Reviews of Chole Mjini Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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.
Chole Mjini Lodge review
Wow. Amazing place exceeded all expectations. Jean & Anne very welcoming and looked after us very well. Tree house was fantastic -bed very comfortable with wonderful views. Esy to adapt -and fun to use washing facilities etc .
Very relaxed - shoes off - such alot to do snorkelling ,sailing,walking,visiting other islands,visiting the village-activities very fairly priced.
Food excellent - different eating venue every night. Amazing wines. Great eating en famille. Great place post safari. Staff were all charming and very welcoming.Would love to return. Great for families and couples .
Chole Mjini Lodge review
WE both felt privileged to have shared in this amazing place - it helped us to gain some insights into the complexities of developing Africa and the interface of comparatively wealthy visitors with the local culture. The challenges of the health and education projects in addition to an eco tourist lodge provided a multi-faceted experience and there is a special 'extended family' attitude that is different from what most eco lodges offer.
Boundaries were quite different to what we consider familiar - go with the flow and you get opportunities to scratch a bit beneath the superficialities of tourism. Anne and Jean as owners are an important presence as this project has a huge personal investment from each of them. - they and their two children were very welcoming to the guests over Christmas.
The generosity of the owners in sharing the ups and downs of this special community with visitors made this an exceptional experience. I recommend several visits to Chole village (at least one with a guide either from the lodge or available locally) for greater understanding of local culture and the relative absence of basics like clean water!
Much has been written about Chole - for us it was unforgettable and a unique project in an amazing place, but the toilet facilities take some getting used to - huge toilet seats in a dark outhouse over a long drop pit! For those with travellers tummy, these toilets are far from comfortable. Housekeeping service was initially hit and miss for us, but after raising my concerns, the problems were quickly resolved. The showers, however, are brilliant intermediate technology and were faultless in delivering hot or cold water at any time.
The beauty of the whole lodge area and attention to aesthetics was marvellous. Inspirational in so many ways - a real highlight of our time. Views out to the INdian Ocean from our tree house were spectacular. Each 'house' is different with creative and ingenious design and finish. LOcal tie die fabrics are used with great effect.
If you have a sense of adventure and want to see more than well serviced 4 * tourist lodges, don't miss Chole Mjini.
Playing Robinson Crusoe
The lodge is creatively designed, and the individual tree houses are great fun, and very well made. This is real eco-tourism, where the lowest possible environmental impact is the top consideration.
Some suggestions would be: A bigger mirror in the treehouse. (One doesn't want to frighten the other guests) and better ventilation in the toilets. Although they are very cleverly designed and enviromentally correct, it gets extremely hot (and dark) in there!
The lack of ice for drinks was a serious problem, however a dedicated ice freezer was on order and apparently should be installed by December.
We enjoyed the family atmosphere at the lodge, and the way the guests got to know each other. We also appreciated the flexibility of the trips and activities offered. Altogether, it was a wonderful holiday.
Expert Africa comments
5 December 2008: Jean has just reported to us: 'We do now have ice for the drinks, and as of 20 December we'll have a new cocktail bar next to the old German ruin!'
He's looking at the questions of toilet ventillation and mirrors in the bedrooms - and says 'thanks for the suggestions'.
One for the eco-conscious holidaymaker
Accommodation was very good - obviously designed to be ecologically sound.
Didn't quite understand the use of powdered milk - "we don't have a cow or a fridge" - however the beer was cold and obviously not brewed on site.
Food was excellent - my wife does not eat fish and fish is the staple diet here - however perfectly acceptable alternatives were offered. The dinner table was very sociable and enjoyable.
The lack of a beach on site could be good reason for having a sun lounger available for each room - for use when you are not out on activities.
I was actively discouraged from fishing but found out at Pole Pole that it can be organised easily.
Chole Mjini Lodge review
A fantastic place. Location is fascinating and beautifully used (the tropical garden among the ruins). The tree houses are lovely, beautifully designed and truly unusual! The owner couple are absolutely lovely. Warm, friendly, humorous. And the way in which they interact with the customers! I was a little worried beforehand when I read negative comments on Jean. Those comments turned out to be really ridiculous. He's a lovely guy! The food was gorgeous! Every single dish was great. Good ingredients, imaginative and still simple recipes. Service was helpful, friendly and descreet when needed (there were "guards" watching our house). The interaction and closeness to the village and the village people was quite special. We got an insight into African everyday life which felt like a very special experience.
The only thins that brings the visit down a little was the facilities. I am AWARE of this, and that a big part of Chole's appeal, is the nonexisting electricity and long drop loos, and I am not putting it against them. However, as weak Europeans, in some 35-40 degrees and with loads of Malaria mosquitos, it did wear on us – when the breeze got spare or died completely, and you basically melted 24 hours a day. The tree houses, with their (during daytime) lovely open appeal, became a "hide-with-in-the-mosquito-net" melting pot during night. The open-air showers were lovingly beautifully designed – but became a boiling pot with mosquito attacks. The long drop loos were non-smelly, but truly uncomfortable, and the huts they were in so hot it was like entering an oven.
Nevertheless, an absolutely lovely place I would warmly recommend to anyone!
A little issue, but I didn't want to raise it there and then. I ordered some "rum and cokes", and felt I was drinking single measures (the strength of the drink is really a big difference between singles and doubles). The staff tended to mix the drink before you got it, apart from once when I could actually see the amount of rum in the glass. Being very familiar with the drink, and also running a restaurant myself, I could tell I was only being served singles. However, I was always charged doubles. This may be a staff issue, a little money on the side, but I leave it to you to judge if you want to mention it to Anne and Jean. I think it is a bit bad, but it hasn't greatly affected my view on Chole Mjini.
Expert Africa comments
We have forwarded our travellers feedback to Jean at Chole Mjini. He says he will clearly need to be more grumpy in future, as he doesn’t want to ruin his reputation!
On a more serious note, he has taken on board our clients comments regarding the ‘tot’ measures and will look into this. It’s a cause for concern, and we are sure that he’ll address this issue, and solve it.
He has also commented that during November and early December the wind does die down completely sometimes. Then it can be quite hot and humid, and that there are more mosquitoes around. However, this normally changes in December, and as soon as the wind returns it is far more pleasant.