Ever since I was young I felt that there was something magical and romantic about the island of Zanzibar. Perhaps it is the name that sums up images of beaches and warmth, or the history of the spice trade and its melting pot of cultures and people. I always knew that there would be something special about Zanzibar. After spending a week at the Baraza Resort & Spa, I knew I was right.
Driving up the long driveway and through the resort’s colourful floral gardens and towards the reception of the resort, we were immediately greeted by large planters full of fragrant cloves. This was the first indication that the resort draws heavily on the complex and intriguing history of the island.
Walking through to the main reception we were greeted by a cool drink and stunning views of the gardens, the pool and the beautiful beach and horizon. Baraza Resort & Spa is part of the family-owned Zanzibar Collection of luxury resorts and is heavily influenced by Zanzibar’s history and the era of the Sultans.
The luxury resort features a stylish and elegance blend of Arabic, Swahili and Indian design. Grand Swahili arches can be seen throughout the resort and design touches such as hand carved décor, rich fabrics and intricate brass lanterns add to the opulence of a bygone era. The resort also features traditional antiques and handmade furniture and art from skilled local craftspeople.
I immediately felt welcomed and relaxed in my new Sultan’s Palace home for the week.
Baraza Resort & Spa is located on South east coast of the island alongside an award-winning, beautifully pristine beach and features just 30 villas spread out across the fragrant and colourful gardens.
The resort features both one- and two-bedroom villas, some of which are Ocean-view. My two-bedroom garden villa seriously had the ‘wow-factor’. As well as two large bedrooms, my villa also featured a large lounge area, two bathrooms (one of which was so spaciously I could quite happily have just move into it permanently!). The stand-out however had to be the patio area which led into a pretty garden area and private plunge pool. The clever lay out meant that although I knew I had neighbours I was able to sunbath and swim in privacy and quite happily sit with a good book and a drink from the mini-bar without disturbance.
If you can bare to drag yourself from the sanctuary of your villa there are plenty of activities to keep guests, both young and old, entertained.
Let’s start with the Little Luxies. Obviously, this beautiful resort will appeal to couples looking for a romantic island escape, but it will also be a perfect holiday for families as there is a dedicated Kid’s Club with a pool and toys, games and activities.
The Luxury Travel Bible is a big believer that travel is the best education for children and The Zanzibar Collection shares this philosophy. Activities and experiences can be arranged such as a Swahili cooking or language lesson that will entertain and educate them about Zanzibar’s culture and environment.
The tranquil beach-front is location for several activities for adults. Guests can hire bikes to explore the local beaches, take part in a guided reef walk, snorkelling, wind surfing, kite surfing, sailing and beginners to expert divers can use the only PADI 5* Gold Palm and National Geographic Dive Centre in Zanzibar.
As part of The Zanzibar Collection’s committee to supporting and promoting local Zanzibar culture there are several activities which can be arranged such as sailing on a traditional Swahili dhow, learning local language, dance and games or taking part in a Swahili cooking lesson from one of the resort’s chefs.
Guests can also venture outside of the resort to explore the fascinating and historic local area. Some highlights include visiting the Jozani forest which is home to Zanzibar-native, the playful Red Colobus monkey, visit to a Spice farm which supports local communities or visit the local village of Bwejuu which is supported by The Zanzibar Collection.
Another must-do is a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stone Town. We hired a local guide to take us around the town which was once the site of horrific slavery auctions and it gave insight into how Zanzibar formed it identity and culture. Of particular interest were the traditionally carved doors, churches, medieval forts and buildings, winding alleyways and streets and seeing the effects of wars and revolution.
It was an educational and eye-opening day, and at times was harrowing, but one that is so important for visitors wishing to enjoy all that Zanzibar has to offer today.
We also paid homage to Zanzibar’s most famous son, Farrokh Bulsara, aka Freddie Mercury at his birthplace, the Bulsara House. The people of Zanzibar are very proud of Freddie and his band Queen, and it means that you with have the wonderful songs of Queen in your head for the rest of your holiday.
I immediately felt welcomed and relaxed in my new Sultan’s Palace home for the week.
Back at the resort, I ventured off my sun lounger to explore the award-winning Frangipani Spa, and it certainly takes some exploring. As well as a gym, tennis courts and a swimming pool there are also a wide selection of treatments on offer. My therapist offered me an extremely friendly welcome as she led me to my treatment room. I opted for an indulgent massage which worked away any remaining knots of tension from my long-haul flight.
The beautifully decorated with gold tiles and lush fabrics relaxation area is probably one of the largest I have ever seen, yet with loungers and four-poster day beds scattered throughout it remained intimate. It was very easy to escape the heat and retreat to the cool calmness of the spa to sip some sweet ginger tea.
One activity that the spa offers, which I implore you to try (even if you are not a natural gym-bunny) is to sign up a for a yoga session. Sree the yoga master who led our session on the beach became a bit of a hero as we signed up for an early morning lesson to energise ahead of sightseeing and then a Sunset session to wind down and relax before dinner. Through his expert guidance and assistance Sree was able to push the yoga regulars in the group into very advanced poses and also encouraged those who were less experience to at least give it all a good try! Meditating on the beach with just the breeze through the palm trees and the waves upon the shore was a truly special and memorable experience.
With such a rich and diverse culture of course the food in Zanzibar was going to be delicious, and the food at Baraza did not disappoint. The menus all draw inspiration from Arabic, Persian, Indian, Asian and Swahili cuisine and make great use of local Zanzibar spices and produce.
Within the resort there are four food and drink locations available. The Dhahabu Bar & Lounge is a relaxing terrace location for a pre-dinner cocktail.
The stylish and opulent Sultans Dining Room was perfect location for enjoying both a sit-down meal and a vast and diverse buffet. My only issue with the buffet was that it all looked so good that we wanted to try it all. With so much cuisine from the island to choose from, there were plenty of dishes available to try.
And in quite possibly what is the vastest breakfast buffet I have seen (from an omelette bar to pastries to traditional African dishes to the freshest of fruits), the open-air Livingstone Terrace restaurant is what you need to set you up for a day of activities.
However, as we all know that even with stunning design, gorgeous views and amazing food and amenities what really makes a luxury resort stand out is how guests feel they are treated during their stay. The staff at the Baraza Resort and Spa were truly wonderful and were a big part of making my stay so memorable.
One aspect of the collection that The Zanzibar Collection are very proud of is its staff, and rightly so.
Since its start the luxury hotel group has been committed to hiring local people and 90% of the current workforce across the group’s four resorts come from local communities. Many of the group’s managers started in entry-level roles. It is evident to see that staff are passionate and dedicated to the resort and the location.
All of the staff at Baraza Resort and Spa were fantastic, and all took genuine interest in their guests and wanted to share information about the resort and surrounding area. The staff are all so proud of Baraza and wanted to ensure that their guests have a wonderful and authentic Zanzibar experience.
As we pulled out of resort and back towards the busy roads of Zanzibar towards the airport, I felt that I was leaving behind a very special and magical resort and taking with me memories that will last a lifetime… well until I can visit Zanzibar again to make some more!
Sarah Bryans 08/02/2019