Top 6 Island Paradise Retreats
Tanzania and the Indian Ocean
Have you been dreaming of just getting away from it all? I know I have! And I’m sure there are a lot of us that just want to escape to one of these top 6 island paradise retreats.
It’s tough right now, way tougher than any of us could have imagined really. I think there was a general feeling that with the welcoming of 2021 this entire COVID-19 pandemic and fiasco would be sort of behind us. Sadly not true, it looks like it will be with us for a while. And travel of any sort is still going to be a challenge for this year. Still, lets all look up, be positive and look forward to the rolling out of vaccines all over the world.
Very soon, by August at least, most countries will have probably achieved “herd immunity” with the vaccination of a significant proportion of their populations. Africa has been fortunate with low population densities, warm temperatures and very careful social distancing.
African Safari Experts has traveled to Zanzibar many times and with each visit we fall more in love with this island paradise. My wife, Kate, and I have even been there with the children when they were quite young and despite traveling with children it was absolute bliss. Most of these top 6 island paradise retreats will arrange for professional child minders – at a small extra fee – that are well worth the money.
&Beyond Mnemba Island
East Coast of Zanzibar Island – Tanzania
Just off the North Eastern tip of Zanzibar lies the &Beyond Mnemba Island paradise. The island is less than a mile in circumference and is surrounded by a string of coral reefs making the location a not to be missed dive site. If you are planning to book here, we recommend you get your dive certificate beforehand, as we did.
Fly in to Abeid Amane Karume International Airport where the lodge will arrange for staff to meet you. From the airport it’s a 90 minute drive, the last 20 minutes of which is a bumpy track and then a further 15 minute boat ride.
The island is possibly one of the first landfalls of the early Arab traders in their quest for new territories, spices and slaves. The history of the island and archipelago is fascinating.
There are just 12 “banda’s” on the island of which one has been designed with families and children in mind. This family suite has a connecting passage between 2 bedrooms and each room has an en-suite bathroom. A private butler is on hand to fulfil your every wish and this made a significant difference with the children and when we were on honeymoon there. In fact, as a honeymoon destination, Mnemba Island just cannot be beaten.
All of the banda’s have been tucked away into the local vegetation ensuring complete privacy. The rooms are spacious and the en-suite bathrooms have been beautifully decorated in bright colors. Activities on the island include kayaking, diving, sunset dhow cruises, yoga and in-room massage treatments.
Rates start at $1 270 per person sharing per night and includes your accommodation, all meals, local brand drinks, snorkeling, 2 dives per day, laundry, sunset dhow cruise, return airport road transfers, SUP boards and emergency evacuation insurance.
We found the PADI dive course on the island to be very expensive, do this before you go 😉
Fanjove Private Island
Songosongo Archipelago – Indian Ocean
The Songosongo Archipelago is all about islands, palm trees’ and absolute privacy and this is where you will find Fanjove Island. This incredible setting is shared only by the staff, other guests and the abundant resident wildlife in the water.
Access to the island is not easy, and thank goodness for that! Fly in to Dar es Salaam where you will find a friendly smile ready to assist you onto a light aircraft for the 1 hour flight to the main island of Songosongo. From here it’s a further 40 minute boat cruise. While this may sound complicated, much like Mnemba, it is well worth it. Scenery from the air is fantastic and you really get the impression of having this small island all to yourself. Kate and I loved the isolation and knowing we have the entire island all to ourselves.
There is a lot to do on the island and we did several dives onto the coral reefs which are beautiful and looking very healthy, snorkeling, kayaks, bird watching, fishing, the small nature trail and fishing. Our absolute favorite was simply relaxing and her you can do a lot of that. The sandy beaches are great for long walks at low tide and the historical lighthouse is well worth some exploring.
Be sure to take a sunset dhow cruise and take along a bottle of champagne! This was a magical experience, as was dinner on the beach! The staff here go all out to make your stay beyond special.
There are 6 double story banda’s on the island so never more than 12 guests at any one time. All of the rooms have been carefully located to give you complete privacy. Waking up and looking out over the ocean the silence is the loudest sound you will hear. For us personally, Fanjove is the best of the top 6 island paradise retreats.
Rates at Fanjove are $440 per person per night sharing. These are high season rates and include accommodation, all meals, local brand drinks, snorkeling, kayaking, basic laundry, SUP, Island Walk, airstrip transfers and medical evacuation. There are some great specials being offered as well.
Zanzibar Island – Tanzania
Set in a tropical garden of 50 acres, Kilindi Zanzibar was originally designed for one of the ABBA stars and her design is a mix of Scandinavian and Arabian architecture. The domed pavilion guest rooms are all about being at one with the surroundings and this has been perfectly married up.
This boutique hotel is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but our stay was very memorable and we really enjoyed the garden feel to the property. There is a lot that can be done here and in the vicinity but Kate headed straight to the spa and returned awed! And that’s not an easy thing to achieve. The spa is world class and is worth a full day of pampering.
