Kendwa Rocks Resort in Kendwa
(20 rooms) PO Box 15, Mahonda, Zanzibar;
www.kendwarocks.com (KENROC 5º45.146'S; 39º17.403'E).
The first property to open on this stretch of beach, Kendwa Rocks celebrated its 10th birthday in 2005. It's owned and run by Ally Kilupy, a worldly Zanzibari Rastafarian who grew up welcoming tourists at his mother's guesthouse in Stone Town before studying in Germany, taking a motorbike round Africa and living in south London. Returning to Zanzibar, Ally put his tourism skills to use and now runs a successful operation here. There are bungalows, bandas and a dormitory available, and they get booked up in that order.
The coral-stone bungalows are all named after African countries with suitably themed interiors. They are all en-suite, though not all have hot water yet, with large Zanzibari beds and a veranda; each has mains electricity with UK 3-pin sockets, fans and mosquito nets. Most of these rooms can be used for dbl or tpl occupancy. The bandas are spread out in a semi-circle on a clean and lovely stretch of beach. They are simple makuti structures, with little more than a couple of traditional beds and a small table inside, but their location is excellent. The shared ablution block is set up on the coral rock and has 6 clean but bleak toilet/shower cubicles. They do have clever, energyefficient electric heaters on the shower heads to ensure hot water though. There are also a couple of coconut-wood bungalows on the beach and these are probably the nicest option here. Above the bungalows and beach area, towards the road, is an 11-bed dormitory. It's usually taken by groups of off-duty VSO workers, or people waiting to upgrade to bandas. There are 2 rows of sgl, net-covered beds and a bank of lockers with a functional, if not pretty, shower and toilet block immediately behind.
On the beach, the 2-storey Mermaid Bar is the epitome of backpacker drinking dens: a hip DJ messes on decks in the corner, smiling staff in blue branded tops stand behind a well-stocked, dhow bar festooned with laminated lists of cocktails, while batik-clad, sun-bleached blond girls recline writing diaries and drinking. That ubiquitous icon of a traveller's rebellion, Che Guevara, presides over events from a row of T-shirts pinned above the bar. This place is totally chilled, so don't expect anything to happen fast. Instead, pick one of the many green and blue hammocks which radiate from the structure, lie back and enjoy the sea views. Also on the beach, there's a genuine Finnish steam bath, testament to Ally's time in Finland, and a huge dhow sheltering under makuti, which he's contemplating converting into floating accommodation. Every evening at 17.30, the US$15 Sunset Booze Cruise departs with a dhow full of tanned travellers and jugs of island punch, whilst at full moon there's a lively beach party here where revellers can enjoy bonfires, music, acrobatic shows, fire eating, a buffet and cocktails. The feel at The Rocks is accurately reflected by its promotional flyer: 'You've found paradise; now take time to enjoy it'. From US$35/50/60 sgl/dbl/tpl b&b in a bungalow, whilst bandas are from US$12 pp. The dormitory is US$10 pp. All rates include b/fast.