to, some of the staff were better at mixing drinks than others and some better at giving us tidal advice (Zanzibar has some pretty unique tides so it’s best to check these out before you set off walking on the beach) but all were pleasant and couldn’t do any more to help to us. We were lucky to not to need a great deal of help during our stay but after talking to others the staff all seemed genuinely helpful with any requests or problems. The staff at Kichanga can also help arrange any tours or trips you might want to take as well as booking taxis to drop you locally. We used taxis to get to both the Rock and Upendo restaurants, more detail of both of those in my what to do in Zanzibar post.
I really liked the little thoughtful touches such as sun hats and beach bags provided in each room, along with changeable beach towels for the beach and reef shoes for entering the water at low tide when the sea urchins were supposed to be out (although we didn’t see or feel any!) and the tailor who will make an item of your choice out of the traditional African fabric, Kanga for a very reasonable price. These were the things that made Kichanga Lodge feel that bit more personal and special.
We really enjoyed our stay at Kichanga Lodge and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to friends and family. The location of the lodge is simply stunning and everything you would want from an idyllic Indian Ocean getaway, perfect for sunbathing during the day and romantic beach walks at night.