Said to be Zanzibar’s most-popular beach, Nungwi is always abuzz, understandably so. In between its beach strip which stretches into Kendwa, amidst the array of hotels both grand and cheerfully cheap, Kilindi Zanzibar redefines luxury in this quaint fishing village.
Photography: Brian Siambi
“You can dance, you can jiiiive, having the time of your life…diggin’ the dancing queen!”
I mooch about the grand villa which is far too spacious for just me, singing embarrassingly off-key at the top of my lungs, certain no one will hear me because of how spread apart the 15 villas at Kilindi Zanzibar are. Carried away, I imagine I am Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia and jump onto the four poster bed with childlike glee then spring up as though on a trampoline, but quickly remember that I can’t do a split mid-air and this bed might break under my weight, in which case, it wouldn’t matter how understanding the people here are – I would have to pay. I have been playing Abba’s Dancing Queen in a loop ever since finding out that Kilindi Zanzibar was built as a private home for one of the bandmates before being converted into a resort. It is now under the management of Elewana Collection, and for that I am glad.
Bosomed within the forested folds of Nungwi, it is hard not to love this property. The slatted door of my palatial bedroom opens up to a full-moon plunge pool which overlooks an indigenous forest that stretches out to waters docked by various traditional double-outrigger canoes called ngalawa.
Here, you can wear a bikini and laze by the beach all day and yet a monkey might swing by your room from the bush to say hello, and I like that juxtaposition. The white-washed pavilions are very European; Scandinavian minimalism meets the curved roofs of Santorini’s domes complete with bougainvillea flowers in full bloom along the pathways.
The bathroom housed in its own building comes with a rainshower and sink-with-a-view, and is big enough to host a small conference. As I potter between this and my room, clothes quickly become burdensome. Keen to seek refuge from the heat after every trip from the beach, my only predicament is whether to use the fan or let trade winds do the cooling.
Guests are assigned their very own butler and we get Victoria who comes with heaps of the renowned Swahili hospitality and a side of wit. Dinner on the first night is right by the T-shaped pool, and just when we thought things couldn’t possibly get better than that, on the second night, we get our own secluded spot by the beach. The meals here are absolutely divine. Ugali is elevated way above its pay grade in an amuse bouche that mashes in potatoes and tops that off with a flavour-packed beetroot puree. The seafood is fresh and whispery with local spices, and Victoria always seems to appear with a drink as soon as you think about one (she does this throughout our stay, and I am completely convinced that she’s a mind reader).
After dinner, a guard pushes the pan with the log fire even closer to the water and Victoria brings out bean bags to snuggle in. Looking out at the stars and the sea glimmering in the shadows, if an experience ever so deserved to be called magical, this would be it. Conversation wanes as we drift in and out of slumber before everyone retreats to their villas at 1:00pm. If we had no activities planned for the following day, we would have been content to sleep on this beach till the morning. In fact, I have now decided that Kilindi is where I will be coming for my honeymoon. I suppose I still need to meet the guy first, but let’s not get caught up on the minor details.
Along with Kendwa, the fishing village of Nungwi is said to be Zanzibar’s most-popular beach, understandably so. The water is such a saturated turquoise that should you only see it in a postcard, you would think it were fake. It is also perfect for swimming in whatever the time; there are no tides. The sunsets are spectacular enough to turn even the most articulate poet into a baby-talking goop. The shoreline is always docked by dhows and if you visit in the morning, you can always chat up the fishermen for tales from the sea. It is idyllic living, and we were warned that it would be crowded, if only because numerous hotels occupy the same stretch of beach from Nungwi to Kendwa. The only place where we saw a lot of people was however at the latter beach which has gained a reputation as the home of epic full moon parties.
Zanzibar Parasailing run by Johann, a South African who retired from the corporate world to open this busy water sport/ accommodation/ party central combo, is set in Kendwa which is only a five minute walk from Kilindi Zanzibar. After cheerful pleasantries are exchanged, we hop onto a small raft which takes us to the parasailing boat. I am then harnessed and tethered to a bright red parachute and from the back deck of the boat, the rope is released and I take flight into the sky like a bird. Gliding gently behind the boat to a height of about 250m, wind against my face and with curious swimmers and sunbathers gazing up at me in the distance, I can’t help but think that this is exactly what my drone would be recording if I launched it up these northern shores. “I’m flying, Jack!” Literally. No previous experience is necessary and a flight lasts about 10 minutes which, when you’re cruising mid-air, feels like an hour. It costs about $90 for a tandem flight and $130 for a solo flight. Visit www.zanzibarparasailing.com to find out what other water sports are offered here. The vibe back at their dive center is so lively that I could have hung out with this community for the rest of the afternoon, but that cold hibiscus cocktail at Kilindi wasn’t going to drink itself.
CONSERVATION: SWIMMING WITH TURTLES
I have been so eager to swim with these turtles all afternoon, but now, finally face to face with them while crouching at the entrance to this tidal pond watching them paddle hard in a race to reach the food which has just been thrown in by one of the attendants, I am unexpectedly timid. First of all, their number is overwhelming. I can spot at least 15 of all sizes and ages. After a little coaxing from Nomad’s photographer Brian, who has himself settled on paying only the $7 required to simply watch and feed them (it costs $10 to swim with them), I decide to take a deep breath and walk into the cold water.
Eager to feed on the seagrass which has just been thrown in and perhaps a little keen to play as well, the turtles come rushing towards me and I can suddenly feel their flippers and shells rubbing against my skin under the water as they swim about. I find their touch ticklish and can’t help but laugh and squeal every time they brush against me. Once I get comfortable, however, there is no getting me out. Looking at these gentle creatures, it is hard to imagine them being caught in fishermen’s nets which is how a lot of them often die, or being hunted for their meat. Places like Baraka Natural Aquarium exist to provide a refuge for rescued turtles and are often involved in research, conservation and re-release into the sea. We are the only guests at the pond and I would thereby suggest visiting later in the day after the crowds have wandered off.