Reviews of Pole Pole
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Pole Pole: too pole pole for us!
We enjoyed our stay at Pole Pole - the staff are friendly and helpful, although quite reserved. The food was outstanding and plentiful.
The location on the beach is attractive and quiet. Although we didn't try it the pool looked inviting.
Our bungalow was very comfortable & spacious with a lovely balcony. We even had a friendly rat with a penchant for underwear!
We had chosen Pole Pole to end our holiday with some snorkeling. Unfortunately we were only able to go out once a day for approximately 30-40 minutes snorkeling due to the tides and currents. We hadn't read anything before our trip about the activities being so tide dependent and the reasons for the limited snorkeling opportunities weren't explained to us properly until our last day. Despite making it clear on our first evening that we weren't at Pole Pole to just sit on the beach and relax, we were never offered any other activities apart from a village walk even though we were happy to pay for trips in addition to the complimentary snorkeling. There is a nice walk along the beach that we did every day and we saw some good birds but again this is tide dependent.
Our snorkeling with lunch on Fisherman's Island was cancelled due to the rain and the whale shark operators had already stopped for the season - obviously both of these were outside of Pole Pole's control.
It's a lovely lodge but our trip was perhaps poorly timed for the tides.
Superb location for a post-safari chill out after a fairly hairy drive which will be much better when the new road is completed.
Was surprised to find so tidal such that it is not possible to swim from the private beach at low tide. Nice swimming pool though - adequate for the max 14 guests in the 7 bungalows. Only spoilt on the last morning by Marta the manager agreeing to let 6 x testosterone filled/beer swilling South African guys from a neighbouring resort to utilise the facilities who crowded out the pool and raised the noise level from its usual peaceful tranquility.
The management very kindly laid on a 'Special birthday' meal for me on the last night which was a nice gesture.
The snorkelling was good and I even got to helm the dhow on the way back.
Pole Pole review
This resort is right on the edge of the Indian Ocean. It was quite a shock to be informed, only at the time the tickets arrived, 10 days before departure, that to get to the Resort would cost us each USD20 per night's stay, which immediately added USD240 to the cost of the holiday, naughty!!
The Resort is lusciously landscaped and as it only contains seven "Bungalows" you are not going to bump into too many people, in fact, no more than 14 plus staff. Everything appears to be built using local materials which is charming, even the Bungalows seem a little "olde world" and the outside decking areas charming. The restaurant area is particularly attractive, just a pity that some of the food lets them down.
Considering this to be quite an expensive, niche Resort, meals was predetermined, no alternative choice and also as the information suggested an Italian influence, I was looking forward to Pizzas and pasta, but alas none of each and no sign of the Italian experience, the nearest we got was supposed to be bruschetta which was just chopped tomatoes and a slice of hard toast. The food was a let down as well as mysteriously the "house" wine not being available but plenty of the more expensive.
The staff were great, trying to make your stay a happy and memorable experience. When looking back it would tend to make me think that profitability is sometimes a more important issue for the owners than providing a really unique experience.
6 nights at Pole Pole
Pole Pole is wonderful and a very good combination following a safari.
Marta the new manager is doing a great job but is only 3 months in and perhaps it tells. The staff at the hotel are very kind and helpful but there is a slight lack of efficiency in taking food and drinks orders and there are clearly some language difficulties. It seemed at times that the bat and kitchen could do with some guidance to sharpen things up.
Having said that they were all charming and such elements didn't detract from the stay at all. I got the impression that Marta was having to refer decisions up the chain to management when she was clearly capable of making such decisions herself. One got the impression that she was not granted total autonomy that a manager needs. Doubtless this will change as time goes on.
The relationship that Pole Pole has with Mafia Lodge for activities works well and guides from there were helpful in planning the following day's activities. The food was good, sometimes excellent, but for an exclusive location, I had expected more consistency in quality. All in all I would give it a 9 out of 10. in part the score is high because of the sublime locality and access to snorkelling and scuba diving in a location only in the early days of tourism.
Great location, a little tired
We were a little disappointed by Mafia and Pole Pole. feel that maybe new management is struggling, and also that the place needs some TLC to bring it up to scratch.
The excursions were very good, our guide Sadike was excellent and very friendly. Generally felt that staff were very shy at communicating, and that the island was very overrated. The enclosure of the Marine park and daily entrance fee made it feel like an us and them situation.
Expert Africa comments
Expert Africa forwarded these travellers' feedback to Pole Pole, who thanked them for their feedback.
