Mnemba Island Lodge
0774 438 656
Mnemba Island Lodge Reviews
No Shoes Required Jan 10, 2014
Mnemba Island Lodge is a 5 star barefoot private island just off the coast of Zanzibar. It is owned by & Beyond which is known to own some outstanding lodges in Africa including the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Albeit it is an expense, know this, they do things right.
The drive to Mnemba is a bit of a long and bumpy ride taking approximately ninety minutes, ending at the coastal edge of Zanzibar. There you have to wade to a small motor boat that carries you over to the private island. Once there you hop off and again wade only a few steps to your sand paradise.
Mike and Sarah are a lovely married couple who manage Mnemba being both very casual and professional in their manner. We were greeted by Mike and our butler, Roger, who awaited us with ice waters and tropical drinks. Roger is a very warm hearted soul and informed us he would be our personal butler for the duration of our stay, attending to any need that we might have. He informed us we would never see another soul our entire visit if we wished not to. You do not land here if you are in the mood to be a social butterfly, so I could not imagine being greeted any better way.
We were shown to our banda and I was in no way disappointed. The bandas are like the rest of my experience of Africa - rustic elegance. They are wonderfully spacious, open air structures that blend harmoniously with their natural environment. There are hessian blinds you can lower for a bit more privacy if desired, yet the sense of being the only one on the island is so great I never felt a need to do this. The bathroom is spacious with a stoned-in shower and glass-beaded shower curtain, and there is a separate toilet room. The bed quarter looks directly onto the sand and water. It’s a spectacular view to awake to. One step down from the bed area lands you on an inviting and well-furnished open air sitting area, and from there you step onto the sand. Lovely. A short path leads you to your very comfy day beds which also have shades you can drop to either protect you from the sun, or if you feel you are the most reclusive soul on earth, provide more privacy.
The lines between inside and outside the bandas are fantastically blurred so be prepared for a tiny guest or two. One night we had a lizard crawling across the top of our mosquito net which hangs over the bed. Another day a fairly large crab was hiding in a crevice of the stoned-in shower area. I was startled by her while I was showering and she quickly established an understanding of who had first dibs on the shower. I dubbed her Sheba the she-crab.
The sweet little suni deer will silently appear and will tiptoe right up to you if you sit still enough. They are a pleasure to see. After a cordial visit, they will silently disappear leaving a trail of dainty prints behind in the powdery white sand which does not retain heat and feels like silk under your feet in a therapeutic way.
The water is a beautiful warm turquoise and there is a reef that is popular with snorklers just a short swim from shore. No need to worry about all that privacy you paid for, they have to remain within a specified distance which is discreetly enforced.
It takes only about twenty minutes to leisurely stroll around the circumference of Mnemba. Its center consists of a small forest laced with narrow sand footpaths shared with the suni deer, doves - whose song I loved waking to, and scurrying crabs here and there.
There is an inviting open air bar and lounge area where you can be served or serve yourself, and a breakfast and dinner area with tables peppered around in the sand just steps across from the lounge area. All meals are served open air here just steps from the water. Unless, of course, you prefer a private table set up in front of your banda. The private table was my choice on all but one evening. The only light you dine by is dancing candlelight.
The one dinner we did have in the social area allowed just a bit of chit chat with a newlywed couple from California. We saw no one else but the chef and butlers.
Each morning the chef puts the menu for the day out. While we would breakfast, Roger and often the chef as well, came around and asked if there was anything that was not on the menu that was preferred. They also always inquired if there were any special requests for dinner that evening. The food was simple, but always delicious with never a need for special requests of any kind. All menus emphasized fresh fish and we often would watch the fishermen wade ashore to tote their catch up to the chef. Fresh greens, tomatoes, fruit, and wonderful aromatic spices seemed to be blended into each meal with an artist’s hand and never did an entree taste like a repeat.
As promised, Roger served us every meal and catered to us without intrusion. He would also bring us sundowners every evening so we could sit and watch the sunset with our drink of choice while playing a game of chess. With Roger, I feel we were assigned the kindest, most generous soul on the island. He would appear like a genie before we could wish for a thing.
Good points to mention were a library with a computer and internet access and there is a small souvenir shop behind the bar and lounge area. There are no phones or televisions in the bandas (why would there be?) and while my friend had to be connected at least once a day, I had no problem being disconnected from the rest of the world. Indeed, I relished every minute of it.
There are ten bandas on the tiny island but we only saw two other guests, and only once in the entirety of our days there.
In conclusion, I would plan a stay on Mnemba differently. I would park myself on Mnemba for three weeks and safari for four days rather than the other way around. Okay not really, but then again, maybe...
Notes - They provide snorkle equipment, kayaks, a bag of exercise equipment, books, sand, sun, fresh air and privacy. They also offer scuba equipment and diving lessons though this is not included in the cost.
Low points - I was a tad uncomfortable being treated like royalty, but I got used to it.
Cautions: Mnemba is a paradise to simply be alone with yourself and/or whoever you choose to accompany you. Do not even think about visiting Mnemba if you do not know how to unplug and relax.
"forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."~Khalil Gibran
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