This is a real rustic hideaway on a tiny island called Chole, 100kms south of Zanzibar. If you want lots of facilities and a resort atmosphere, you wonâ€™t like it here. If, on the other hand, you want a Robinson Crusoe-type escape from the world for a while, this will be perfect for you!
There are 6 treehouses on thatched platforms in large baobab trees, open to the cool sea breezes and with views of the sea. How romantic is that? Each treehouse has a king-size bed and most have a second level to accommodate children. They are set well apart to ensure privacy. There is no electricity here, so that means no aircon and the lighting is possibly best described as â€˜subtleâ€™. (There is somewhere to charge cameras etc though). The private bathroom area is at the base of the tree, and there is an open air shower and composting toilet. Again, this is not for everyone, but youâ€™ll probably know if this sounds right for you.
If you donâ€™t fancy a treehouse, or have young children with you, there is a large ground-house. It is built on several levels, has an en-suite bathroom with a sunken mosaic bath, and a large private garden.
The main banda houses the lounge, dining area and bar. There are day beds and cushions in the lounge, where you can browse through books and magazines or play board games, while enjoying the sea views. This is also an ideal spot to watch the sunset. The rooftop bar serves a range of soft and alcoholic drinks.
Dinner is usually served outdoors, either within the atmospheric ruins or by the sea. The table is lit by candles. The food has a strong Swahili influence, using a range of spices to produce intense but delicate flavours. Locally-caught fish is delivered daily and figures prominently on the menu and the vegetables are all grown on the island.
There are many activities to be enjoyed at Chole. Diving and snorkelling are excellent. Mafia Island Marine Park has some of the most unspoilt coral reefs in the world. For pure relaxation, you can be taken to a nearby sandbar for a day's sunbathing and swimming, complete with picnic lunch and refreshments, collected in time to enjoy a sundowner back at the bar. Chole has strong links with the local community so village visits are encouraged. There are also opportunities to visit neighbouring islands, go fishing, bird watching, swim with whale sharks (November to mid-April) and watch turtles hatching (July to November). Sunset dhow cruises are also popular. Relax and enjoy the pace of island life!
Open: Chole is open from the beginning of June to the end of March.
Location: Chole Island, next to Mafia Island, off the coast of Tanzania about 100ks south of Zanzibar. You fly to Mafia, are driven to Utende (30 minutes) from where it's a 5 minute boat ride to Chole.
Rooms: 6 tree houses and 1 ground house. Access to treehouss is via ladders. They are on platforms and have thatched roofs and walls made of coconut rope. There are mosquito nets over the beds. Bathrooms have a basin and you are provided with a bucket of hot water and a ladle. In he morning you cup of tea or coffee is hoisted up to the treehouse in a basket by means of a pulley. The ground house has a double and 2 single beds. It has a flush toilet.
Activities: Snorkelling, sunset cruises, dhow sailing, sandbank picnics and village and island walks. Extras include; scuba diving, whale watching (in season), fishing, turtle hatching experience (in season), lost city of Kua excursion, and spa treatments.
Facilities: The main pavilion is set in a grove of baobab trees and houses a library and lounge, and a the Haneshi bar. There is also a public bar called the Red Herring Bar which is on the foreshore where locals can join in. There is a laundry service.
Dining: Meals are served under the stars either near the creek or by the 19th-century ruins. Meat is rarely served, the emphasis here is on fish and seafood.
Children: The lodge accepts children of all ages but please be aware the lodge is fairly rustic and wild and children should be supervised at all times.
Health: This is a malarial area.
Communication: There is surprisingly good mobile reception, but no direct phone or fax. The manager has internet for emergency use.
Lodge website: www.cholemjini.com
Spend a week on a tropical Indian Ocean island. Submit to the gentle rhythm of life, easy and unhurried.
Not only is Chole Mjini very eco-friendly as regards the environment, but the lodge gives huge support to the local village in terms of education and medical aid. It deservedly gets our top score.
"Spending two nights in a hugely comfortable treehouse that's been built around a 1500 year-old baobab tree was truly unforgettable. The visit to the nearly village was great, and the ingenious spirit-lamp-heated shower was a fantastic experience! Excellent food, and a great eco-camp, with no electricity, compost loos etc. But no lack of comfort at all!"