Zuri Zanzibar: say 'I do' to some me time on the Spice Island
Karishma Thakurdin enjoys some pre-wedding pampering at this newly launched island hotel
Just three weeks before my wedding, I was part of a group of journalists flown by Mango Airlines to Zanzibar to check out the newly launched five-star Zuri Zanzibar. The experience was everything a bride-to-be needed.
After a four-hour flight from Joburg to Zanzibar International, we travelled another hour by car to Kendwa Village for a magical few days in paradise.
Zuri Zanzibar, which officially opened in June last year, is perched on the edge of Kendwa Beach, and boasts postcard-perfect turquoise waters and breathtaking sunsets.
From the moment we arrived at Zuri, I was blown away by the staff's friendliness, hospitality and attention to detail.
We were greeted with smiles, cold towels and refreshing lemongrass mocktails - a welcome treat in the soaring temperatures.
The resort's unique design is a perfect marriage of natural surroundings, sophistication and luxury - all evident from the moment you step into the airy reception area with its inviting couches, ocean views and bookshelves.
Zuri Zanzibar was designed to emulate an African village, which gives it an authentic feel and offers guests the utmost privacy.
I stayed in one of the 55 thatch-roofed bungalows, which all have an outdoor shower, and a wraparound terrace with a hammock and couch for pure relaxation.
The bungalows are tastefully decorated and exude a sense of opulence with an African twist.
PARADISE ON A PLATE
From the moment I stepped into my bungalow, all the stress of planning a wedding seemed to melt away. The first thing I did was kick off my shoes, switch on the calming water feature in the outdoor shower and take in the sounds of paradise.
After freshening up, it was time for a quick al-fresco lunch alongside the resort's infinity pool. I didn't quite know what to expect when it came to Zanzibari cuisine, but, as a picky eater, I must admit my taste buds were also in paradise.
Zuri has three restaurants and four bars with breakfast and dinner being served at the main Upendo restaurant.
From the freshly baked pastries, exotic fruit, several health options and traditional English breakfasts with a Zanzibari twist, the resort's team of chefs ensure that the food is world class.
The cuisine incorporated a melting pot of cultures such as European, African, Arabian and Indian dishes. I loved the themed dinners - Asian buffet one night and an Indian one the next. My taste buds were always dancing.
On our first night at the resort we were treated to a breathtakingly beautiful dinner on the beach under the Zanzibari stars.
For me, the best part of the entire trip was being able to unwind at the resort's 300m private stretch of pristine beach. Just outside the border of the private beach, we were able to get henna tattoos and have our hair braided by local women.
When I was not enjoying my dips in the ocean, I spent some much-needed quality time with my thoughts on one of the many loungers, rejuvenating my body, mind and soul.
On one evening, we indulged in a beautifully laid-out picnic on the beach. Watching the sun set over the ocean will forever be etched in my mind.
The resort also boasts its own 8,000m² Spice Garden, with strategically placed resting spots - the perfect backdrop to escape with a good book or to meditate among the cloves, vanilla and lemongrass.
OUT AND ABOUT
On our second-last day on the island, we headed out to explore some of Zanzibar's major attractions, such as Stone Town, and to learn why it's called "the spice island".
Our first excursion was a spice tour courtesy of our hosts, AfricaStay.
It was an hour's drive to the spice farm, which we toured on foot and learned how spices such as nutmeg, vanilla, turmeric, lemongrass and black pepper are grown.
After exploring the spice farm and indulging our senses, we headed to the historic streets of Stone Town, where we got to step back in time.
Ambling slowly through the town's narrow streets, one cannot escape the eclectic mix of African, Arab, Indian and European influences.
Each street is lined with tiny shops filled with trinkets, tea, spices and everything else that has made the Spice Island famous around the world.
I was awed by the intricate details on the doors and the architecture of the buildings that represent Zanzibar's history.
While we shopped and watched the people go about their business, mother nature decided to show off again and we were caught in a tropical downpour.
Before we knew it, we were running through the rain in the streets of Stone Town. Even though it cut our tour short, it definitely added to the experience.
For me, the stressed-out bride-to-be, Zuri Zanzibar provided the perfect escape filled with magical moments that I will remember forever. I returned home completely restored, ready to embark on the next chapter in my life.
So whether you're a newlywed couple looking for romance and some quality time or are in need of some soul searching and quiet contemplation, Zuri Zanzibar ticks all the boxes.
• Thakurdin was a guest of Mango Airlines, Zuri Zanzibar and AfricaStay.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
From $410 per couple per night in a garden bungalow in the "green season" (April-May). Discounts available for long stays and early bookings. See zurizanzibar.com
It's a four-hour direct flight from OR Tambo International to Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar. Mango is currently the only airline offering direct flights from Johannesburg to Zanzibar with departures on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Return flights from JNB in March are about R7,500.
AfricaStay offers a selection of Zanzibar day tours, travel information and maps.
Zanzibar is one hour ahead of SA.
The local currency is the Tanzanian shilling, however US dollars and rands are accepted.
The rainy season is March to May. The dry season is June to October, with light rains typical in November and December.