Chapwani is a small hotel on a private island surrounded by white sandy beaches only ten minutes away by boat from the Zanzibar capital Stone Town, a fascinating and enchanting city offering a wealth of colours, fragrances and flavours, a place to savour both by day and by night.
At Chapwani you can enjoy the many services and features available for your relaxation, as well as a high level of privacy.
Chapwani Private Island has facilities to accommodate a maximum of 20 guests, having 10 bedrooms in total, all with a stunning view of the white, coral beach.
The island is situated just over a mile from the coast to the north-west of Stone Town. It can be reached comfortably within 15 minutes from Stone Town by one of our boats.
It is a coral island nearly a kilometre long and some 100 metres wide. The island is surrounded by small coves, sandy bays and crystal blue waters, and is perfect for snorkelling, windsurfing and diving at the many interesting locations near the island.
At one end of the island a large white sandbank emerges from the sea at low tide. From here one can swim at all tide times.
The southern end of the island has a number of small sandy coves but is covered by thick vegetation. The large herd of some 60 suni, a type of miniature antelope native to Zanzibar, hide here during the heat of the day in the thick undergrowth, to emerge in the evening in the open. They are also shy but are now used to the presence of humans on the island and can be seen easily on Chapwani.
In recent months, two fish eagles have made their home on the island and can often be seen fishing off the shore or perched on a large baobab.
One of the trees at the southern end of the island is also home to a large flock of fruit bats (over 1,000) that sleep in the safety of the island during the day and leave in large swarms at dusk towards the mainland, returning only shortly before dawn to their resting place.
Along the south-west coast of the island runs the sea wall, protecting the small but fascinating British seamen’s graveyard. This is a historic monument of great interest and beauty and the graves through their inscriptions tell the stories of tall ships, battles with Arab slaving dhows during the slave wars and the sinking of HMS Pegasus, with the first shot to be fired in the First World War.
From here the long sandy beach stretches for over 500 yards all the way to the northern tip of the island. The sand is fine and white and perfect for swimming for some 8 hours out of 12. At low tide, the coral reef surrounding the island is uncovered, revealing crevices and pools in the coral, full of multi-coloured small shore life. Shoals of flying fish can often be seen off the island and dolphins regularly pass close by the shore.
In the early morning a flock of white egrets and other sea birds gather at the northern tip of the island. An early morning dip in this spot is an unforgettable experience, the birds dive in the water all around you, totally oblivious to your presence.
The two little coves at the north of the island provide perfect privacy and must be one of the most idyllic spots in the whole of Zanzibar to spend a day on the beach in total isolation.
Moving round the island to the north-eastern coast of Chapwani, we come to a natural pool, emptied at each low tide through a small gap in the coral but refilled with fresh sea water with each tide. This is another idyllic spot to swim and sunbathe.
The trees above the pool are often the resting place of a dozen black herons. We ask guests not to use this beach when the birds are on the island, as we are trying to do everything to encourage their permanent presence.
The remainder of the north-east coast is lined with rugged coral broken by only a couple of small isolated coves suitable for swimming only at high tide.
At night the lights of Stone Town sparkle in the distance and the stars above are breathtaking. Dinner can be organised for you in an isolated spot on the island.
There are only 10 rooms on the whole island, situated in 5 separate bandas on the beach. Each room has its own terrace and lounge beds on the beach in front of the room.
The island has no natural water and all the water is brought by our own water boat to meet the needs of guests. Hot water is available in the evening heated by a large Heath Robinsonian wood-burning boiler.
The only power on the island comes from the generator situated on the opposite side of the island out of ear shot.
The rooms have electricity during the day but the generator is switched off at mid-night and each room has a lantern on the porch for use during the night. Plugs in the room are continental European two-pin plugs.
The rooms are simply furnished with a four poster bed, a mosquito net, ceiling fan, wardrobe and traditional Zanzibari writing desk. A banana leaf shutter closes the room from the light outside whilst letting through a fresh breeze.
There is no air-conditioning in the rooms – given the power situation this would be impossible – but each room has a ceiling fan above the bed. Each room has its own separate toilet and a large bathroom with wash basin and shower area.
The restaurant is on the waters edge on the north-eastern side of the island and is covered by a large makuti (local thatch) roof.
The food is excellent and has a strong local flavour. The menu is based around freshly caught fish and crustaceans, when available. The cuisine has a touch of Italian style, as the Zanzibari cook was trained in an Italian Hotel. The island, whilst private, does have an obligation to allow visitors, given the presence of the historic monument. Therefore there are sometimes outside guests at the restaurant at lunch times. It should be noted that numbers are restricted and given the size of the island total privacy is guaranteed.
With a maximum of 20 guests, the island is highly secluded and tranquil, yet is only 15 minutes with our courtesy boat from bustling Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. There is a free transfer boat that leaves the island for Stone Town at 9.00am and returns at 4.30pm. Transfers can be organised at other times of the day for a cost of $10 per person. Pick-up and return from and to the airport can be arranged at a cost of only US$20 per person. We will wait for your flight as long as it takes.
This exotic City, a world heritage site, was the trading centre of East Africa for slaves, ivory and spices in the 18th and 19th Century, and was the starting point of the great expeditions into the heart of Africa by the explorers Stanley and Livingstone. The narrow streets lined with Moorish palaces are still perfumed with the scent of exotic spices and alive with the cry of the muezzin. Chapwani is a perfect base for discovering the whole of Zanzibar and spice tours and excursions can be arranged from the island.
Excursions can be organised from Chapwani.
The most popular excursions are as follows: Spice Tour – Jozani Forest – Kizimkazi dolphins – Mangapwani beach – East Coast – Nunghwe.
The island is excellent for swimming and short excursions to nearby snorkelling sites can be arranged. Our boatmen know the sites well and a great day can be guaranteed.
The diving near Stone Town is excellent for inexperienced divers although advanced divers may find it slightly tame.
The best diving from the Zanzibar islands is off Pemba or the Southern island of Mafia which both offer sites of world renown. However for the occasional diver, there are some excellent sites in the waters off Chapwani and we can arrange diving with one of the well managed diving centres in town.
The island has four canoes, which can be used to explore the coast around the island.
There is a beach volley court on the island, petanque balls, and other games to break up the day.
We also can arrange trips with the local fishermen and sailing on an N’galawa, the small tri-marans which are the traditional coastal fishing and sailing vessels.