Lupita Island Lodge: Our full report
Lupita Island Lodge is secreted on the private 45-hectare Lupita Island, part of the only archipelago in ...... Lake Tanganyika, in western Tanzania. Reached from the remote fishing village of Kipili, west of Katavi National Park and south of the Mahale Mountains, it sprawls across the top of the island, looking out over the lake, and with a wide range of beach and island activities.
Getting to Lupita Island is an adventure in itself. After a bumpy light-aircraft approach over the mountains of mainland western Tanzania (see ‘Access directions’ for more), guests land at Kipili airstrip to be greeted by Belinda and Dave, the enigmatic owner/managers of the island. Planes don’t land here too often, so there is often a welcoming party of excited local children joining your hosts. Once on land, you’ll have a drive of around 20 minutes through the rural village of Kipili to the lakeshore, followed by a 15-minute speedboat journey to Lupita Island itself. ‘Lupita’ may mean ‘on the way to’ in Kiswahili, but this island is very much an end goal.
The island’s jetty is the location of the beach bar and a small sandy beach that was constructed by the owners - there are no natural beaches on the island. The lodge itself is at the top of the island, a rather steep walk or a fun golf-buggy ride away.
Lupita’s lounge and bar is a high-ceilinged, open-sided structure under makuti thatch, with a large west-facing deck. The eclectic mix of sofas and armchairs on two levels, along with Belinda’s exceptional collection of African artefacts, carvings and decorative antique furniture, create a homely feel, full of interest and intrigue. Rather zingy pops of tangerine and lime soft furnishings add a quirky edge to the whole look. High in the rafters, a small mezzanine floor is a perfect spot for watching the sun set over the lake, or to browse the lodge’s selection of wildlife and photography books.
This overall style of building and aesthetic continues through to a very large, separate dining room - although meals take place in a variety of locations around the main area. There is further seating here too, ideal for relaxing after dinner – or you could head for the firepit, surrounded by lounge chairs.
Facilities continue to a swimming pool, complete with swim-up bar, and on along a series of pathways to a gym, with lovely views over the lake towards the neighbouring islands, and Lupita Island’s separate thatched spa. There is also a very well-equipped games room: there are ping pong and pool tables, table football, darts and an array of board games.
More pathways wind down through the bush to 10 thatched cottages fronting the lake, each looked after by a dedicated member of staff. Ranging in size from 167m2 to 232m2, these are incredibly secluded and feel very spacious. Each is individually designed, but most are completely open on the lake side, and all feature an open-plan lounge area, king-size four-poster bed (or one twin), bathroom with twin sinks, waterfall shower and bathtub, and a deck with plunge pool. The décor is similar to the main areas, with beautiful wooden furniture made on site, as well as more antique pieces – many sourced from Zanzibar – and playful touches such as butter yellow and mint green walls. Added safari luxuries include a minibar, complimentary toiletries and hairdryer.
All the cottages have plenty of space for an extra bed or two, but there is also a particularly spacious family cottage – the Livingstone Suite. With a double room, smaller twin room, plus an extra bed – and two bathrooms – this can sleep up to five, but it is very open so would probably be best for younger families. When we visited Lupita Island in October 2018, we stayed in the Livingstone Suite, so it can also work for smaller parties wanting even more space than the norm.
As they are so private, some cottages are a bit of a stroll from the main areas – perhaps five minutes or more – with stone steps down to them. There are a couple that are more suited to those with limited mobility (Nachtigal’s Nest and Batutta’s Oasis) as they are near to the main areas, with flatter pathways and no steps. Conversely, for proximity to the lake consider Baker’s Lagoon and King Mirambo’s Boma – though these are also two of the furthest from the main area.
It’s very easy to fill your days with activities on Lupita Island. Around the lodge itself, there is the pool, gym, spa and games room, but you can also walk down to the beach – or be driven in the golf buggy. The beach itself is very small and stepped, but there is no risk of crocodiles or hippos in this area of the lake, so it’s possible to swim from here. To explore the lake, there are excellent kayaks and snorkelling equipment. We really enjoyed paddling around the island, accompanied by the watersports guide, stopping off to swim and snorkel along the way. The warm, fresh water was a delight and the fish were plentiful, although the lake can get a little choppy at times without too much warning.
