An island about a mile in circumference at high tide, quite a bit larger at low tide. A luxury Robinson Crusoe retreat off the coast of Zanzibar. The dream of a “pazzo” italian. A semi forced acquisition by the former CC Africa now, &Beyond that wanted to purchase the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge and had to take this resort to clinch the deal- it is now one of their most popular. A honeymoon hot spot, scuba divers paradise. A beach retreat after a safari. A quick get away for South Africans. To know Mnemba is to love Mnemba.
12 luxury bandas- if by luxury you mean no windows, mosquito netting gracefully draped over your bed, thatched floors, no noise except the doves, perfect service, immaculate soft white sand, lovely food, a clear blue ocean with dhows on the horizon.
It is a bit of a hike to get there, about an hour drive from Stone Town, Zanzibar’s capital and a Unesco World Heritage Site, though the access road is improving- hard to decide if that is progress as it may mean more people on the coast- a One and Only development is rumored. We tend to fly to Dar Es Salaam from Amsterdam, spend a night or two at the lovely Oyster House in Dar and then fly up to Stone Town- more on that in a separate post. The drive is followed by a short boat trip, departing from the beach amid the fishing dhows and, depending on the time of day, the fishermen laden with octopus or fish hung from small hooks.
The fantasy then begins. Many of the staff assemble at the beach to great you with waves, cold towels and lime drinks. You meet your personal butler. Your luggage is whisked away to your banda. You are given a brief tour of the resort, boat house, dining area, living room, shop, dropped off at your banda and left to relax, swim, paddle board, snorkel….
If you are lucky, during your stay you will have the opportunity to see giant sea turtles come up the beach in the dead of night to lay their eggs or- 52 days or so later – ” assist” by standing near and deterring crabs and birds in the determined walk of the newly born turtles to the ocean. Those are not tire tracks….
You will definitely have the opportunity to encounter at least one of the tiny deer like inhabitants, the shy Suni and even shyer Ader that roam the island. The rustling you hear around you is often them or the crabs, scurrying to hide from you.
Sundown in Africa is always a special event and at Mnemba you may be taken out in a dhow to sail about the island with the libations of your choice or your wonderful butler – Roger in our case- will bring it to your beach. A bit later in the evening, all of the guests and a few members of the staff assemble in the living room area, an open bar area for drinks, to share stories of their day and other travels. A great way to learn more about the wonders and beauties of Africa.
Dining is generally in the small dining area, with tables set out on the beach, lit by candles though “special” evenings are surprises organized by the staff with tables set up in the middle of the woods, outside of your banda on the beach. The food is healthy, tasteful and varied- you may end up craving red meat after a few days and if so they can accommodate a hamburger. Although there is a set menu for each meal, at breakfast, the chef will come by, tell you about it, and you are free to make any changes you desire.
A member of the staff is a fantastic massage therapist and yoga practitioner- Dale I miss you- and also comes by either at breakfast or during lunch to arrange for times. The massages or yoga sessions are set up in your banda.
The scuba diving and snorkeling occur either right off the beach, or after short boat rides to adjoining reefs.
Time flies by and as soon as you leave, on the flight back, you plan your return.