Stay at the Kimbilio Lodge in Tanzania...
Kimbilio Lodge: Our full report
Kimbilio Lodge is a small beachfront guesthouse located in the picturesque and historic port town of Kilwa Masoko, on the southern stretch of Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coastline. This area is quite off-the-beaten-track, and those few travellers who reach here are often attracted by Kilwa’s history or scuba diving.
Kimbillio Lodge sits on the white sands of Jimbazi Beach in a small cove on the eastern side of the town. The lodge is simple in set up and has a laid back atmosphere in keeping with the general lifestyle of this sleepy coastal town. It’s generally used as a base to dive the surrounding waters, or to take a day trip to the nearby ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara.
Kimbillio’s six spacious circular cottages face towards the beach and are functional rather than luxurious. Three have large wooden-frame double beds covered in mosquito nets and raised about a metre off the ground; one room is set up as a twin; and the other two are family rooms (with extra beds in the rooms). The netted windows are covered with colourful kanga fabric and the stone floors are left, for the most part, bare to keep the rooms cool – although they can feel a little Spartan and dark inside.
A small writing desk, a luggage rack and bedside tables make the room feel a little more comfortable and provide some space to put away your belongings. There’s also a lockable trunk in which you can store valuables. The large bathroom at the back of the cottage has a toilet, hot shower (remember to turn on the hot water about 20 minutes before you want to use it) and a single sink.
The main areas at Kimbillio Lodge consist of a covered dining area and small bar, behind which a TV that generally plays BBC World News throughout the day and evening. A small seating area and bookshelf provide somewhere to relax in the shade during the hot midday sun. Just in front of the dining area is a large swathe of decking overlooking the sea. A few deckchairs are set up out here and you can watch the world go by as the locals go about their daily business up and down the beach.
On our last visit to Kimbillio Lodge in June 2013, they were just in a process of changing managers and there was some talk about building new rooms, and changing a few smaller details. However, for the time being, the lodge looks set to remain as it is.
The main reason the majority of people base themselves here is to do some of the activities on offer. The very friendly dive-master/manager, Nazim, is on hand to lead the diving. If guests want to do any PADI courses then advance notice is required, so that they can get someone in to certify it.
Diving is a popular activity in Kilwa, but unless you’re very experienced we’d advise diving only between September and March. From June to August the high winds and choppy waters can make diving difficult. In June 2013 a double-tank dive cost US$110.
Of great historical interest are the nearby Kilwa Kisiwani ruins. You’ll need about three hours to explore them and on our last visit (June 2013) entry cost US$50 per person and included tuk-tuk and boat transport, entry fee and a guide. Four hours away are the ruins of Songo Mnara, which costs around US$65 per person. Although Kimbilio don’t run the tours themselves, they employ a local guy called Oswald, who gave us a fascinating tour and was more than willing to answer any questions we had.
Other activities include a guided village walk (US$30) and visit to a local salt farm (US$25). Keen fishermen can organize excursions with local tour operators, but it’s not cheap: a local trip costs form US$300 and up to US$1,000 for deep-sea fishing.
Our viewFor travellers who want to get a off the beaten track and dig deeper into Tanzania’s rich cultural history, then Kimbilio Lodge offers a good base to explore the surrounding ruins. Kilwa’s other lodges are of a far lower standard; this is by far the best option. Don’t expert luxury or a smart beach retreat here; instead come for an insight into local Tanzanian life and an opportunity to explore.
Ideal length of stay: Spend two to three nights here to explore the surrounding ruins.
Directions: Kilwa airstrip is a 20-minute flight from Mafia, or a 50-minute flight from Dar es Salaam. The lodge is then a 10-minute drive by car or tuk-tuk.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Breakfast at Kimbillio Lodge is usually taken outside on the decking overlooking the sea. You begin with a fruit salad, followed by toast and eggs cooked to your liking. The fresh mango juice that accompanied it was delicious, although the instant coffee may not be to everyone’s liking!
Lunch and dinner at Kimbillio are both set menus. We found the food to be very good indeed. Unsurprisingly, the menu is almost exclusively based around seafood. On our last visit, we enjoyed some amazing fish samosas served with a simple salad for lunch, followed by fruit. For dinner we started with fried calamari, followed by grilled lobster with potatoes and curry sauce.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks cost extra: a beer costs around US$4, while a soda costs about US$2.
Further dining info: There is no room service.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcomed, but generally the lodge feels better suited to adults or children aged 12 plus.
Property’s age restrictions: There aren’t any specific age restrictions.
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: There isn’t a huge amount to entertain children here, although the family rooms do offer a good sleeping arrangement for families with older children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: They also have a back-up generator in case of a power failure.
Communications: There is free WiFi for guests to use, but it wasn’t working on our last visit and this seems to be a common problem. However, there is usually good cellphone reception.
TV & radio: There is a TV in the bar/dining area.
Water supply: Mains
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The lodge has a simple first-aid kit onsite. For more serious accidents, there is a doctor ten minutes away in Kilwa, and Dar es Salaam is an hour’s flight, or a three-hour drive away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: The lodge has a security guard at night.
Fire safety: There are a couple of fire extinguishers dotted around, but there are plans to put a more formal procedure into place.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is possible at a small extra cost .
Money: There is a lockable trunk in the room to store valuables.
Accepted payment on location: The lodge only accepts cash. Either US dollars or Tanzanian shillings are best, but they also normally accept euros and the British pound.