They are sorry to hear that these travellers felt that the management was struggling. The new manager has been in place for three months, and has received only positive feedback up to this point. Any management change here is done under close supervision and regular monitoring. No maintenance issue was reported during these travellers' stay and so without further clarification as to what the issues were here, it is difficult to comment further on this.
Pole Pole assures us that the vast majority of their feedback tells them that their staff is friendly and helpful. Sometimes the discrete Swahili way, which many find charming, may come across as shy.
Mafia Marine Park is not fenced or distinctively separated from the rest of the island. Pole Pole considers it a privilege to be inside the protected Marine Park, which makes Mafia a great diving destination.
Pole Pole are sorry that they didn't meet these travellers' expectations, and are never happy that clients go away less than satisfied, no matter the reason why.
Pole Pole review
We enjoyed our stay at Pole Pole which was very relaxing. The current manageress had only been in charge for two months .
The food was little disappointing as only fish was served, however they were happy to find alternatives when asked.
I was ill during our visit and the manageress was extremely helpful and sympathetic. I think to make full use of this Island you need to be interested in diving to make best use of the marine park , some of the other activities were quite expensive.
Pole Pole review
Pole Pole meaning Slowly slowly was exactly what it was like relaxing and everything you needed to hand and easily organised. Was very impressed with the trips offered and the area. Would highly recommend the personalised service recieved. Very quiet almost flet like you had the whole area to yourself.
A short walk when it was low tide to meet with the boat/ dive shop. Just need to be aware if booking trips/ dives to ask and make sure lunch/meals have plenty of time - ask in advance.
Pole Pole : beyond brilliant!
6 days at Pole Pole over New Year 2014. The best way ever to bring in a New Year. Wonderful new year party arranged on the beach brought the new year in in memorable style.
Superb food. Local fresh fish with every meal and they catered for my non fish eating son seamlessly.
Superb complementary outings arranged daily i.e snorkelling +/- picnic lunch / sunset dhow rides.
Next door is an excellent diving operation 'Mafia Island diving'. They recognized our names from our trip in 2013, and so kept places assuming we were still keen ++ divers. We had not pre-booked so without this we would have had problems as the season was so busy. Typical of the detail that they look after us with.
We went on a Whale Shark snorkeling trip with Kitue Kiblu as advised by Mafia Diving. It was a totally professional organization so well worth paying the extra over the local guides. The experience was truly awesome. They are magnificent creatures and the contact was long and detailed even though we felt like Jonah for much of the time!
This experience was 100 USD per person, and they only take cash, so it would have been helpful to budget for this before departure. Fortunately Pole Pole accepts tips in Sterling otherwise we would have had a cash crisis. All other add-on's use Visa cards.
Pole Pole review
We had a pleasant six days rest and relaxation here. Sara was a good host.
Service and food were excellent and the banda was well laid out and equipped.
The activities were OK for filling out the days, but not particularly exciting.
Pole pole was great. The staff so helpful and always smiling. All did their best to improve my Swahali speaking skills! The chef went out of her way to cook alternatives for me as, for example, I eat no shellfish except prawns. It was never forgotten and the alternatives were unfailingly delicious. The daily complimentary excursions were very good - in particular the dow trip to a reef where we snorkelled then on to a sandbank where were given fish grilled on the beach while we lazed in the sun
The one problem we had was with the beach. The tides were dramatic. At high tide there was no beach and at low tide the water so far out swimming was not possible. Also the current was strong as the tide was going out and,again, we could not swim. We were disappointed as we had not had a good experience in Zanzibar (razor sharp rocks by the shoreline making it impossible to enter the water) and expressly asked for a location where we could lie on the beech and swim in the sea.
This should not realky be marketed as a beech holiday (the photo in your brouchure is misleading). Fortunately there was a lovely swimming pool and that is where we spent much of out time quite hapily. The spa was a welcome luxury.
Expert Africa comments
We are delighted that these travellers enjoyed Pole Pole generally and especially the pool and the spa.
However, we were concerned about their beach comments. As with all beach places in Mafia and Zanzibar, the tides do affect the beach and the options for swimming. Pole Pole has a better beach than many other Mafia lodges, with a significant area of soft sand, and fewer mangroves than elsewhere. Swimming from Pole Pole's beach is possible during high tides, while at low tide the lodge also offers excursions to exposed sand bank islands (which these travellers enjoyed) large beaches where you can always swim. These daily trips are included in the rates.
That said, Mafia's beaches aren't like Zanzibar's. We always try to discuss this with our travellers; were sorry if we didn't emphasise the differences enough.
We've assured these travellers that the picture of Pole Pole in our brochure was like every single other picture in our brochure taken by one of our team when they visited the lodge, and it hasn't been edited in any way.