Where to start?
On arrival, you are required to listen to a briefing about the hotel. As the rooms contain NO written information whatsoever about the hotel facilities or policies, you are required to memorise it.
One important thing to know about this hotel is that if you lose your room key (as I did on the first day - it washed out of my bathing shorts as I walked on the concrete walkway running offshore) you will be billed $50 in cash or $52 if you pay using a credit card. (they also charge you if you lose your towel card)
$50/$52 is well in excess of the cost of a cylinder lock, so the hotel is not only "punishing" its guests, but making money from it. The sensible thing to do would be to swap the lock with a random room, but the Manager insisted it that it was hotel policy to replace. They claimed that every time a key was lost, they had to make a trip to Stone Town to replace the single lock!
Really? So it never occurred to the hotel to buy 10 locks at one time? This lock type (cylinder) costs around $25 or less.
Frankly, this miserly policy coloured view towards my whole stay at the hotel.
So what about the hotel?
Frankly, reading some reviews I get the impression that many guests, especially from Europe seem uncritical (or easily pleased) about the very basic standard of the rooms and food. So as briefly as I can:
1. We stayed in a Junior Suite (the third most expensive rate, behind the 2 Villas & 3 suites).
The decor of the unit could best be described as dark & austere. It would not look out of place in a Spanish pueblo. Ancient, heavy, dark wood furniture, with wrought ironwork. Not a single armchair. When I asked if there were armchairs, we had 2 upright chairs, similar to formal dining table chairs delivered. (see my pictures)
2. The bathroom was basic and in dire need of renovation. Poor grouting and sealant spread messily around the basin and shower tray. There were NO towel rails for damp towels, except a tiny one for a hand-towel. The shower stall was basic and needed regrouting. No bath in this "suite". See photos.
3. Each unit appears to have its own small capacity water geyser. Don't spend too long in the shower or it will run out of hot water.
4. If you are on AI (All Inclusive) you need to pay attention when ordering in the restaurants having menus (and the bar menu) as there are many items that are not included in AI. Instead of having an AI menu, the hotel prefers to put miniscule asterisks* at the end of the line of those items which *are included*. If you are not careful, you could order something not included in your all-included rate!
5. As others have mentioned, this hotel has no free beach equipment as you find in paces like Mauritius or even elsewhere on Zanzibar. There is a tennis court, but take a look at the photos. You are also expected to pay to hire the rackets.
6. Food: I appreciate that the hotel has to cater to diverse cultural tastes, however the major problem they have is that the plates were usually cold and the food, kept in warming trays, only barely warm. Combine the two and your food is already only lukewarm by the time you get back to your table. They really ought to install a microwave for those who like their food hot. As I'm sure you all know, the flavour of food drops with its temperature.
The choice of fruit, for a tropical island was dismal. Most of the fruit was tart and unattractive. Papaya was served in small chunks with the seeds still in place!
The hotel egg yolks are a very very pale yellow, resulting in unattractive fried, scrambled or boiled eggs & omelettes.
I found the coffee and tea quite undrinkable.
Meat was always overcooked and therefore dry and chewy.
None of the breakfast buffet food was covered to keep flies away.
Internet is barely 1Mbps and reception weak away from the main lobby. It also costs $10 a day, in cash (more if paid by credit card).
6. Check-out: you are presented with a bill in TZS Shillings, but can only settle in US$ cash or credit cards. If credit card, the TZS amount is converted at a very unfavourable (to you) rate.
7. The beach: I chose this hotel for its unique walkway out into the ocean, which you can use at low-tide to reach the ocean. But, Its VERY slippery and you must wear flip-flops or better still, reef-walkers as immediately adjacent to the walk-way, the area is thick with sea-urchins, itching to embed themselves in your foot!
8. "Beach boyz" they are indeed an irritation and ruined my companions attempts to have a quiet stroll on the beach.
9. Stray dogs: there is a pack of 3 stray dogs that you may encounter on the beach (the whole beach, not just the stretch in front of the hotel). Try to avoid them & do not attempt to interact with them. I like dogs but the largest of these, kept jumping up at me, to reach my face. In fending it off, its nails lacerated my arm causing it to bleed. Nothing serious, but it might have ended up infected. (Before the hotel owner jumps in, I'll repeat that this incident took place on the beach, which is a public thoroughfare and therefore not a hotel specific problem)
10. Which brings me to staff: Perhaps we were lucky but I had not a single problem with any member of staff, including reception staff. All were courteous and attempted to be friendly & assist when I reported problems. Even the manager who I had the disagreement with over the key, was businesslike and attempted to assist to the maximum that the hotel owners permitted her to. Special mentions to Freddie the restaurant manager and our chatty, enthusiastic barman, Nasri.
In conclusion, my message to the owners of this run-down establishment, is its time to repaint and refurb, i.e. put some money back into the property. Create separate menus for your AI guests.
Put hotel information packs into the rooms.
Stop the complete nonsense of having guests turn up at a near empty restaurants and then being turned away because they had not booked.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- On a deserted white sandy beach, at 65 km from Stone Town, lies Karafuu Beach Resort and Spa, an international five-star hotel, winner of the World Travel Awards as Tanzania Leading Resort and Africa Leading Beach Resort 2011 .It is one of the most luxurious hotels on the east coast of Zanzibar, where, even during low tide, it’s possible to enjoy a comfortable swim in the ocean. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Karafuu Beach Hotel Pingwe
- Karafuu Hotel Beach
- Karafuu Resort Beach
- Karafuu Beach Resort And Spa Zanzibar Island, Tanzania