Stayed at Echo Beach for 4 nights following 9 day’s safaris in Rwanda and Tanzania where we hoped to get some R&R given we'd stayed at 5 different lodges and hotels and were a little exhausted from being on the move at this pace. In this regard, it fully ticked the box!
The beachfront location is secluded and relaxing with turquoise sea and golden sand and total peace and quiet to unwind. The hotel has 10 properties and we stayed in lodges 1 and 1a, which is a family lodge with a main bedroom with king size bed and an en-suite bathroom with shower, toilet and wash basin. The adjoining room, connected via a corridor off the main bedroom, has two single beds and a similar bathroom layout. The single beds look small but I'm 6ft and 17.5 stone and could lie on them without difficultly - sleeping might be another matter so I would suggest that the room is geared towards younger children rather than fully grown teenagers. Both rooms have a veranda with the main room having a day bed and the smaller room a couple of rickety chairs. The rooms are pleasant and spacious and the team at Echo Beach go to great lengths to ensure they are well presented and clean. Unfortunately, the toilets appear to be a `law unto themselves' and do not appear to be particularly well secured to the floor?! As such, there's some movement with both toilets leaking on arrival and the toilet in the main room leaking so badly that we had to lay towels down on the floor on the first night as a safety measure to avoid slipping. The leak appeared to be from the water pipe and not the soil pipe so I am confident there was no health issue. We reported it the following morning and half the staff in the hotel attended to resolve with haste and apologies. The matter was resolved without issue and did not pose a problem thereafter. Similarly, the bedspread was a little threadbare and having folded it off the bed one night when we were hot the staff must have thought we had an issue and replaced it promptly the following morning with a new bed spread. The mosquitoes are a blight and again we asked for extra spray one evening, as it's not left in the room, and were presented with a giant-size can the following day to use at our discretion. In the scheme of things, a couple of minor gripes that the hotel staff, with Sue's caring oversight, addressed effectively and hastily. Message is, please don't hesitate to ask if you need help as it will be received with a smile!
Of the 10 properties, we believe Sue & Andrew occupy one and another is used by Sue's daughter. That leaves 8 for guest with only one other couple staying for our first two nights and thereafter we were sole residents of the hotel meaning we received personal treatment at lunch and dinner but we left to our own devices during the day to "chillax" on the beach. We took a walk in both directions and generally the beach is clean and secure. It's an interesting coastline with a few beach-side properties clearly having failed and been allowed to slip in to a state of decomposition to be reclaimed by the flora and fauna. You do get hassled a little by locals trying to sell curios on the beach but a firm no sends them on their way. One day, whilst relaxing on our beach loungers, a large group of what looked like police/ army/ security personnel turned up at the hotel with some very official looking people. I thought it was some kind of local government visit, e.g. tourist minister, but we were told they were looking for some locals who'd stolen coconuts off trees along the beach front - bizarre! I still think they were some form of local big-wigs because they walked in to the hotel and were treated like royalty with both high and low-ranking staff offered free drinks etc. The staff appeared very attentive towards them suggesting there were not just some form of local security. My wife and daughter found their presence somewhat disconcerting but when I went in to the bar area to use the Wi-Fi they were all very engaging, polite and smiling.
The food at the hotel is fantastic and I must say it was the best we had during our 13-night stay in Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar and that's saying something given we'd generally stayed in 4-5 star lodges. I believe Andrew was the original chef but, whilst he might oversee the menu and operation, responsibility has passed on. The evening menu is peppered with seafood choices as you would expect with lobster, prawns and local fish on offer. Lunch time meals are light and pitched exactly how I like them so that you do not feel like you've eaten a cow as you return to your restful activities. We've been back a month now and I'm struggling to recall exactly what we ate but the culinary experience is a highlight of this hotel and worthy of 5-stars.
All the staff are pleasant, polite and helpful. We decided to visit Stone Town and rather than utilise the agent who collected us at the airport, Fatima (hotel Reception/ General Manager under Sue) negotiated a special price arrangement, which provided for a return taxi in to Stone Town and local tour guide at 50% of what we would have paid on an official trip. Having said this, I wouldn't return as we found Stone Town to be somewhat dirty, smelly and oppressive. It has the potential to be beautiful and as a UNESCO's World Heritage Site it should be but clearly corruption is taking its toll with money for investment being routed elsewhere?! Andrew even commented that outside of being smelly and dirty the town has little to offer! I wanted to see it and take my wife and daughter there to experience an authentic Arabic/ Muslim city. It's advisable to dress accordingly as some international female guest haven't quite grasped the cultural disrespect of walking the streets of a mainly Muslim town in shorts and vest t-shirts!
We had such a relaxing and tranquil stay at Echo Beach with great food, friendly hosts and a boutique hotel virtually to ourselves. The beachfront is lovely but I wouldn't waste your time and money on island excursions as Zanzibar itself is very similar to the Caribbean with the island interior being in stark contrast to the beach resorts. Sue and Andrew couldn't have been any nicer or accommodating. However, and this really is the only gripe, the pictures on the hotel web site and some of the TA guest pictures were clearly taken many years ago, just after the hotel was renovated (I guess when Sue and Andy acquired it), and many of them do not resemble the property today. For example, the pool area shows an almost-newly paved area that is pristine when, in reality, it is now worn and in need of a good jet wash. The rooms all look fantastic in the photos but clearly there are issues that need addressing. Whilst we were very polite and respectful of the minor inconveniences, a leaking toilet is something that simply should not be experienced in a 4 or 5-star hotel. A quick lick of paint, a few days investment by the handyman and a refresh of some of the decor would bring the hotel back to its more glorious days as presented in the hotel brochure. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Echo Beach and it was a lovely stay but could have been a great staff if it were not for the small niggles we experienced.
I hope Sue and Andrew take this review positively, especially given the 4-star review. My review is intended to be constructed as the owners, staff, food, location and ambiance of the resort deserve 5-stars but I always believe reviews should reflect the truth and the small things that have stopped me giving 5-stars matter and could do with addressing.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC