La Gemma Dell'Est in Kendwa
(138 rooms) Ø 024 2240087; f 024 2240089
www.planhotel.com (LAGEMM 5º44.631'S; 39º17.369'E).
La Gemma Dell'Est fully opened in July 2005 at the northern end of Kendwa Beach. It's about 800m north of White Sands Beach Hotel, and barely 1.5km south of Nungwi's Baobab Beach Bungalows. It's a large hotel, managed by the Swissbased firm PlanHotel SA, and is certainly the most stylish of Zanzibar's large resorts. Sensitive architecture and stunning landscaping create a feeling of tremendous space, while minimal tidal changes allow for swimming in the sea all day. The hotel's 138 rooms have been cleverly built along the natural contours of the landscape, making them appear lower-density and fairly unobtrusive, while also allowing each one a seaview veranda. Inside, there are contemporary and comfortable, each having a kingsize bed or twin beds with mosquito net, a ceiling fan and AC, satellite TV, minibar, electronic safe, and an en-suite marble bathroom; everything you'd expect from a good, modern hotel. Thoughtfully planted screens offer privacy on each terrace and the emerald lawns and swathes of established exotic vegetation (all neatly labelled) make a beautiful foreground to the setting sun over the Indian Ocean.
A walk around the sloping grounds to see the likes of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates) the size of pampas grass, the stunning russet flowers of the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) or the crimson coral tree (Erythrina variegate) is highly recommended. The beach here is wide and beautiful, with nice loungers and makuti umbrellas dotted around the raked sand. The enormous, floodlit swimming pool is also set right on the beach, with a children's area, jacuzzi, waterfall, and swim-up cocktail bar. There is hotel security on the beach to ensure no hassle for sunbathers yet Kendwa's clutch of beach bungalows and their associated bars and restaurants are an easy 10-min walk south, past the proliferation of beach huts selling colourful local artwork.
La Gemma has several bars and restaurants, from the sleek Pavilion serving tasty Mediterranean buffets to the Coral Cove alfresco pizzeria by the pool, and the intimate, à la carte seafood restaurant, Sea Breeze, at the end of the jetty. With the exception of the last, all food and drink is on a totally flexible, allinclusive basis, and the Italian influence ensures that the food is invariably very good. By day, there's a PADI diving centre, outdoor gym, countless watersports, beach volleyball, sailing and even snorkelling over the artificial reef – created when the jetty was built – to keep everyone occupied, then the selection of optional evening entertainment kicks off with everything from quizzes to musical Swahili beach BBQs. Children are well catered for at La Gemma, with cots, highchairs and babysitting all available. The staff's attitude is extremely positive towards families, and with a children's pool, easy access to food and drink all day, a good beach with easy swimming, and on-site doctor in case of accidents, La Gemma makes one of Zanzibar's best choices for families. Deluxe US$168–324 pp dbl; villa US$192–348 pp, dbl; suite US$228–384; presidential villa US$2,622–5,760.When sharing with parents, children up to 6 stay free; age 7–12 50% discount on pp, dbl rate.