Our project director Stepan Borovec just returned from a honeymoon at Tulia Zanzibar. He hasn’t stopped talking about blue skies and African beach vibes. And in his loved-up post-honeymoon daze, here he shares his African island experience with you.
Choosing a Honeymoon Destination
For our honeymoon we wanted something tropical, somewhere we could rest, sunbathe, eat, drink and do nothing. Except we’re not typical beach people and we quickly get bored. So we also wanted a destination that offered something unique outside the resort. And we’d never visited Africa. So Zanzibar.
“Did you know that Zanzibar’s best two hotels are owned by Czechs? I chose Tulia after a chance encounter with Lukas Sinogl, the GM. Soon we were on the beach drinking coconut water – every morning the barman climbed a tree and chopped down fresh coconuts for us.”
First Zanzibar Impressions
I expected something like the Seychelles or Mauritius – a touristic island paradise. Wrong! We touched down on Zanzibar and quickly realised this is true Africa. The vibe is real. Our first interactions with both the island and its people were so authentic. It felt most similar to my travel experiences in Brazil, those Southern Hemisphere, happy vibes.
Driving to Tulia took one hour, navigating the crazy narrow streets of Stone Town and the island roads with no lines. It was fun, but no chance I would ever get a rental here. Tulia is located on the east of the island. Here there are just a small number of resorts and some local villages here. It felt remote and African.
When the resort gate opened Masai people were beating their drums, a warm and traditional welcome. Soon we were tucked away in a garden bungalow. Every day housekeeping arranged our bed with fresh flowers and sprayed it with a lemongrass fragrance – back in Prague I miss that scent of Zanzibar.
Tulia Zanzibar Rooms
Most of Tulia’s management team is Czech and Slovak. It was Petra who gave me a tour of this small, 16-room resort. Every room has unique decor and the design is very local, with lots of wood and stone.
The garden bungalows are entry level and are actually two bungalows in one – they are perfect for families or two couples sharing. However, the downside is that you can hear the other room. Unfortunately, on some occasions our noisy neighbours ruined the experience.
The garden bungalow wasn’t private enough so for a future visit we’d definitely go for a beachfront villa. They are bigger (190㎡ x 120㎡) and completely private. Plus they have hammocks on a private beach terrace.
The other Czech-owned option is Zuri, located in the north of Zanzibar. I went for a day visit and it definitely has better design and higher quality accommodation. The rooms have private jacuzzis and it’s a much bigger property. However, the area is lot busier with many dozens of resorts and far more tourists. The north and Zuri felt much closer to Europe, or to an experience on the Seychelles. I preferred the atmosphere and imperfectly perfect service at Tulia.
Amenities, service and the bar
At Tulia I realised the spirit of Zanzibar and the huge difference between this African island and the first leg of our honeymoon – Dubai. It’s all about the staff. Everyone is so friendly and heart-warming. They talk to you like friends. In Dubai the service is without flaws, but it’s not personal. At Tulia I didn’t mind waiting a few minutes longer, or drinking a mojito instead of the pina colada I ordered. This was the Zanzibar experience.
The people bring their personality and it’s so much more than knowing guests by name. My wife Christina was served fresh watermelon juice every morning because they knew she loved it. Every day I played football with the Masai, Czech staff and other guests, with families of the more than 100 staff cheering on from the sides.
“There’s wildlife as well. A bushbaby lives in the trees near the bar. It’s a small and shy primate. Every evening it came down from the tree for a piece of banana. Really, he’s the star of the bar!”
If you are angry at slow service then I’ll tell you, Zanzibar is not a destination for you. Here you have people living in basic huts and shacks, working in a five-star hotel. Everyone is doing their very best for your well being and you quickly learn to slow down. Here the barman was not the barman. He was our friend.
We spent our days on the beach, in the garden, around the two pool areas (one of them has cool slides) and at the spa. There’s a gym but who uses the gym on their honeymoon? Also, it’s not a spa resort, but my wife enjoyed good massages and procedures with local products.
We went all inclusive which is really worth it (bed and breakfast is an option). It’s true all inclusive, including everything, such as Champagne, with a set menu for lunch and dinner. The food was delicious, especially all the fresh fish and local Swahili dishes. The chef also tries to make any specific meal guests request. Again, if you like this authenticity you will like Tulia, but if you want perfect Western food there are better destinations. Every night there was something cultural – like an acrobat show, a Masai performance, drummers, live bands, or a barbecue in the garden.
Most of the food comes from Tulia’s own garden. Every day the gardeners would wave at us as they tended to peppers, chickens, ducks and home-grown vegetables. One Slovak couple sneaked into the garden every evening to grab fresh chillies for their meals!
As we hoped there were a lot of activity options, so this wasn’t just a beach resort honeymoon. Like swimming with turtles, walking around Stone Town, and a sunset ride with Champagne in a vintage Armstrong Siddeley car from the 1950s. The car was imported and owned by the last Sultan of Zanzibar in the 1960s!
Zanzibar is very tidal and Tulia’s beach disappears at high tide. One morning at low tide we were driven to Uzi Island. With a sharp knife I was harvesting my own oysters off the reef – the locals had no idea we considered these oysters such an expensive delicacy in Europe.
The rising tide created a private island where we ate a fresh fish barbecue beneath the palms. Then we kayaked back to Zanzibar island and I capsized in the mangroves.
Tulia was one of my most emotional holidays. Of course that was because of my wife! But I also felt so connected to the island and people. Yes, it’s not the most luxurious resort in the world. There are no marble bathrooms. But you don’t want to have too many over the top things here – that’s not the concept.
I’m certain I will return. Tulia are building two more small resorts, one that’s adult only and one for families, either side of their existing property.
I want to go back to Zanzibar for the imperfectly perfect service and staff who became friends. I want those smiles way more than I want marble.