If phrases such as ‘deserted beaches’, ‘pristine waters’, ‘unspoilt scenery’, and ‘rarely more than a dozen tourists on the island’ don’t spell out ROMANCE, I don’t know what does. This is Pemba, and I’m in love!
I desperately needed some quality time with my better half. I was craving somewhere exotic but didn’t fancy dodging sarong-sellers on Kuta beach in Bali, or fighting for a patch of sand in Ko Samui, Thailand. I wanted somewhere away from the maddening masses of tourists. I wanted isolation. Peace. Tranquility.
Also known in Arabic as ‘Al Jazeera al Uhadra’ (the green island), Pemba, lying 56km north off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, is characterized by primeval forests and lush greenery, and is dominated by an industry of small-scale farming. Having undergone very little modern development, and with tourism still in its infancy, Pemba is a hidden treasure in the Indian Ocean yet to be discovered by many.
There weren’t many accommodation options on the island, so we quickly settled for what seemed to be a suitable place that would hopefully meet our requirements.
Located in a remote yet prime spot overlooking virgin-white sands and turquoise waters, and surrounded by lush greenery, Manta Reef Lodge (www.mantareeflodge.com), is a romantic, dream-like (yet- homely) gem of a place. The epitome of tranquility, and exactly what I am after. No, even more. My better half squeezes my hand. I’m already over the moon and we haven’t seen anything yet!
We are greeted by Azizi, one of the staff. He gives us a warm handshake and shows us to our ‘room’.
Our pretty, rustic, wooden, terracotta lodge is elevated on stilts and is one of a total of 18, which are all scattered, almost hidden, around the large grounds of the premises. It’s bright and spacious, and romance seems to be oozing out of every corner. We have a lovely king-size, four-poster bed, comfortable loungers scattered around the room, and the most amazing sea-views by day and starry skies by night, since the lodge is open-air. At night the power supply is switched off, which means the fans don’t work. But a cool sea breeze permeates the lodge, and I can safely say that it’s the coolest, most amazing al fresco sleeping experience ever.