Activities include a Spice Tour, deep sea fishing, a historical tour of Stone Town and various water activities.
There are 15 pavilion suites at Kilindi and considering the size of the estate privacy is guaranteed. Each has it’s own private plunge pool and unique rain shower. In place of glass wooden shutters have been used to increase air flow making the rooms bright and cool.
Rates at Kilindi start at $1 300 for a double room during high season and includes accommodation, all meals, local brand drinks, sundowners, paddle boarding, laundry and VAT. No children are permitted.
Zanzibar Island – Tanzania
Located on the North East coast of Zanzibar, Nungwi Dreams has direct access to some of the most pristine beaches you will find on the island. With a blend of both the historical Arab culture and Swahili influences there is an eclectic feel to the hotel. Yet, from nearly every vantage point, there is a view of the ocean.
What we loved about this was that it’s within walking distance of several attractions that are well worth visiting and which we thoroughly enjoyed. You can do long walks along the beaches and then double back through the palm trees and via the Sea Turtle sanctuary or do a tour to Prison Island.
The hotel has a roof top bar, pool bar and the infinity swimming pool was very welcome after swimming in the sea and snorkeling. There is a gym and Kate loved the spa menu for it’s diverse treatments. Kite surfing, kayaking, diving or simply relaxing, this is a haven for doing absolutely nothing.
Nungwi Dreams has 26 rooms in total with a Presidential Suite of 4 rooms but it never felt crowded. What we loved was their attitude towards children and tailor making our days with them in mind – a fantastic team of staff.
Rates start at $196 per person sharing in a Sea View Room on an All Inclusive basis. This is a special opening rate for January to April 2021 and includes accommodation, all meals and selected beverages.
Zanzibar Island – Tanzania
Set in one of the more secluded parts of the island, Matemwe Beach Lodge is a comfortable hours drive from the airport through the local villages. We stopped several times to chat to locals and buy souvenirs. The lodge is also a 30 minute boat ride away from Mnemba Island and the magnificent coral reefs.
The atoll which is just off the beach also provides some fantastic snorkeling opportunities and we spent a good few hours on kayaks, slipping into the water to dive when the fancy took us. Children of all ages are welcome and there is a wide range of activities for all ages.
With it’s close proximity to Stone Town we were able to choose several day tours to the town, a spice tour, the sea turtle conservation project and Jozini Forest. We really enjoyed the night market and wandering the narrow streets admiring the differently designed doors.
The 12 chalets at Matemwe have all been built using local materials and are surrounded by lush gardens. Each of the rooms has a small private deck, hammock and sofa for relaxing and enjoying the views with a book. 6 of the chalets are triple bed and two of these have a small private plunge pool as well.
The en-suite bathrooms have a deep bath, walking in shower and the beds are all enveloped with mosquito nets.
Rates start at $210 per person sharing between January and April 2021. This cost includes your accommodation, meals, a guided reef and village walk as well as kayaking. For comfort and intimacy, this is our #2 of the top 6 island paradise retreats.
Rubondo Island Camp
Lake Victoria – Tanzania
As the only island national park in Africa, Rubondo Island Camp is a very unique place to visit. We have heard a lot but were still very un-sure of what to expect from our visit there. Access is via any one of the Serengeti airstrips so it’s wise to combine this with the migration.
The vast majority of the island is equatorial rainforest with incredible birds, antelope and the famous chimpanzee project. Activities include fishing, kayaking, game drives, walking safaris and birdwatching. We spent a delightful day just wandering in the forest and came home with over 20 new bird sightings. This is not really advisable as there are Elephant on the island, however, as a licensed walking guide we were able to do this alone.
Evenings are spent around the communal fire and it was fascinating to watch as Hippo emerged to come and feed on the island. Dinners are usually on the deck or the beach and this created a magical atmosphere.
Eight chalets are all set well back from the lake shores and are all thatched. One of the chalets is slightly larger for families with children. The en-suite bathrooms are all spacious and beautifully decorated. One small thing we didn’t like, you have to walk past the front of each chalet to get to the main guest area which is not so great for privacy.
Rates at Rubondo start at $480 per person sharing in the low season and rocket up to $950 over the holiday period of December. Rates include all meals, accommodation, local brand drinks, game drives, swamp and boating trips and laundry.
Over the past 7 years these are our favorite island paradise retreats, we still have more on our bucket list and we’ll share those in time.
If you have any questions about any of these experiences, feel free to get in touch with me.
African Safari Experts
Read our Country Information for travel advice to Tanzania.
Combine this with a bush safari and make a booking at Sarara Treehouses, Serengeti Woodlands Camp or Nimali Mara Camp.
Discover the history of Zanzibar and birthplace of Freddy Mercury. Read more about the ongoing conservation on Fanjove island.