Tanzania’s top 9 Indian Ocean getaways

East Africa’s coast is lined with turquoise waters, powder-soft beaches and some of the planet’s most beautiful tropical islands. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in Tanzania’s Zanzibar archipelago. Here are our top 9 beach properties off Tanzania’s coast for the most perfect idyllic getaway.

Mnemba Island

No list of top Zanzibar properties would be complete without Africa’s flagship beach lodge – Mnemba Island. The wonderful island of Mnemba is just 10 minutes’ boat ride off Zanzibar itself and is well respected as one of the planet’s finest private islands. Surrounded by coral reef and some of the best beaches in the world, Mnemba Island is the first lodge I’d suggest as an add-on to a top-end luxury safari. With only 10 rooms spread out amongst the forest in the centre of the island, Mnemba epitomises a ‘no shoes no news’ philosophy. With an eye-watering price tag of over $3,000, a night during peak season in this place is far from cheap, but if no-frills beach living is your thing then there are very few lodges worldwide to beat Mnemba.

Mnemba Island

Chumbe Island

This place rarely makes it onto a top beach property list, but Chumbe is a truly unique destination that is surrounded by some of the finest coral reefs in Africa. It may not have one of the region’s best beaches, but there are very few places as charming, as well priced and as interesting as this. Located off the coast of Zanzibar’s capital Stone Town, Chumbe is a lodge that receives few beach enthusiasts yet remains one of the most exciting properties in Africa for snorkelling. The beach itself is small, but a short stay here enriches your understanding of the richness of these waters and puts Zanzibar on the map for some of the best reefs in the world. I’d book it with time spent at a lodge where the beach is the focus.

Chumbe Island

Fundu Lagoon

This remotely located lodge sits on Pemba Island, the northern island in the Zanzibar archipelago. Most famous for being the luxury option away from the crowds yet still on Zanzibar itself, Fundu Lagoon has long been ideal for honeymooners and adventurers who are looking for something different. With access to the stunning picture-perfect Mesali Island as well as some of the very best diving waters in the entire region, Fundu Lagoon offers a host of activities alongside just lazing around on the beach. Suites are expensive, whereas standard rooms offer seriously good value for such a top-end lodge. A great option if the commercial side of Zanzibar is not to your liking.

Fundu Lagoon

White Sand Luxury Villas and Spa

White Sand is a fairly new addition to the Zanzibar lodge scene, but it has made quite an impact with its classy design and quiet location on a beautiful stretch of beach on the island’s east coast. With only 11 rooms, this premier lodge provides its guests with a private and personalised high-end experience that not many other properties on Zanzibar can rival! Despite its relatively small size, White Sand’s room categories are flexible – five one-bedroom villas, five two-bedroom villas and a five-bedroom presidential suite. This variety allows the lodge to cater for a broad spectrum of holiday goers – from honeymoon couples to larger families. White Sand also offers its guests a wide range of activities, including kite surfing, diving, snorkelling and the use of beach bikes!

White Sand

Pongwe Beach Hotel

Situated on the quiet south-eastern side of Zanzibar, Pongwe Beach Hotel can arguably be considered one of the best value-for-money properties on the island, whilst providing consistently high-quality food and service. Pongwe Beach Hotel has its own private beach, which is a rarity on Zanzibar. Due to this privacy, Pongwe doesn’t have to contend with the nuisance of hawks and touts, unlike many other lodges. The secluded beach is ideal for guests who just want to relax on holiday. Whilst Pongwe doesn’t have its own watersports centre, snorkelling and diving excursions can be arranged via Reception – great news for more adventurous visitors to Zanzibar!

Pongwe

Kilindi Zanzibar

Kilindi is quite simply the ultimate honeymooners’ getaway. Each of its 12 pavilion rooms is isolated and boasts an uninterrupted view across the Indian Ocean. The Pavilions consist of a large, airy bedroom and a bathroom with a view to die for. These rooms are split by a patio and dipping pool – and there is certainly enough space for guests to while their days away without ever having to go to the communal areas! With its high standards of service and an excellent kitchen, Kilindi without doubt earns a place in the premier category of lodges. It is also located a mere 20-minute walk across the beach from Kendwa, which is arguably the best beach on the island!

Kilindi

Matlai Boutique Hotel

Matlai Boutique Hotel is in many ways quite unique on Zanzibar, both in its style and in its approach. There are currently only four rooms, although a further four are being built and are due to be completed in the coming months. This small scale allows Matlai to really pay attention to a guest’s every need. Flexibility is the norm here – and as a result, meal times and meal locations vary according to what the guest wants to do. Like many lodges on Zanzibar, Matlai does not have its own watersports centre, but guests wishing to snorkel or dive can do so through the dive centre on the nearest beach. The hotel is also located just a stone’s throw from The Rock, a famous restaurant that sits on a small coral outcrop off the beach and can only be reached by boat.

Matlai

Ras Kutani

Located some 40 kilometres to the south of Dar es Salaam along the Swahili coast, Ras Kutani offers an idyllic and isolated beach getaway. With its restful, laidback atmosphere, this lodge is ideal not only before a safari after a long international flight, but also after the rigours of early mornings and game-viewing activities. Watersports activities are somewhat limited here, with just snorkelling and canoeing available, so Ras Kutani is best suited to guests who are happy reading a book and generally relaxing.

Ras

Pole Pole

Pole Pole is located within the Marine Reserve on Mafia Island, which makes up a part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. While Pole Pole does not have the best of beaches, it does offer what can be considered the ultimate diving along the East African coastline, along with a good number of other activities – both on the water and in the form of excursions to neighbouring islands such as Chole. The lodge itself is intimate and comfortable, and the excellent food is truly the cherry on the cake!

Pole Pole

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris.

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Comments (6)

  1. Fernando says:

    Wow, so gorgeous!

    I realise we’re talking luxury here, and prices will be in accordance, but what would be the best option for the more budget-conscient traveller?

  2. Julian says:

    Hi Fernando,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes some of these are rather luxurious and on the more expensive side, however there are some very good economical options there also. I’m afraid the likes of Mnemba are hitting $1,500pppn in peak season…but somewhere like Pongwe is +/-$150pppn.

    In the ‘mid range’ price bracket Ras Kutani is superb – at approximately $300pppn….then there is White Sands at approximately $500pppn. I hope that gives you the range for your budget!

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    Hi Julian

    Pleasure to have you on board here, blogging with us – welcome!

    Funnily enough, we honeymooned on Mnemba Island back in 2003, combining it with a safari (Serengeti, Manyara and Ngorongoro) back in the days when it was still CC Africa (now &Beyond). Even in today’s money, it was nowhere near as pricey as it is now – I found it actually very reasonable for what we paid and, had I planned better, we would have stayed longer a few days longer. It is truly beautiful and more than justifies its price tag – even the current one!

    Regards

    Paul

  4. Julian says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the welcome!

    So you went in the days of $600pppn or so! I actually arranged Rory’s honeymoon for 2005…with a few days on Mnemba! I have not honeymooned…and so have only ever had 2 nights on Mnemba….what a place. However I recently came back from North Island…I think you should go there…its fairly average ;-)

    Julian

  5. Paul Johnson says:

    Actually, I don’t know how I managed it but I’m pretty sure I paid something like $300 per night for the two of us!

    Our whole honeymoon was booked with CCA (maybe that helped) and I recall being told at the time that the deal I was getting was at the same rates that Directors of the company also paid.

  6. Julian says:

    $300 a night! Wow – you’d get that nowadays for Pongwe – not bad but not quite as good as Mnemba ;)

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