Barefoot luxury off the coast of Zanzibar on Mnemba Island.
2 kilometers off the sandy shores of the African spice island, Zanzibar, lies another island, not too big in size but certainly big in arm chair traveller’s dreams, beauty and little treasures that make you feel like you are stepping onto royal soil.
The wind was quite strong that day, unusual for a day in the Tanzanian summer but who’s complaining? I’ll take a break from the 35 degrees Celsius any time. The reason for my thought was that to get to the idyllic little island of Mnemba you have to catch a boat from the Northeast shores of Zanzibar from a tiny little fishing spot, not big enough to be a village or even a dock – it doesn’t even exist on the map. The locals only know it as Muyuni and it definitely does not have a special deck for off loading or ‘all aboarding’. Having the start of your journey launch from the site of a few old dhows, palm trees and scattered sea shells all over the sand around you, already makes you feel like you’re going to a far, far, faraway land where sultans and traders sail the seas. One thing I can say about my days of bliss spent on the island is that it doesn’t make it hard for you to imagine you are in another world where the little things don’t feature and all you can think about is enjoying the moment right there and then.
Mnemba Island is inside of an atoll ensuring snorkeling and scuba diving beyond your imagination. A cool woodland forest builds up the middle of the island, which is home to two antelope species, the Suni and the endangered Ader’s duiker. Conservation and protection is something that the island lives by. They have an active programme involving the Ader’s Duiker and the coral reefs surrounding the island are a protected marine conservation area. I wasn’t lucky enough to see the very shy and secretive Ader’s duiker but saw plenty of Suni who actually ate out of my hands on numerous occasions. Diving the atoll is something a lot of divers dream about. Visibility is incredible especially after the rains, which makes the perfect time to dive between November and March. These coral reefs are home to 4 times the range of fish species than the Caribbean and the dive sites and drop offs will make you beg for another air cylinder. Dolphins and turtles are a common sighting while diving Mnemba and swimming with the dolphins is a regular day activity. Sometimes however, local boat charters bring guests to the waters outside of the island to swim with them and things can become a bit crowded. Sarah, manager of Mnemba island lodge says that they are busy putting together a proposal for there to only be a certain number of boats swimming with the dolphins at any given time otherwise things can become a bit traumatic to the dolphins. Apart from the activity in the water, during December and March rare Green turtles lay their eggs on the icing sugar sand and guests are invited to watch the mothers lay their eggs and also watch the baby turtles try get back to sea once they hatch – which very possibly (and usually is) around three in the morning. Each egg site has a “Date laid and date expected” sign post above it giving you the best chance of seeing either once in a lifetime sighting.
Whether it’s crabs dancing on the sand just before the waves meet the shore or the feeling on being completely alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Mnemba is a special place that feels different to any other island. And apart from having a pretty face, you’ll leave Mnemba feeling like a rejuvenated person, closer to nature and dare I say it, slightly royal.
How to get to there
As there is only one lodge on the island, andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge, you will be chauffeured to your destination from the airport. Once you arrive at the launch point (there is no jetty), a 20 minute boat ride will get you to your remote island getaway.
Day trips and diving can be planned through various tour operators on mainland Zanzibar at Nungwi and Matemwe, to explore the beautiful marine life. Dolphins often visit the reefs surrounding Mnemba so your chances of swimming with these beautiful creatures are high.
To view more pictures of this stunning lodge, view my full blog post from the shoot.
I’m hoping this post is good enough to help me win the awesome Travelstart Blogger Experience contest – you can have a look at the competition here. Please share this story if it makes you want to be there!