Above the water, there are sailing boats for guests who have some prior experience, as well as a number of leisure boats for longer lake cruises, perhaps trying some handline fishing along the way, or heading to one of the other islands for a barbecue and beach day. We spent a great afternoon on the neighbouring island, relaxing on the beach and swimming. The staff had set up a superb buffet lunch, and had brought over a variety of beach games and a fully stocked bar too. Then at the end of the day, we were able to kayak back to Lupita.
Those interested in local culture can be taken on guided walks on one of the larger islands, passing through villages along the way. Tourists aren’t a regular occurrence here, so the children in particular tend to be hugely excited to see the visitors. There are also the ruins of a monastery that can be visited as part of a walk.
Lupita Island is different from your typical “beach stay” – in part because of the unique aspects of freshwater Lake Tanganyika, and in part for the remoteness and complete flexibility of a stay here. As it is owner-run, it is homely and welcoming, with a bit of a quirky, gently chaotic feel, but rather than detracting this adds to the memorable nature of a visit. Lupita may not be the most straightforward lodge to get to, but this adventure playground offers the whole package: friendly staff, great food, beautiful surroundings, and as much – or as little – to do as you wish.
Country manager: Tanzania
- Lupita Island, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- From 3 nights upwards
- Lupita Island is accessed via a short drive, from Kipili airstrip, and then a speedboat ride to the island. Scheduled flights to Kipili are possible on Mondays and Thursdays only – from Dar es Salaam (via the Selous, Ruaha and Katavi), or from Arusha and the Serengeti.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The food at Lupita Island Lodge is very good – plentiful, well presented, extremely varied – and clearly a lot of thought goes into the menus. The lodge is very happy to cater to dietary requirements with advance notice, as well as to tailor menus to suit particular tastes. High standards of service are expected from the staff, on which they mostly deliver, but there is the occasional prompt required. Meals are held in various locations throughout the lodge.
Breakfast is generally served outside and consists of a changing buffet of cereal, yoghurt, fruit, smoked salmon, cold meats and cheese. On the tables themselves, there’s a selection of sweet options – perhaps pancakes and muffins, or doughnuts and banana bread; Lupita has a pastry chef who makes all the cakes and pastries fresh, every day. There is also a menu of hot dishes, with ‘daily specials’ such as eggs Benedict, and healthy smoothies.
Lunch depends on the activities guests are doing that day. It might be a barbecue on the beach, a packed lunch taken out on a walk or one of the boats, or a buffet at the lodge. We really enjoyed the selection of aromatic curries one day, accompanied by rice, salads, chapattis, papadoms and a variety of chutneys.
Dinner is a four-course set menu. One evening we started with a spiced pumpkin soup and croutons, followed by chunky pancetta and vegetable spring rolls with a chilli dipping sauce. Our main course was beef fillet with green pepper cream, julienne carrots and roasted potato wedges. The meal was finished with a delicious Amarula mousse with a shot on the side.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room service is available and meals can be set up anywhere around the property – in the cottages, by the pool, out on the deck. It’s very flexible.
- Drinks included
- Most drinks are included except premium wines and spirits. Drinking water is provided in all of the cottages, as well as in the main area.
- Family holidays
- Lupita Island is an excellent choice for a family holiday, especially a multi-generational or large group. With an array of activities on the island and in the lake, and great family accommodation - is a brilliant alternative to Zanzibar.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Children age 7 years and above are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age 7 years
- Special activities & services
- The staff are happy to do activities with children on their own, and both menus and mealtimes can be customised. There are also good family room options.
- Generally recommended for children
- There is so much to do on Lupita Island, at the lodge itself, in and on the lake and neighbouring islands, we think that children would struggle to be bored. Lupita Island is a great place for families.
- The paths to the rooms are long and steep in places, and there is open access to the lake so younger children and non-swimmers should always be supervised.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator and there are plug sockets in all the cottages with 24-hour power.
- There is good cellphone reception throughout the lodge, and WiFi in the main areas.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV at the lodge but for big sporting events, guests could go to Belinda’s private house.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped up from the lake and filtered for use at the lodge. The bathrooms are fully plumbed with hot and cold water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- Askaris (armed guards) walk guests back to their cottages when it is dark.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in each cottage.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included. However, as is usual for Tanzanian camps, ladies’ underwear cannot be washed, so they provide washing powder in the bathrooms.
- There is a are lockable chest in each cottage to store valuables. There is no currency exchange facility.
- Accepted payment on location
- Additional payments are accepted in US dollars and Tanzanian shillings. The lodge does not currently have the ability to accept card payments.