Very few holidays can combine luxury and adventure like a safari. Where once were tents and fires now stand oases of opulence, their splendour further emphasised by their beautifully remote location. Those who have travelled to these outposts of civilisation will also tell you that, while there is nothing quite like the thrill of the wild, early starts and the great outdoors can be tiring. There is no better compliment to a week of safari than a relaxing week on the beach with Tanzania conveniently offering the finest examples of both. While Zanzibar and the mainland coast offer a fine array of five star luxury, for that oft-sought exclusivity nothing surpasses these five private island lodges…
Conde Nast regularly vote Mnemba as one of the top three most romantic beach destinations in the world. Easily accessible from anywhere in Tanzania, Mnemba is simply the place to be, full stop. The white coral beach is the best in Tanzania, made all the more amazing by its proximity to Zanzibar, where the beaches are heavily affected by the tides. Step into the crystal clear waters and experience snorkelling and diving better than anything else in the region. Dive centres on Zanzibar that are close to Mnemba will try and get their boats as close to the island as possible!
After your day spent on the beach or diving (two per day are included) you can walk off the beach and back into your beautiful banda to find that your butler has prepared your favourite drinks for your arrival. The seamless service, never too pushy but always there when needed, makes for a stay that can be as relaxed as you want it to be. The bandas themselves are not for those wanting flat screen TVs and mini bars – Mnemba is for those who want the ultimate romantic private island getaway. Each sits just back from the beach, allowing for total seclusion. Although you are on a small private island, the food is akin to a top London, focusing on a healthy mixture of Swahili and contemporary European cuisine. We don’t agree on much in our office but on this we are unified – Mnemba is the finest private island off the coast of East Africa.
A new and incredibly exciting beach option in Tanzania, six banda Fanjove has turned the private island game on its head. Apart from Chumbe, the other islands on this list charge a high price for their exclusivity. Fanjove, on the other hand, offers an exciting slice of Robinson Crusoe chic at a fraction of the price of its competitors. The design is rustic, but this only adds to the thrilling sense of shipwrecked isolation that emanates from the island. As the boat from Songo Songo transports you ever-closer, the breathtaking beauty of this island reveals itself inch by inch over the horizon.
If you have ever dreamed of being ship-wrecked on a tropical island, Fanjove should be on your bucket list. The six rooms, spread out along the edge of the palm forest, are kept deliberately simple in an attempt to blend better with their surroundings. Walk down the pristine white beach, past the crumbling beach hut and resident Coconut Crabs, to the main area where some of the freshest seafood in Africa is prepared and served. The ubiquitous brilliant snorkelling and diving, night time fires on the beach and kite surfing complete this amazing slice of natural paradise.
The most striking aspect to Vamizi is the size. Although, Mnemba, number one on this list, is not small, Vamizi has a breathtaking 7km of pristine beach often referred to as Africa’s best. The marine designated conservation project affords exceptional diving, arguably better than anywhere else in Africa. The thirteen enormous villas are spread so far apart it feels as if you have the island all to yourself. Each comes with a tastefully designed balcony and seating area leading on to the bedroom and bathroom. It is undoubtedly one the finest examples of laid-back luxury in the world.
Vamizi also attracts guests with some of the best big game fishing in Africa including Sailfish and Marlin. Although you won’t be able to eat these prize fish, the lodge’s Jamie Oliver trained chef will be happy to prepare fresh sushi as you discuss the day’s events over a cocktail. In this author’s opinion, Vamizi is paradise.
In remote Northern Mozambique, Azura Quilalea rewards those who make the journey down from Tanzania with some of the finest hosting in Africa. From the moment you are greeted upon landing on nearby Quirimba you are given some of the finest and most personalised service in Africa. The island itself is a rugged spec of white sand and forest, surrounded by some of the clearest water on earth.
As with all islands in the area, the snorkelling and diving are incredible – even straight off the beach! The 9 private villas are large and beautifully decorated in beach chic style, each opening up onto the beach and incredible views. It’s one of the finest romantic getaways in Africa.
Zanzibar’s first marine sanctuary, Chumbe is colourful little island surrounded by a shallow reef alive with 90% of all coral species ever recorded in East Africa. Home to over 350 species of fish, sea turtles and lobster, the reef offers excellent snorkelling right off the beach. Chumbe is a deliberately simple eco-lodge for those wanting to leave no footprint on their island paradise.
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Tanzania Odyssey.