TEN minutes down an unsurfaced track, the Ocean Paradise Resort on the north east coast of Zanzibar immediately impresses arriving guests by having colourfully-clad Masai warriors as entrance gate staff.
The resort that first began operating last May is already at times fully booked welcoming mainly European tourists – including many Italians – to beachside surrounds where the landscaped gardens have glistening turquoise Indian Ocean waters, a white sandy beach and the distant sound of waves breaking on a coral reef as a backdrop.
The 100-room property has traditional style round thatched chalets with terraces and is a joint venture between the Paradise Reality Holding Company and the Bahrain Hotels Company which owns the Manama-based Gulf Hotel and manages the Zanzibar property.
With two restaurants, three bars and the largest swimming pool in Zanzibar, cool sea breezes frequently cool the 6.5 hectare grounds with some guests – the majority on full board – staying two weeks, though most visiting for three to seven days.
Offering leisure facilities including a dive centre, fitness club, archery and snooker, the hotel events programme additionally provides free introductory Swahili lessons, a walking visit to a nearby village, beach volleyball and aqua exercise sessions.
The Ocean Paradise Resort has a number of future plans including a spa, room service and increasing daily activities, and provides an ideal spot to rest and relax, perhaps following a mainland safari.
The hotel also has extensive conference facilities for those with business on their mind.
In general Zanzibar, a Tanzanian island a stone’s throw from the mainland coast offers limited attractions basically founded on a mixture of Africa and Arabia, the latter dating back to its pre-independence from Oman.
A tour of the historically interesting Stone Town capital provides limited shops – many in narrow alleyways – plus site-seeing opportunities at the museum, fort and the location where slaves were auctioned as recently as the last century.
Out-of-town tours include spice trips, a boat trip for a dolphin safari and a visit to the centrally located Jozani Forest with local ‘wildlife’ in the form of monkeys, bush pigs and antelopes.
Relatively untapped as a tourist destination Zanzibar – known by many as the spice as well as the butterfly island – attracts fewer than 100,000 annual visitors with the majority identifying with it as a romantic and relaxing arena of year-round sunshine with beautiful near-deserted beaches
Made up of 60 miles by 20 miles of lush tropical but mainly undeveloped surrounds, Zanzibar is yet to win its spurs in the global pampering market. But on global standards it offers surprising value for money – lunchtime and evening drinks including wine and beer for two in the five-star registered Ocean Paradise Resort over five days totalled Tanzanian Shillings 98,000, or under $100 in real money.
As they say in the local language, hakuna natata (no problem). However, with first and last impressions counting, the tourism powers should perhaps re-examine the set $50 visa and $25 departure charges visitors are faced with!
How to get there
Flights from Dubai to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and to the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Saleem connect with flights to Zanzibar, and there are also flights from Oman.
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