Photographer Simon and his new bride Rachel Gow had the trip of a lifetime at Echo Beach – here they share their story…
Our honeymoon was a trip of a lifetime and after all the excitement of the wedding it was just the chance we needed to relax and start our married life together. Echo Beach Hotel resort offers a real slice of paradise on the dreamy tropical island of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is known as the ‘Spice Island’ because of its long-standing association with the clove industry and has always exerted a powerful fascination the world over. Set in the dazzling seas off the east coast of Tanzania, the archipelago of Zanzibar is still one of the Indian Ocean’s best-kept secrets. As well as some of the world’s best beaches there is also the stunning old city of Stone Town. Stone Town has a rich and varied history, bustling bazaars and grand Arab houses. It feels like you’re in a real life movie set, very Indiana Jones minus the baddies! It’s just a brief car journey away from the hotel and a driver was at the airport to greet us. We left the town behind and drove through mangroves and the stunning Jozani Forest. Here you can see the red colobus monkey, which is endemic to the main island, and there is thought to be just up to 3,000 remaining.
When we arrived at Echo Beach Hotel the views across the Indian Ocean opened up before us and for once I was speechless. We were greeted with a much welcome drink and following a speedy check-in we were shown to our Banda (villa). Each one is individually designed and constructed from local stone, capped with Makuti roofs and painted in an iridescent white paint that catches the sun’s rays. Each Banda has brightly coloured voile curtains around the veranda and exquisitely hand-carved balconies and verandas where you can enjoy a drink in the shade, while taking in the view across the horizon. The Bandas are completely private and not overlooked, which let us relish the unspoilt surroundings and uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. Bedrooms at Echo Beach are individually decorated with fine silks, locally commissioned furniture, handpicked antiques and pictures. Even the bathroom / wetroom with its powerful shower had individual touches, such as bespoke towel rail ladders made from local coconut wood. A complimentary bottle of Champagne on our first night, served on our terrace, added to the romantic setting. The spacious veranda measuring in excess of 20 square metres, was stylishly furnished, with day beds so you can languish away the hours or enjoy a romantic meal.
Locations don’t get more romantic than Echo Beach Hotel as it is set on its own private beach – voted one of the top 30 beaches in the world by Conde Naste Travel.
Echo Beach Hotel belongs to the British hosts Sue and Andrew Page who bought the plot of unspoilt beach 7 years ago and built their dream hotel. It is great to sit and chat to them and learn about living in Zanzibar. Sue has a background in interior design and Andrew is a French-trained Chef who has cooked for British Prime Ministers and celebrities and now us. The couple ran a Chambre d’Hôte in France for 14 years and received high praise from the likes of Alistair Sawday and a number of other prestigious guides, which we liked when we were looking to book.
Food at Echo Beach Hotel is another big draw. Dining in the beachside restaurant is a highly pleasurable experience. There was a refreshing breeze blowing in from the sea. We found you could really unwind and relax with a decadent cocktail in the stylish bar area where again, vibrant designer fabrics are teamed with Zanzibar carved furnishings. Sometimes we would wander down to the unique Dhow Bar on the beach and enjoy refreshments by the seashore. We wanted to experience a true taste of Zanzibar and there was a wealth of fresh local food on the menu, not to mention some carefully selected international favourites for those who wanted them. We tended to try something new every night. I loved the crabs’ claws coated in aromatic spices. Produce is purchased daily, including lobster, crab, barracuda, King fish and squid straight from local fisherman who come to the beach. You don’t get fresher food than this.
We got on brilliantly with all the staff and tapped into their local knowledge and let them arrange for us to explore the magical island, taking in the legendary Spice Tour. While spices no longer dominate Zanzibar’s economy as they once did, there are still numerous spice plantations in the centre of the island, which make an interesting visit. Friendly and informed guides escorted us on a walking tour of the spice farms, picking bunches of leaves, fruit and twigs from bushes and trees, inviting us to smell or taste them to guess what they were. Swimming with Dolphins is also a magical experience easily arranged through the hotel so you get a good price. These are just some of the adventures we enjoyed as well as diving, fishing and snorkelling in one of the most unspoilt areas of the world. Echo Beach Hotel even has its own PADI diving school. If this all sounds too energetic, you can just sunbathe by the pool or take advantage of the Beauty Spa.
This hotel only has 13 rooms – all boasting incredible sea views. There are never hordes of people on the beach or round the pool, so you feel like you are on your own private island. The Hotel was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in 2012 by Tripadvisor and as far as I am concerned it’s really well deserved.
Direct flights are available from London Heathrow and London Gatwick to Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ). Try: www.cheapflights.co.uk/flights/Zanzibar/ www.echobeachhotel.com
This article went in to the Spring / Summer edition of Leicestershire Weddings which is out now at retailers throughout Leicestershire.