Posts Tagged ‘Zanzibar’

A Stay on Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania


 Mnemba Island feels like the screensaver 

Every once and a while I find myself in a place that feels photoshopped. The water is too blue, the clouds so puffy they feel fake. It’s like being transported inside the screen saver on your computer. Mmemba Island, a private island resort off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania is one of those places.


White sand beaches and blue water on Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island is a favorite spot for honeymooners in East Africa. Located off the the north eastern tip of Zanzibar, Mnemba Island has 10 semi-open thatched bandas, or bungalows, along the beach. The maximum capacity of the resort is 20 guests. The island is only about 1.5 kilometers in circumference, so it’s really a getaway. The resort was about half full during my stay but I only saw the other guests at meal times. For all intents and purposes, it feels like a private island.


The daily routine on Mnemba Island

Mnemba is geographically inconvenient. It’s a 90 minute drive plus a 10 minute boat transfer from Stone Town, Zanzibar. The resort has a private dive school and dive centre with all the gear you need for snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding.


Sunset is magical on Mnemba Island

The diving is a big draw at Mnemba and the resort’s private dive school. They’ll set up an afternoon dive for you and your guests. Mornings can be spent snorkling the Mnemba Atoll, which you can reach right from the beach, before having breakfast. Or you can spend the day reading in your outdoor living room and losing track of time.


Sundowners on the beach at Mnemba Island

The staff at Mnemba Island is great. It’s an & Beyond property and up to the brand standards. The staff knows how long you are staying on the island and goes out of their way to maximize your opportunities to have memorable experiences.


Early morning calm on Mnemba Island

December weather on Mnemba was hot and humid. We snorkeled before breakfast, when the sun and temperatures were most pleasant. The water is lovely and warm. But the island is still rustic wilderness. Crabs and creepy crawlies are part of life here. They don’t bother you, but they also don’t respect your personal space.


 A list of wildlife sightings on Mnemba Island 

The staff makes sure all your creature comforts are taken care of, and the laundry service was quick and much appreciated. There is wifi on the island. It’s not quick, but it’s definitely there and helps keep you connected to the rest of the world (should you wish to be).

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Left: morning coffee at Mnemba right: homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast

The chef makes sure any food allergies or special requests are handled. The menu focuses mostly on the great seafood available in the area. There is a full service bar in the lounge where guests can gather for cocktails or tea during the day. If you’d prefer privacy, your butler will happily set you up for sundowners on the beach.


Tropical fresh fruit on Mnemba Island

The design aesthetic of Mnemba Island is safari chic like the rest of the … & Beyond properties. The rooms, called Bandas, feature indoor/outdoor living rooms and bathrooms. You’re never really entirely indoors. But that did not matter even when we had light rain.


I loved this “living picture window” at Mnemba Island.

Ceiling fans and mosquito nets kept the bugs out and the temperature pleasant. December temperatures were well into the 90s. The resort is closed in April, when the seasonal rains are longer.


The indoor/outdoor bathroom at Mnemba Island

While Mnemba mostly caters to couples, one of the bandas is a family unit that can accommodate children. There was a intergenerational family group on the island during our stay on the island.


Left: welcome coconuts in the Banda Right: Four poster bed with mosquito netting 

Mnemba was  great place for me to relax for a few days and get over jet lag before heading off on safari. Safari days are long and scheduled, so a few days on Mnemba allowed for some much needed relaxation.


Comfy reading chair in a beach banda at Mnemba Island

The entire island is the resort, and it’s small (about ) and won the silver medal in the 2015 Responsible Tourism Awards.


Beach banda at Mnemba glows softly after dark

Mnemba is best as an add-on destination before or after going on safari in east Africa. It will be most appreciated by dive and snorkel enthusiasts. It’s a lovely place to spend a few days in the screen saver.


& Beyond Mnemba Island

+27 11 809 4300.

Rates start at $1155 USD per person


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Searching for Freddie Mercury in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Calm sunrise in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I recently returned from my big trip to Africa, where I visited Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa. The first stop on this trip was Stone Town, Zanzibar.


Changing planes in Dar es Salaam

Zanzibar was the first place I ever visited in Africa, and I hadn’t been back in over 15 years. Located off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa, Zanzibar played an important role in both the Spice Route and was a key port in the slave trade. But Zanzibar’s most famous export is the late singer and legendary Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.


Rainbow at the DAR airport

Born Farrokh Bulsara, Mercury was born in Zanzibar to Persian immigrant parents who lived on the island to avoid religious persecution. On my first visit to Zanzibar over a decade ago, I was surprised by how little the tour guides knew about Mercury. Mercury’s openly homosexual lifestyle was at odd’s with Zanzibar’s prominently Muslim culture. I remember saying to my tour guide at the time, “yes, but he’s still FREDDIE f*cking MERCURY.”


School girls in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I’m a huge music fan. And I’m not the only Queen nut who has come to Zanzibar to pay homage the legendary singer. Fortunately the island has warmed to Freddie since my last visit. There are now Freddie Mercury tours and even a Mercury House (part of the Tembo Hotel). Vice even wrote this piece about the uptick in Freddier Mercury related tourism.


Left: a shaft of light in the slave holding quarters in Stone town Right: Park of the East African Slave Trade Memorial on Zanzibar

Zanzibar has made peace with it’s notorious roots in the East African slave trade. I have to think that it’s just a matter of time before it softens to Freddie Mercury’s lifestyle. At least I hope it is.


The Tembo Hotel in Stone Town.

If you’re still not convinced that Freddie Mercury wasn’t incredible, I suggest you listen to this isolated track of vocals of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing Under Pressure.

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The new Park Hyatt Zanzibar in Stone Town

I understand Zanzibar’s tourism industry’s need to change the conversation regarding their most famous export. But Freddie will never be the island’s Favorite Son. What hit me, while I wandered the streets of Stone Town listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits, is that Freddie Mercury was always the odd man out.

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Giant doors in Stone Town

His Parsi parents were outsiders who lived in Zanzibar to escape religious persecution. And Freddie was gay at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable, making him an outsider to his outsider parents.


I have no idea about the authenticity of the Mercury House in Stone Town

If you chat with the locals, they love to discuss EPL soccer. But if you mention Freddie Mercury, they noticeably stiffen.


Pictures of Freddie Mercury on display in Stone Town

I saw Bob Marley t-shirts and pants for sale in Zanzibar, and he was Jamaican. Freddie Mercury-related tourism may be on the upswing, but no one was selling souvenirs with the Queen front man’s face on them. And there were certainly no locals wearing Queen t-shirts.


The Mercury House in Stone town

So if you are fellow Queen fan who finds yourself in Stone Town, I suggest wandering around town with your earbuds in, listening to Queen, and taking in what it feels like to be an outsider.

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Spices for sale at the market in Stone Town

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Woman cooking breakfast in Stone Town


Locals cooling off after a hot day in Stone Town


 Soccer on the beach is a nightly ritual in Stone Tow


Playing football in flip flops


Sunset soccer on the beach

Or watch the locals play soccer on the beach at sunset while listening to Somebody to Love.

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 Dhows at Sunset in Stone Town

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