To find really authentic and unspoiled destinations to experience as a traveler is becoming increasingly difficult. Many destinations are attracted of the possible revenue from tourism and believe that it therefore needs to tourists in huge number and let companies build up large hotel complex that often look the same wherever you go in the world. But it is still possible to find real genuine places. The small island of Pemba, north of the famous island of Zanzibar or Unguja Island which is actually called, is just such a place.
We went there in October. After a night spent in Dar el Salam, we took a small airplane from a local airline to Pemba with a short stop on Zanzibar. There are plenty of national domestic flights and it’s more or less island-hopping. The airplanes are small and you have to crouch down to enter the plane and take a vacant seat in the small plane which can only accommodate 12 passengers.
When we arrived to Pemba we were picked up by car and passed beautiful landscapes and communities during the 1.5 hours drive after which we drove through the gates of the picturesque Manta Resort.
On the whole island of Pemba there are currently only five resorts. There seems to be an awareness about the need to retain the unique and genuine to not become like the neighboring island of Zanzibar, which of course is a fantastic destination but the immense popularity has also made it a more predictable experience.
The owners of Manta Resort promotes that people from nearby villages should get the jobs at the resort. They must learn to work in the hotel and tourism industry get the experience needed. They aim that every guest should feel luxuriously pampered. There are no restaurants nearby so the guests are on All-inclusive basis. The food is nice and our favorite quickly became the local dishes, Swahili food, that are very tasty and reminiscent of Indian cuisine without necessarily being that hot.
The staff leaves its mark on the Manta Resort. Take the opportunity to talk to them and get to know the people who work at the site. All are genuinely nice people who do everything they can to make guests feel as comfortable as possible. They work long hours and live simply in nearby villages. But they are happy about their work and like to share stories about the island and their lives to interested guests.
Iddi was introduced to us upon our arrival and would be the one that we could turn to no matter what we wanted during our stay. He served our meals and arranged the excursions we wanted to do.
Iddi is a kind man with incredibly warm heart. As always, we think it’s fun to learn a few words in the local language. Iddi and his colleagues gave their broadest smile as we tried to say a few words in Swahili, and challenged us with more complex words and sentences.
Magical sunsets are best enjoyed in the hanging hammocks on the beach bar with your toes in the sand. Preferably with your favorite drink and the tasty snacks offered.
The unique underwater room
Manta Resort unique underwater housing in the ocean has been getting a lot of press in world magazines. It is clearly a very unique experience to live in a house in the ocean, not to mention sleeping in a room under water where beautiful fish swim just outside the windows. We went out with a small motorboat and got aboard the house out on the terrace while it gently swayed by the waves. Beautiful flowers was placed on the table and a bottle of champagne and snacks was waiting for us.
The small fridge aboard was filled with various refreshments, eg snacks and a fruit plate. Other meals came with staff via boat from the island.
The day was spent on the roof of the house on the wide sun pad. Here you get 360 degree view and can enjoy both the sea’s horizon and the entire Manta Resort and the Pemba Beach.
Excursions in Pemba
There is no need to worry you will have nothing to do. Manta Resort and Pemba has a lot to offer. From amazing snorkeling and scuba diving, to visit nearby villages and other parts of the island. Something you should definitely do is to go by boat to the beautiful sand bank which is located a short distance north of the island. Here you can enjoy your very own island in the sun in the morning with a packed cooler with fruit platter and drinks.
A cruise with the local boats are a beautiful evening excursion. During the trip you will have a break at a nice beach for a drink before returning while the sun slowly sets.