Reviews of Pole Pole
Wildlife sightings and reviews
101 independent comments and wildlife information from our travellers who have visited Pole Pole and kindly agreed to share their thoughts. They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa
"Pole Pole review"
Diving was good, our first experience of muck diving and some really weird wildlife. The water was colder than expected.
Food was great, if you ordered all the courses it was way to much, took us a few meals to work out that we should scale back and share some courses.
Whale shark trip was a great success, with an added bonus of humpback whales! Amazing." See all these reviews: 15n in Tanzania
"Pole Pole review"
There are only 8 or 9 bungalows, nicely decorated in the local style. The rooms are basic but elegant. Perhaps they are due a refresh, but even as is they work well. The ownership of the hotel changed 2 years ago and the new management is gradually making improvements, for example adding 2 new bungalows with more luxurious features.
The location of the hotel is very scenic, with lush vegetation, white sand beach and blue ocean. Arriving from a boat, you could hardly see that there is a hotel!
The service is very attentive and whatever you ask, staff will make a big effort to help. “Pole Pole” means “slowly slowly” in Swahili, so if you expect everything to run fast as it would be in a London hotel, you will be disappointed. But that’s actually a good thing. Embrace a slower pace, that’s what a holiday should be about.
The food is amazing. I have high standards for food (I am Italian, cook a lot and love good ingredients nicely cooked) and Pole Pole delivered big time. One of the new owners is Italian and runs a hotel/restaurant in Dar Es Salaam. He taught the Pole Pole staff to cook and did an amazing job.
If anything, the main issue is that there is too much too eat. Also, you have to decide ahead of time what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s perhaps not super convenient.
The hotel partners with a local diving Center to provide activities and excursions (not only diving) some are included and some are charged extra. The week we stayed was the second week that this Pole Pole was working with the diving centre and it showed. It was not clear what was / was not included and this led to avoidable discussions about money. On the other hand, all activities were nice and exciting and we liked them all (diving, snorkelling, sunset cruises, barbecue on low tide sand banks, fishing, swimming with whale sharks). The only downside is that the diving centre is 10 mins walk away, and the walk is not super nice. Either you walk on the road, or along the beach but there is a bit where you have to walk among trees over smelly seaweed.
However, if you want to just lie on the hotel beach all day, and occasionally plunge in the sea, this may not be the right place. The beach is very pretty, but at low tide you cannot swim. There is a pool if you want, but it’s not the same.
Lastly, and I am not sure if it’s a positive or negative, WiFi is only available by the hotel reception. This helps with digital detox, but can be frustrating if you want to use WiFi while in your room.
I would go back to Pole Pole in a heartbeat!" See all these reviews: 8n in Botswana; 6n in Tanzania
"Pole Pole review"
Beds are rather hard.
Plenty of daily activities, which are well organised. We did whale watching and snorkelling with BBQ lunch, both very good." See all these reviews: 6n in Tanzania
"Pole Pole review"
Dive sites were fantastic. Dive boat a little rough but OK.
Nice rooms. Fabulous food. Loved the staff. Small resort so we got to know all of the guests.
Best place of the entire trip and some of the best diving I have done in my 22 years of my diving career. 20 stars." See all these reviews: 21n in Tanzania; 7n in Zanzibar
"Pole Pole review"
The manager, Julie, has imbued the hotel and staff with her natural warmth, making this a great environment to stay in.
The Chole tour was excellent.
It did rain for long periods while we were there (December), which was disappointing, but enough sunshine to make it worth the visit." See all these reviews: 12n in Tanzania
"A place to Chill"
Room number 7 our accommodation was private, spacious and very colonial and we enjoyed our time here.
Julie arrange most evenings a different location for us to dine such as the library overlooking the beach or the beach itself, very ambient." See all these reviews: 6n in Tanzania; 6n in Zanzibar
"Pole Pole - A Perfect End to Safari"
Julie, the relatively new hostess/manager, already had local contacts in the community and a perfect working relationship with Mafia Island Diving who make it easy to schedule your water activities by coming each evening to the bar and meeting with all the guests individually, explaining tidal influences on timing as well as coordinating how to fit in the most experiences during your visit. Julie knew what was going on in every square foot of Pole Pole and her pleasant demeanor made everything run smoothly. She frequently gave us special "treats" simply because she is a generous, nice person.
Food was delicious and you chose your menu ahead of time. Spirits were fairly priced and the service was very good. The cottages were lovely with outside day beds and in our case we had a 2nd bedroom. The bed in the main room was strewn with flowers when we arrived and overlooked the jungle and ocean. Tea or coffee and biscuits arrived on the patio each morning at whatever time you requested. (So did a crow that wanted his share and managed to break numerous glasses and crockery making us look like the clumsiest couple in the world.)
We met people from around the world staying there and we truly did not want to go back to the states, but when we had to Pole Pole packed us lunches so we could eat them on the plane and arranged to get us to the airport with no stress or worry." See all these reviews: 18n in Tanzania; 2n in Kenya
"Blissful, living up to its name"
Snorkelling was fabulous, as was the trip to Chole island, extremely interesting to see how people live and hear about their daily routines.
Pole Pole was blissfully quiet as a surrounding, food very good with interesting choices and some local foods on offer. Wireless access only in reception area, which made it very relaxing." See all these reviews: 13n in Kenya; 5n in Tanzania; 2n in Zanzibar
It was so relaxing - we spent lots of time on our balcony just gazing at the sea and doing not a lot. We also went snorkeling and saw lots of amazing underwater life.
Strongly recommended." See all these reviews: 13n in Tanzania
"Wonderfully relaxing and laid back hotel"
Fabulous rooms and wonderful pool
Great location and food
Loved the excursions
Very peaceful and relaxing" See all these reviews: 14n in Tanzania
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Other lodges in Mafia Island
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Chole Mjini is one of Tanzania's most environmentally aware lodges. With tree-houses, superb diving and a fantastic location on the rural island of Chole, this is ideal if you want to get back to nature.
Kinasi is a small, personal beach lodge on Mafia Island that has the features of a larger hotel, including a large pool and spa.
Situated just west of Kilondoni, the main town on Mafia, Butiama Beach is a simple beach lodge with friendly managers and a laid back vibe.
Shamba Kilole is a charming Italian-owned eco-lodge on the coast of Mafia Island, with simple rooms and friendly owner-managers.
Thanda Island is a high-end private island destination that caters to just one group of travellers at a time.