Two Zanzibar properties enable ecofriendly relaxation

By Jeremy Green
Milele Villas, ZanzibarZanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, has something for everyone.

Beach bums can lie on smooth, white-sand beaches and let the warm, aquamarine Indian Ocean kiss their toes. Foodies will revel in a culinary culture woven with African, Arab, Indian and Chinese influences, a rich tapestry stemming from the island's days as a center of trade. Divers and snorkelers can explore world-class reefs just a short boat ride from the main island.

And as I discovered during two recent property stays, such diversions don't come at the expense of ecofriendliness. The Matemwe Beach Village, a hotel on the northeast coast, and Milele Villas, two units on a private stretch of sand, each cater to the socially conscious and environmentally aware traveler.

Matemwe has accommodations ranging from double rooms to lovely "suites," actually two-story stone-and-thatch houses with a living room, bedroom, bath and upstairs area with a hammock to catch a nap.

After a day of sunning yourself by the refreshing two-level pool, you will build up an appetite for dinner, which might include fresh seafood caught nearby and prepared with spices from the island. The wine list is solid, with well-priced South African gems. Rates include breakfast and dinner.

But Matemwe is also a place for divers and snorkelers. There's a five-star PADI dive center inside the hotel, and daily excursions are available to Mnemba atoll, one of Africa's best dive spots.

Matemwe Beach Village supports the community by hiring locals, buying local ingredients and celebrating rather than discouraging the local women who collect seaweed at low tide.

Milele Villas offers a private, ecofriendly Zanzibar experience. Its two beachfront villas, surrounded by colorful, flowering trees and plants, can be rented alone or together.

The only other person you may encounter on the considerable stretch of beach fronting the villas is the occasional fisherman; other tourists are nowhere in sight.

These houses drip island-ecofriendly: The power is wind-generated, the water warmed by the sun and the rooms cooled by the breezes. The furniture is fashioned from recycled dhows, boats that take their form from those used by the original Arab traders.

To top it off, Milele Villas come with a great private chef preparing locally caught seafood and other specialties (the rate includes three meals a day), a house manager on hand day and night and a car for travelers to visit sights on the island, from spice farm tours to Stone Town, the old part of Zanzibar City, to nearby beaches.

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