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North Coast Zanzibar Beaches

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Matemwe Beach Zanzibar TanzaniaMatemwe village is located on the North East Coast of Zanzibar. The drive from Stone Town takes between one and one and half-hours over fairly decent roads. Matemwe is a small fishing village and is home to two guesthouse establishments, Matemwe Bungalows and H Beach Bungalows.
Matemwe Bungalows is a favorite among tourists and ex-pats because of its remote location and excellent positioning of the bungalows.

For guests looking for peace and quiet and white sand, this is the ultimate in beach side relaxation.

Matembwe Beach BungalowsThere is a dive center in Matemwe that can be used by guests of the bungalows or day-trippers. Matemwe Bungalows has self-contained bungalows as well as shared facilities and full board is recommended if not essential. The food is excellent!

H Beach Bungalows is located just south of Matemwe Bungalows and offers the same remote peace as Matemwe Bungalows with more modest service and a lower price. Highly recommended for budget travelers, H Beach Bungalows has a great view of the ocean as well as clean, functioning, facilities and access to the Dive Adventures' dive center at Matemwe Bungalows. Full board is essential unless you'd like to pop over to Matemwe Bungalows for lunch or dinner.

Matemwe is ideally located for snorkelers and divers because of its proximity to Mnemba Island atoll and Nungwi. Some of the best diving off Zanzibar is reported to be around Mnemba Island and for experienced divers, there are some challenging dives off Mnemba and Nungwi.

Boat At Matemwe BeachNot far off the shore of Matemwe is Mnemba Island and its surrounding atoll. Arguably the location of some of the best diving off Zanzibar, the island is also home to a wonderful set of bungalows run by South Africa's Conservation Corporation. Staying on Mnemba is more like visiting very hospitable friends than staying at a resort, but resort it is. Mnemba Club has diving, fishing, water-skiing, windsurfing, and snorkeling, not to mention an amazing location, an incredible white sand beach that surrounds the island, and the clearest, bluest water I've ever seen.

The bungalows are very open so you can expect to find crabs wandering around your laundry basket after you get back from having the ultimately romantic dinner on the beach. Dinner tables are set inches from the surf and lit with small lanterns as tiki torches and placed near by. The food is excellent. The atoll is home to quite a few dolphins and you can expect to see them regularly and even swim with them if you can catch them. The hosts of the island are very well educated on all the wildlife (flora and fauna) on the island and in the water and can answer most, if not all, of your questions.

For further study, the club provides a reading room with several books on nature study. For rainy days there's a video room and the bar is stocked with all the usual supplies plus backgammon and cards. There are only ten bungalows on the island and the atmosphere is one of privacy. Mnemba Club is a magical place to visit and the prices reflect it. Highly recommended, but sadly not in everyone's budget

Nugwi (Ras Nungwi)

Ras Nugwi Beach Ras is the Swahili word for Point and will be seen before the names of many villages located on points or peninsulas. Ras Nungwi is possibly the best swimming spot on the island because of the depth of the water just off the West Point. Many beaches on the East Coast lose so much water during low tide that swimmers must walk over 1 km to the reef in order to swim in water that's above the knees yet below the 38 degree mark on the thermometer.

Just around Nungwi village there are several guesthouses and at least one large resort. The village itself is on the edge of the water and the guesthouses have been built up on either side. There's at least one in the village itself. To the right of the village there are so many guesthouses and bars being developed that it's becoming like a small tourist village. There's a bar on the water and an excellent restaurant all within walking distance of the many bungalows crowded on that section of the shore. This is a great place for people looking for beach and nightlife but not so good for people looking for solitude. Keep in mind that nightlife in this sense means laid back bar scene and not raging disco.

Twilight on Ras Nugwi BeachDives can be arranged for Nungwi either in Stone Town before you depart or you can try Paradise Guesthouse, Amaan Beach Bungalows, or the Ras Nungwi Hotel (on the left side of the village). Snorkeling trips can also be arranged from Nungwi. Many dives from Nungwi will be at the Mnemba Atoll or at some of the reef along the way such as Nungwi Coral Garden, Turtle Gap or Leon Wall, but other trips are also made to Leven Bank and other dive sites to the west.

There's no reef within snorkeling distance off Nungwi which makes for excellent swimming at all times of the tide, but is not so good for snorkelers who have to take a boat to get to see any coral.

For budget travelers the Kigoma Guesthouse offers bed and breakfast. The rooms are small but there are sheets and nets and they're all reasonably clean. All toilets are shared. Bring your own soap and toilet paper. Slightly up the scale there are the Amaan Bungalows whose rooms are self-contained and not built in prison-block row style. Similar accommodations can be found along these lines all around (and in) the village (see Listings for more guesthouses). Keep in mind that Nungwi is a long way from Stone Town and doesn't have its own water or power source which means – just because there's water in the tank doesn't mean you'll get a shower.

Ras Nugwi Hotel - ReceptionIf there's no power to pump the water – there's no water. If you're staying in a budget place, take a torch and be prepared to rinse in the sea. Most places accommodate guests with washing lines, kerosene lamps, and other bare essentials. Be wary of Salleh's guesthouse where accommodation doesn't necessarily mean having a door on your hut and the staff can be ornery, although some people have reported a nice stay there.

For top end traveling, stay at the Ras Nungwi Hotel located almost on its own on the East side of the village. They have a nice bar, offer full board and the rooms are deluxe compared to the surrounding beach bungalows. Ras Nungwi is the only International-standard full service hotel in the area and the prices reflect it.

Nungwi is home to a small turtle aquarium that was built and is maintained by the local village. The last time I want there an expansion project was under way and excited children were carrying pans and bags full of sand to allow for digging a bigger pond for the turtles. Visitors must sign a guest book to enter and donations are requested.

Once inside the aquarium (a lagoon in coral rock surrounded by makuti walls) you'll walk on a boardwalk from which your guide will throw seaweed to the turtles. Look for bright colored fish as well. Another attraction of the aquarium is the two vervet monkeys in residence. They are usually tethered near the entrance but sometimes run wild, their leashes trailing.

They are inquisitive about people and will climb on your shoulder, bite your sunglasses, open your camera and lick your skin for the salt it contains. They are mostly harmless and are fun for photos but can bite if provoked. Watch small items such as pens, sunglasses, and anything that may stick out of a breast pocket or bag.

Tumbatu Island

Tumbatu IslandIs the largest of Zanzibar's offshore islands and it is located to the southwest of Ras Nungwi. It is inhabited by the Watumbatu people who speak their own dialect of Swahili and who claim to be descendants of the Shirazi. There are Shirazi ruins on the island that date back to the 12th Century.

Although transport can be arranged to the island, it is rumored that the people of Tumbatu do not welcome strangers. There are ruins on the island and admission to them is included on the "Ancient Monuments" receipt. All visitors planning a trip to Tumbatu need to arrange for a special pass from the Regional Commissioner.



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