Reviews of Chole Mjini Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Chole Mjini Lodge review
We spent 1 week at Chole. The place is amazing and potentially as close to paradise as possible. The reef is beautiful and in some places really unspoilt. The very idea of the tree houses as put in place together with the special relationship between the lodge and the village left us admired and happy to be there.
We also appreciated being disconnected from the world without electricity, running water, flashing toilets etc.
However, this is an expensive place, not only to stay in but also to reach (the costs of the marine park are high) and to fully exploit as most of the activities get easily to serious prices for one family (one trip to see the whale sharks is 100$ pp). Guests are therefore entitled to expect a service which matches these costs.
Unfortunately this is not the case. Some examples:
1) we were exposed to potential life risk at sea 2 and half hours from the lodge (faulting boat engine, very low level of remaining fuel, uncaring captain) The same captain was again unable to operate another engine and to bring us on a sand bank off the lodge on the last day of our stay.
2) the toilet was given to us the first night full of tropical cockroaches 3/4 cm in size. I killed more than ten myself and had to ask in order the toilet to be sanitized, but only the day after.
3) while the food was good, the quantities were ridicolous: typically one would get a lot of rice and very little fish (30g). In 2 occasions we were refused additional serving "because the remaining portions were for the other guests".
4) common facilities are non existent: apart some sitting space in the breakfast area, no organised sunbathing anywere, not a deck chair, not a bench near the sea. The terrace in our treehouse had no shade.
We understand that the management has changed several times in the last 3 years and Jean and Anne are now reassuming direct responsibility. It is about time and having met and talked to them we have appreciated their strength and vision. Our advice would be, however, that you check thoroughly the conditions of the lodge under the new management before sending new clients.
Expert Africa comments
We spoke to Chole Mjini about these travellers comments, which were of a concern to us - especially those on safety. Chole Mjini responded with a thorough answer and sincere apologies.
It transpires that the period in which these travellers visited Chole, was a transition period between managers. The managers there at the time were preparing to return to Canada and the owners Jean and Anne de Villiers were returning. In their final months, the managers at the time lost their attention to detail and Jean and Anne do agree that service elements, the food, communal areas and rooms lacked a degree of care. Jean and Anne who built the lodge from scratch themselves, are now back at the lodge and assure us that they have already addressed many of the issues raised by these travellers.
They tell us that they have caught up on all deferred maintenance, replaced all the tired old linen, towels, pillows and soft furnishings, bought new cutlery and glasses, installed more photovoltaics and a WiFi router in the lounge. They have added new boats, new furnishings, brought back loungers to the jetty and bought new outboard engines which are much quieter, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. They have spent the month of January working with and retraining staff members and re-introducing old favourite dishes back into the "dumbed down" meal plans.
In regards to the safety concerns these travellers had - Jean and Anne assure us that all of their boats are fully equipped to sail and carry first aid kits, life jackets,
communications equipment, food and drink. Therefore running out of fuel or a malfunctioning engine is not a life-threatening problem, ever, which could possibly explain why the boat captain appeared somewhat unconcerned.
Expert Africa intend to visit Chole later this year, and so we can review the changes made by Jean and Anne first hand in. Hopefully these kind of comments are a thing of the past.
Great lodge and overall experience
The camp is described as "quirky" and that's a good description. The treehouses are wild and different, and each house has it's own personality. The new manager, Danny, is doing a good job and they take advantage of their great location by moving dinner sites around the camp. There are many daily activities available and our 4 days there were filled with fun and excitement.
A great place to end up a Tanzanian safari adventure, with snorkeling, dhow excursions, village walks and other hikes available.
Dinners were excellent, but everything is seafood based.
Relaxing stay with Whaleshark swim
After daily early starts on safari in hot temperatures, we were ready for a rest! It took a day to relax into Chole, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. It was a treat to enjoy slightly cooler temperatures! The staff were delightful, very friendly and eager to chat but they also respected our privacy. The food was very good, portions were balanced and just right for all the excursions.
We enjoyed the company of all, including 2 teachers who were working with babies and families. 'Batman' was excellent, very talented in numerous areas, and he worked so hard to find whale sharks. I swam with an 8 m whale shark with him and although I am not a strong swimmer, I felt very safe in the water with him. My husband and I both wish him well in the future he deserves to do well! The whale shark experience is one of the most memorable experiences that I have been lucky to have. Also visited an out of season turtle hatching (watch your footware as it involves a walk over sharp rocks)
Enjoyed being off the grid at Chole Mjini
Very good management from Lyndsey, good food - really liked the different romantic evening meal locations.
Good friendly service.
No real beach might be a minus but were busy enough with diving/excursions.
Great fun but not for everyone
The whole family loved it. Very different experience sleeping in simple open tree houses in the mangroves. Drop toilets on the ground are a little way away from the rooms. Open air showers worked well despite the need to light a cup of parafin to get them going (good fun). Fantastic trips out to sandbars and extremely atmospheric dining by candlelight amongst the old ruins now covered in strangler figs.
Lyndsey now manages Chole and does a terrific job. Very friendly, organised and helpful.
Highlight is a guided trip round the village which the lodge helps support.
Overall highly recommended for something completely different if you are ok with no running water or electricity in your room.
Chole Mjini Lodge review
A wonderful and unique location. Expert Africa rightly made us aware at the outset that activities were limited but def. worth the visit.
Loved the treehouses and showering facilities were ingenious. Slightly aware of a take it or leave it attitude from the management but they were pulling out mid January so perhaps that explained their attitude. Didn't like the way our children were pushed continually towards interacting with the management's children or the lunch and supper communal dining despite our requests for a separate table. One meal being formal with mangement was fine, but every meal .......
