Essque Zalu Zanzibar
What We Love
- Family-friendly amenities, including Tinga Kids Club and live music at dinner
- Market Kitchen deli counter, fully stocked with imported meats and cheeses
- Free WiFi
What To Know
- The resort is in the remote fishing village of Nungwi, a one-hour drive from the Zanzibar airport
- There isn’t a private beach, but Nungwi Beach is peaceful and can be accessed directly from the hotel
- Free WiFi
- Handicap Accessible
- Kids Club
- Parking On Site
Just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an island jewel in the Indian Ocean—all postcard-perfect white sand beaches and coral-fringed coves. The 30-acre resort has a shore-hugging layout complete with soaring makuti thatch roofs and minimalist interiors. An ode to the island’s vibrant art, architecture and culture, Essque Zalu Zanzibar feels more like a private residence than a resort. There’s no front desk, so smart, sherwani-clad “navigators” see to check-in in the comfort of guests’ suites. Choose from 40 individual suites or 8 villas, all with picturesque views over the lush tropical garden or the ocean turquoise blue. Those with a penchant for doing little can settle into a lounge chair beside the enormous infinity pool, relax in the spa (treatments incorporate indigenous African herbs and oils), quaff vodka-cranberries in the art gallery, or choose between the three on-site restaurants. Decadent dining is de rigueur here, especially at the 1506 Bar and Terrace, where a maître d’ greets guests by name and chef Jussi Husa adapts European dishes with Arabic, African, and Indian flavors.
In the Area
The Essque Zalu is located in Nungwi, an undeveloped fishing village on Zanzibar’s protected northeast coast. Within an hour’s drive is UNESCO World Heritage Site Stone Town, Zanzibar’s teeny capital, filled with souks, labyrinthine streets, mosques, sultans’ palaces and colonial buildings. While there, visit the Anglican church, a memorial built on the site of one of the world’s last slave markets. The Mnemba Atoll is the jewel in the Zanzibar archipelago. Underwater tropical delights include whale sharks and turtles. The hotel also arranges snorkeling and is licensed by PADI. Charter a private crewed catamaran and sail the coast for a day — dolphin spotting and champagne and oysters on deck at sunset totally optional. The island has become a hot spot for kitesurfing — an extreme water sport that’s big news at the Essque Zalu.
How to Get There
We returned to Essque in Aug2019 after having had an excellent experience in Aug18 (we thought we’d found our sunny hotel to come back to every year). The only improvement we’d suggest last time was that the Wi-Fi range was very weak and didn’t work in the rooms (it’s still like this).
This time it was quite a different experience. We had to book the stay with 2 different operators and to ensure no delays we shared both booking invoices with the hotel 1 week prior to our arrival and requested a 1st floor room. The 2 responses we received from Mr Joseph (back office customer service) were generic but after sending 3 emails on the topic we believed it was sorted. We arrive at the hotel at 2pm (check-in time) only to be told that we’ll be checked-in but we must contact one of the operators as they didn’t get the confirmation (which should have been done before based on our email) and we’re informed that they will provide a top floor room but it must be prepared; it took 1.5 hours for the room to be ready which Mr. Philip (Reception Manager?) blamed on the booking not being received and having to prepare the room (as our emails were completely ignored – ignoring customer requests is the new norm at Essque).
During our 4 day stay the room was not tidied up as room service basically makes the bed and folds the pyjamas. For the last 2 days the bathroom hand towels disappeared never to be replaced; also the shower toiletries were never topped up. On the last day we didn’t even get a water bottle.
On the food and beverages side the customer must always ask for the a-la-carte menu as it’s always hidden, probably hoping you’ll stick to the buffet/special of the day. The improvement this year was that there is live music at the restaurant. One of the nights the buffet was served at the Jetty (sea) restaurant and both me and my wife were sick the day after (which didn’t happen in the other hotel we stayed in Zanzibar for 5 nights). The pool staff is helpful and accommodative.
The spa service was also good but not stellar.
The last nail in the coffin was on our last day at the Essque. As we were checking-out at 2:30 am and not having that morning’s breakfast; around midday we headed to the reception to ask if it was possible to get a box with some breakfast items to go since the Airport food in Zanzibar at 5 am is almost null. We were told yes and asked what we’d like to have in it, lovely. After dinner when we settled the bill we asked the night reception clerk Mr John (the staff doesn’t use name tags) to confirm we could pick-up the boxes at 2:30 am, which he confirmed. As you can imagine by now there was no box prepared and we left empty handed to eat a 2-day old muffin at the airport.
