Prof Wolfgang Thome is an avid traveler. From the shores of Lake Victoria to the beaches of Indian Ocean, Wolfgang stays on the move discovering the hidden gems of East Africa. During his most recent to the Spice Island, Zanzibar, Wolfgang stayed with Wolrd Travel Awards 2016 winners of Zanzibar’s leading Hotel and Tanzania’s Leading Boutique hotel, Zanzibar Serena Hotel. Join him as he shares his adventures discovering the Historic Stone Town.
It has been a while since my last visit to Zanzibar and going by my previous experience I opted to stay at the Serena rather than some of the newer internationally branded hotels nearby. Of course I paid those a visit but did not regret for a moment my choice of the Serena as my base.
From the moment one enters the foyer, you are immersed in history. The display of artifacts and what looks more like collectors items than mere hotel decorations make a big difference which immediately gives it that authentic feel like it forever belonged there, not randomly bought and stuck on a wall.
Check in was easy and a porter led the way to my room in the part of the hotel where I had not stayed before. In most hotels I would detest nooks and crannies, but here it felt like an excursion, a guided tour, which led through corridors with open windows and a view across the ocean and the historic Stone Town. One stair case up, I arrived at the wide open door of my room. While the room itself was not too large, the extra large, wrap around the corner balcony more than made up for that. The hammock on a stand at the balcony had me swing on it for a while before unpacking.
The room has all one needs. The air conditioning unit worked in almost complete silence and the water pressure in the bathroom was not to be faulted. Apart from some brief night time rest, I spent most of my time on the balcony when not roaming the street of ancient Stone Town, taking pictures of passing dhows, ferries coming and going and, the most spectacular part, those scintillating sunsets so rarely seen across the waters of the Indian Ocean anywhere in East Africa.
I skipped lunch to stroll into the UNESCO World Heritage Site Stone Town, taking cover from periodic showers in shops and art galleries, before returning in time for those sunsets to the hotel.
Dinner was a splendid affair, and while dining alone, I had a prime seat by the restaurant’s window overlooking the illuminated beach below, where wave after wave spread over the sand, chasing nosey crabs which come out under the cover of darkness, doing what I was doing high above them, looking for some dinner.
The seafood selection is naturally extensive and whether one settles for the catch of the day or for prawns, as I did, do not leave out a starter, a soup and of course a dessert to experience the full range of skills of the chefs in the kitchen. It was little wonder that I felt like hailing a cab, or a dhow, to take me back into my room.
The staff throughout the hotel, showed a warm friendliness and readiness to serve, as one afternoon experience at the pool, where I had gone for some tea, amply demonstrated. The waiter on duty kept carrying my cup and cake plates after me, without being asked by the way, as I migrated from shade to shade when the sinking late afternoon sun made it its business to chase me from sun chair to sun chair in search of shade.
The hotel has matured well over the years and while international brand names in the neighborhood may have larger rooms, the Serena stood out for its soul, for giving guests a window into those long gone days of the Sultanate, a history lesson imparted to all guests staying there. Wonderful experience!