Wonderful to explore villiage, sail dhows, snorkel etc - snorkel hire and beer prices a complete rip off compared to Mafia and lodges. A continual and very hard sell on whale sharking which at $50 per head for half a day was expensive (probability of viewing them was 50%)
Food really delicious.
Overall a huge success but to make it all round excellent there needs to be a different attitude from management.
Expert Africa comments
The change in management that these travellers mention in their feedback has now taken place, and Chole tell us that things are settling in and running very well. They explained that the new manager Lyndsey, usually joins guests for their first night to make them feel at home and answer any questions they may have, but then leaves it to the guest’s preferences thereafter.
Chole have also reduced the cost of their snorkel hire, and have ordered some new kit too.
Unfortunately the Whale Shark Expedition costs are fairly high. Chole explained that this is because it includes transfers to Mafia main island to join the trip, and a $15 per person district levy which goes towards whale shark conservation. However, Chole is looking at including a Chole guide to escort people on these excursions, to try and make it better value for money. Hopefully this will be implemented later on the year – ask us for the latest on this.
Chole Mjini Lodge review
an absolutely delightful place! one of the best ocean setting locations I have ever been to (if one likes a rural romantic setting);
sligth drawbacks: a little more light in the evening (or working hed lamps ) would be helpful;
given the abundance of seefood available in the area, more faciful dishes would be nice. Also some better refrigration to keep beer and wine cold would be good.
Verdict: a few smaller flaws which are immaterial in light of the over all experience.
I would certainly go baclk any time!
Expert Africa comments
The team at Chole have told us that they were having some refrigeration problems for a sort while. However these have now been resolved and so cold drinks are on offer once more.
Chole Mjini: an amazing experience
We loved this, from the moment we landed and
walked through the Frangipani trees to our
beautiful tree house. We enjoyed experiencing
Anne's vision for the lodge and the community .
It was the perfect place to relax . Highlights
were the monitor lizards walking through camp,
swimming in the mangrove creek , sailing
an outrigger and dinner in the ruins .
We would love to go back !
Chole Mjini Lodge review
Chole Mjini was certainly the highlight of the trip. Jean, Ann and all their staff make a great team. Jean can come across as a bit gruff but he clearly loves the place and both he and Ann are clearly highly committed to providing a tourist resort that is sustainable, both in its impact on the local community and the environment.
Jean's knowledge and his skills as a dive teacher are outstanding and Ann is charm personified. All of the staff are helpful, charming and exceptionally welcoming from the kitchen to the nightwatchmen, but particularly the boatmen who are skilled and delightful characters.
Chole Mjini's setting is magical, the tree houses seem to float above the baobab trees and the ancient ruins, mangroves and ruins merge together to create a beautiful place and atmosphere. This is particularly so at night when the absence of electric lighting makes walking through the site enchanting.
The food is quite exceptional, delicious, subtle flavours, fresh local produce and a great balance - the breakfasts were scrummy, with fresh baked bread, the lunch light but just right and the suppers mouthwatering. We prepared for each meal with excitement, knowing that we would be met with a new culinary masterpiece.
We tried a range of day time activities: snorkelling, sandbanking, walking through Chole itself, observing the turtles hatching and the divers in our party took two dives. They both said it was the best diving they have seen with an amazing array of fish and coral and exceptional support from Jean and Ann. The same was true of the snorkelling. Observing the turtles was extraordinary and raised a whole series of questions for us which Jean and Ann answered patiently and knowledgeably.
Finally the island itself was fascinating, from the fruit bats to the ruins. It was clear that the island was more prosperous than surrounding islands, our impression was that the Chole Mjini Trust was having a very positive impact on the whole island community.
Very money-grabbing resort. Many of the activities which were advertised as "inclusive", were added to the bill. Several were charged at more than the advertised price. We were pre-warned by the owners not to query the bill, as in the past they had resorted to calling the police to have their demands settled........ Other travellers there who had arranged their trips through a different Company, were given substantial discounts, but we were offered nothing, even after some broad hints.....
We were not welcomed on arrivel other than by a porter. Our welcome drink was charged for...! (A first in many years of international travel)
The loos were un-necessarily uncomfortable, and extremely awkward to use. (I need to point out, I am in NO way a "Hotel" fan, and have spent years using all kinds of toilets all over the world, from Siberia to Central America,, including seagrass composting bucket loos, but have never had such uncomortable loo..... for no good or apparent reason.
The idea of a basic resort is wonderful, but these owners seemed to place emphasis on making money rather than offering service and ensuring a great holiday. I would not even consider returning, and would advise caution to potential guests.
Expert Africa comments
We were very sorry to hear this sort of feedback on a lodge that usually receives much praise. It concerns us greatly, and so we apologised to our travellers, and passed their comments onto the Chole’s owner, Jean.
We now understand that with the increasing cost of fuel, trips that used to be ‘complementary’ at the lodge are now charged for. At the time of booking of this trip the snorkelling trip was included, but by the time of travel it wasn’t any longer. We’ve refunded these travellers for the trips that we’d led them to believe were included.
Jean explained that he had varying prices for activities in different parts of the lodge, due to some outdated booklets – which lead to some confusion. We’ve requested that he correct his literature urgently.
In regards to different travellers paying different rates, we have always had some of the best prices available for Chole. Looking into this further, we now learn that Chole did offer last-minute discounts for residents of Tanzania to fill empty bed space. This is the first time we’ve come across this with Chole; we’ve discussed it with Jean, and we hope it’s the last.
These travellers felt that Chole was cutting corners, perhaps because of the recession. We’ve been very clear in sharing our views that this with Jean – and so are optimistic that our travellers won’t feel this way again.