Again, the same apathy from the staff, as if these were all minor mistakes. Apparently, the kitchen never got the order, they told us, and no one bothered to follow up with them even after diligent follow up.
Overall the service provided by the staff was poor for a 3 star hotel and they absolutely have no regard for the customer’s requests. What you didn’t ask you wouldn’t get, and somehow you feel that everything is going to go wrong unless you ask, follow up and essentially do their jobs on their behalf. As I believe it’s clear by now we won’t be coming back to Essque as there are now much better options in the northern/western side of the island. If you value Customer service and Customer Experience I advise you not to choose this hotel.
My wife and I stayed here for 4 days after our Safari experience. My main reservation before showing up here was that it was actually doesn't have a sandy beach on premise (reading from one of the other reviewers), but it turned out OK, we just took taxis to Nungwi beach. The hotel was fine overall, and I thought the food and services were reasonable (we booked thru a tour operator so I am not sure what the negotiated rates are so hard to say whether that's to be expected at this price point). Like all other reviews, the pool is unbelievable. However, two things could sure use improvements. 1) For our suite, the hot water takes more than 30 mins to be hot enough for a shower. Before that it's simply lukewarm. We complained a couple of times and gave up. 2) The bed in our hut is crazy soft. It's not a mattress but rather some soft padding. After the first night my wife and I both woke up with sore lower backs. We travel a fair amount and this has never ever been an issue for us. We were told all beds are the same and even the night manager on day 2 whom we complained to agreed perhaps they should upgrade to real mattresses. It seems like a small investment, and I certainly hope they make this upgrade for their future guests.
I don't typically write reviews, but I thought it necessary to share my experience at Essque Zalu where I stayed for 4 nights. Like many others, we just completed an amazing Safari experience and were looking for a few nights to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, I feel like I need another vacation after my stay at the hotel and felt obligated to share my experiences.
Food 2/5: Breakfast was a buffet with a typical African composite of a few hot items (e.g. mushrooms, beans, bacon, sausage), egg station, juices and cereal. However, there were so many flies everywhere on the food and tables that made it very uncomfortable to eat. Quality of the food was just average and I felt that I ate much better at many of the mid-range safari lodges I stayed at.
Dinner was very hit or miss, with it missing the majority of the time. For example, the avocado in the avocado salad was so raw that the fork could barely poke through it and I've never had avocado taste sour until now. The fish and meat tended to be overcooked and tough.
To top it off, after one dinner, my S.O. developed traveler's diarrhea despite being careful with the water.
Dinner Service 0/5: Of all the hotels and lodges that I have ever stayed at, I have never experienced the slowness of the staff that I did at Essque. Dinners will truly test your patience for how long you are willing to wait for your food. After sitting down at a table, it will take almost 10-15min before someone comes by to bring a menu and another 15min before coming back for drink and food orders. They serve a 3-course meal, which would be fine except that it takes extremely long for each course and even a bottle of water to come out. By the 2nd night, we ended up just bringing a water bottle to dinner with us so we wouldn't get dehydrated waiting for drinks. I also stopped asking for desserts, because I knew that it would take them another 40min. At the end of the meal, I would have to ask for the bill to 3-4 different servers until someone finally gave me it after 20min. You could sense the frustration on the majority of the diners as many were waiting for food without even any drinks on their table. One individual got so upset that he was asking why the food was taking over an hour. The server ignored him and while walking away actually had a smile on his face. Essque really needs to train their staff better as there was absolutely no reason for the poor service given that there was plenty of staff (about 1 server per table).
WIFI 1/5: They should really change their website to say "slow wifi available in lobby only". Although the WiFi network showed in our rooms, it was so slow that it never worked. Even in the lobby, a website would take almost 30s to download one page
Environment 4/5: the best thing about the hotel is definitely the views and pool. The lobby is absolutely beautiful with amazing triangular roofs and the infinity pool overlooks the beautiful ocean. The pictures on the website are very reflective of reality. Like many have mentioned, there is not a beach that one can lay on, which was fine with us as we didn't mind lounging around the pool. They also have a small gym, which was nice to get a workout in. Do note that due to the location, there isn't much in terms of activities to do outside of the pool, which would have been fine with us if it wasn't for the poor food and service.
Spa 5/5: I got a deep tissue massage and it was probably one of the best back and head massages that I've had. I highly recommend asking for Caroline if she is working.
Overall, the resort is very beautiful, but the poor food and especially poor service led to a very unrelaxing stay. If you're looking for some R&R after a safari, I'd highly recommend looking elsewhere.