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What are the 3 most perfect Island getaways in Tanzania?

Albee Yeend
By Albee Yeend
28 Feb 2017
Tanzania - Fanjove Island - hammock hdr.JPG

Whilst everyone has probably heard of the island Zanzibar, not everyone has heard of Pemba, Mafia, Fanjove and Thanda Islands. These are the kinds of places you would beg to be marooned on!

I’ve recently returned from a fabulous Tanzanian island hopping trip to these islands and Zanzibar. I thought I would tell you about my three favourite places I visited. If you’re interested in some beach time after a safari and would like something unique and idyllic, these would be perfect for you!

Pemba Island

Pemba island is a short one hour’s flight from Dar Es Salaam, then there is an incredibly scenic drive to The Manta Resort at the north of the island, driving through local villages. When I arrived I had the loveliest welcome by the owner and all the staff, who sat down and told me all about “Kwanini” (which means “why”) they work here. They were all so passionate about where they work, which is wonderful.

They are all trained at the Manta Resort which is very involved with the local community. The community makes clothes for the shop and sells the resort fruit, vegetables and fish. The food is very much farm to table and Magnus, a Swedish chef comes over to train the staff. The resort employs locals and teaches the staff members to speak English, and has also helped to set up a clinic and police station in the local community.

Activities here include spice and rainforest trips, kayaking, a walk to the lighthouse, snorkelling, diving, (they have a PADI dive centre) sunset cruises and village walks, where a member of staff will take you to their village.

  • Tanzania - Manta Resort - Underwater bedroom above adn below.jpg

But for me the highlight of my time at the Manta Resort was the Underwater Bedroom. Even after working in the travel industry for over twenty years, I was totally and utterly blown away by this. It opened in 2013 and was made in Sweden out of steel and glass and shipped out to Pemba.

It is anchored within the reef and you are taken out by boat to it. There are three floors, with the underwater bedroom being accessed by a ladder. It has a double bed which was built in situ, and was literally surrounded by fish. I didn’t feel at all claustrophobic in the bedroom, as I was so busy trying to identify all the different varieties of fish swimming through the windows! It sleeps two people and is perfect for a one night stay combined with a stay at the Manta Resort.

  • Tanzania - Manta Resort - underwater bedroom.JPG

Then above the ocean there is a sitting and dining area, plus a shower room and mini bar. Your meals are brought out to you by boat and you can enjoy them if you wish on the top deck, the sun deck, which has fabulous views as far as the eye can see.

Fanjove Island

When I landed at the tiny airport on Songa Songa Island, I was taken by what I can only describe as a motorbike with two bench seats on the back (similar to a tuk-tuk?) to the jetty. I then boarded a dhow for a beautiful one-hour sail to the private Fanjove Island.

This is a perfect Robinson Crusoe style island getaway. There are only six A-frame bandas distributed along the beach for privacy, each of which has a sea-view double bedroom, a bathroom open to the sky, an upstairs sitting area, an outside hammock and two sun beds. 

  • Tanzania - Fanjove Island - bandas.JPG

They have a PADI dive centre and also offer snorkelling. The reef is 12 kilometres long and they have six dive locations. They also offer a sandbank excursion, dhow sailing, a sunset cruise, and a dolphin cruise, when you are likely to see spinner and bottlenose dolphins. You can also fish for barracudas, jack and kingfish. At medium to high tide you can take out one of their four single kayaks for a paddle along the beach.

The wildlife and sea life here is also fascinating. From May to September they have humpback whales swimming past, and there are Hawksbill and green turtles who nest on the island and hatch from April to July. They also have coconut crabs, which are the biggest terrestrial crab on earth.

Whilst Fanjove really is an incredibly beautiful island, it is fairly rustic, without any mod-cons. There is no wi-fi on the island, but you don’t need it! You really can get away from it all on the soft white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, with no intrusions from the outside world.

Thanda Island

Thanda Island is simply stunning, as is the house. The owner is Swedish IT billionaire Dan Olofsson and his wife Christin and the property is based on the Kennedy’s house in Hyannis Port, New England. The couple found the island in 2006 when searching for a beach home.

  • Tanzania - Thanda Island - Pool.JPG

Set 16 nautical miles off the mainland of Tanzania the eight-hectare island is surrounded by a coral reef and the beach is powdery soft with beautiful shells everywhere, and the waters are a bright turquoise. It takes just eight minutes to walk around the island.

There is a see-through swimming pool apparently created so the owners could enjoy views of the beach while swimming underwater! They have also built five gorgeous villas, as well as two A-frame bandas on the other side of the island. These are wonderful for families, or for adults wanting more relaxed accommodation.

The villa bedrooms each have a large four poster bed, a sitting area with two chairs, indoor and outdoor showers and an outdoor bath. They also have air-conditioning, fans and brilliant lighting, plus WiFi. This place is extremely sumptuous. The sitting room is stocked with board games and books, not to mention a Steinway piano and a large aquarium which takes up most of one wall. There is also a Celestron telescope for stargazing.

All your meals, wine, snorkelling, wake boarding, jet skiing, stand-up-paddle boarding, fishing and island tours are included. Diving is extra and they can also bring in a yoga teacher. There is also a fabulous boat house, stocked with toys from paddleboards to jet-skis, plus ten different types of kayaks, a catamaran and a dive-boat. They have a tennis court and beach volleyball, plus an impressive solar-farm and desalination plant.

  • Tanzania - Thanda Island - Aerial.jpg

Thanda lies in the middle of a migratory route used by whale sharks (who can be seen from October to February). The two species of marine turtles that swim in Tanzania nest on the island and I was lucky enough to see the tiny footprints of several baby turtles which had hatched the night before.

The nearby Mafia Island is well worth a visit, where you can see the recently discovered ruins. Local archaeologists believe these are possibly Roman. There is also the largest protected marine area in the Indian Ocean, teeming with sea-life. This really is the perfect place for a family gathering or a wonderful birthday celebration.

Aerial image of Thanda Island courtesy of Thanda Island

Image of underwater bedroom courtesy of The Manta Resort