Having researched various hotels in Zanzibar we came across a lot of great reviews for Mama Mapambo and so decided to book a week there. Within seconds of our arrival it was clear that the reviews were well founded! Fabio and Stephana (the owners) could give master-classes in how to make people relaxed & welcome!
They greeted with open arms and bare feet and went over and above the call of duty to ensure that we had a holiday of a lifetime there. There are only about five rooms in the hotel and Fabio and Stephana ate with us guests most nights. Our room was beautifully decorated (as is the whole hotel – a combination of African décor and Italian chic) The sea at high tide was just a few yards away from our veranda and we went to sleep each night with the sound of the ocean just outside.
Every single staff member at the hotel was wonderful – nothing was too much trouble and they were always ready to stop and have a chat with us. Once in a while, at the end of an evening they had a dance in the dining room before finishing for the night which was fabulous to watch!
The layout of the hotel means that it’s easy for guests to wander along to one another’s verandas to have a chat, but it’s equally easy to find space to have some privacy if that’s what you want.
The food was exceptionally good, (with all bread, pastries, biscuits and pasta being made fresh each day) It was predominantly fish based,, but if you wanted something else it was no problem to order it (with a bit of notice). We booked bed and breakfast but ended up eating at the hotel pretty much every night and most lunch times because the food was so good.
Swimming in the sea locally is possible most of the time, but it’s a good idea to ask the hotel staff when to swim, as local tides can sometimes make a difference. There’s a fantastic sand bank that exists at low tide about 15 minutes’ walk in front of the hotel where the surrounding water is really warm and clear – it was like bath water!
You do need to watch out for sea urchins though and for that reason it’s wise to take some shoes that you can wear in the water – also be aware of washed up sea urchins on the beach too, as they sometimes get caught up with seaweed and are hard to spot. I took ‘croc’ style shoes, but old, sturdy-soled trainers would have been better. Sometimes the water is very full of seaweed which means swimming isn't quite so pleasant, but it’s still possible and still wonderfully refreshing on hot days!
Mama Mapambo is one of those rare hotels that not only supplies you with towels for your room, but also supplies towels for the beach! They also ensure that the rooms have battery operated lights (to cope with the regular power cuts), hair-dryers, mosquito nets, insect spray and spare blankets for the occasional cold night when the sea breeze is a bit stronger than usual!
There are quite a few people who stop you on the beach to either try to sell you souvenirs or day-excursions. Don’t fall into the trap of just dismissing them as a nuisance! If you don’t want to buy anything, tell them that at the outset, then take the time to get beyond the sales pitches to have a chat to them as they really know the area and (whether you buy anything from them or not) are lovely and fascinating people who are very willing to talk to you about their lives and Zanzibar.
One thing to be aware of is that there are a limited amount of shops in the area. There are some small shops & stalls in Jambiani village that sell fruit, veg and some other stuff such as lighters, but what they stock depends on what’s available to them at the time. If you walk along the beach for about 15/20 minutes,(heading away from Paje) there is a great little gift shop that stocks local art and crafts. We discovered that there are no chemists within easy reach of the hotel, so make sure you’re well stocked up before you go there!
There are lots of restaurants on the beach front but we didn't have a chance to visit them. We particularly wanted to try “Kim & Mum’s” place as it sounds really quirky but didn't we get a chance to get there. We did try “Sale and Pepe’s” though (about 5 minutes from Mama Mapambo) and can thoroughly recommend it. It also has free Wi Fi access – all you have to do is buy a coke. (ut note that Fabio is also willing to let people use his laptop if they need to) I’d especially recommend Sale & Pepe's carrot and passion fruit salad which is quite exceptional and they serve drinks with lovely little bite size chunks of bread fried in olive oil and garlic. It’s worth checking with them whether you need to pre-order some of their main dishes in advance.
Also, be prepared for the fact that there are no ATMs locally and no-one takes credit/debit card payments. I.e. you just have to get out as much cash as you need before you go there. (The only ATMs in Zanzibar are in Stonetown) Some of the bigger hotels will take dollars and euros, but best to assume you need to pay in Tanzanian shillings.
There are quite a few exertions you could take from the hotel. We booked a local boat to go snorkelling and also booked the dolphin trip The snorkelling trip was great, but be aware that the boats often end up with quite a lot of water in them, so it’s not a good idea to go with anything that would be damaged by water. The dolphin trip was fabulous! It’s an early start but well worth it.
All in all I can’t think of even the smallest criticism of this hotel. The rooms were lovely, the food was delicious and the owners and staff treated you as valued friends!
So if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Zanzibar, I’d recommend Mama Mapambo with no hesitation at all!
Thanks so much to Fabio, Stephana and all the lovely staff there for giving us such a fabulous holiday!
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- Also Known As:
- Mamamapambo Boutique Hotel Zanzibar Island/Jambiani