Reviews of Pole Pole
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Pole Pole - distinctly individual in stlye
Just half an hour flight from Dar es Salaam, a short drive and you’re in another place, another time. The lodge is rustic in character – lots of dark wood, thatch and charming period brass bathroom fittings – and very comfortable. We were warmly welcomed by Anne and her team and we were pleased that locals from the nearby village are employed at the lodge and used as guides. They were enthusiastic, warm and great fun.
The lodge makes its own bread and yogurt and serves a variety of delicious freshly-caught fish and salad dishes. We were always offered an alternative to fish for dinner but, honestly, fish is what they do best. A Swahili style dinner was also very good.
The lodge works closely with the Mafia Diving Centre, which is just a short walk away, to provide daily snorkelling and land based excursions around the group of islands. Diving is available too. A representative from the diving centre met with us each daily to agree the next day’s activity. The ones that were inclusive in our package tended to last just a few hours, leaving plenty of time for relaxing at the lodge and on the beach. High tides and (low) visitor numbers while we were there added to the charm of Pole Pole but did restrict some of the activities offered. As snorkelling from the beach was not possible, we were taken out in the lodge’s dhow to reefs in the bay. The reefs, now recovering since dynamite fishing has stopped, were picture-book beautiful and full of life.
Abiding memories of our time at Pole Pole are sipping cocktails while watching the fruit bats set out at sunset on their night’s foraging, enjoying a blissful massage listening to the waves, the breeze in the palms and the distant sound of the call-to-prayer from the village mosque, and the chocolate cake the kitchen staff surprised us with on our anniversary.
Pole Pole review
We came here to dive and relax and that is what we did and enjoyed. The lodge is well looked after, elevated above the beach to guarantee a constant breeze and the pool is welcoming.
After the raving reviews we had read prior to our stay we had expected a bit more luxury; to us, the beds were very small and uncomfortable and we experienced the dining room chairs equally uncomfortable. As the lodges philosophy is to only source everything from Mafia, the furniture was of a very simple style not perfectly suitable for our aged bodies.
The staff was very friendly, well trained and with good attitudes, no wish remained unfulfilled. The quality of the food was mixed - we had days of outstanding quality and meals we did not enjoy at all. We did raise this at PolePole and the management is well aware of this as other guests have given similar feedback.
We would recommend to explain to future guests that swimming from the lodges beach is impossible due to tidal currents and corals at most times. Smells are strong at low tides. The diving and snorkelling was superb, as was the PADI base a short walk away.
Pole Pole review
A beach and a the sunset was missing, but when you go diving a great hearty lunch pack is just what you need.Read more about the whole beach holiday
Pole Pole July 14
We stayed for 3 nights in July 14. Everything was abslutely superb - seriously can't think of any criticism at all. Perfect place to unwind, but with plenty of activities to do if you want them - defintely don't miss snorkelling over the coral reef.
The room was great, with a lovely veranda - just geat for the sundowner cocktails every night. Every meal we had was wonderful and the staff went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed.
Would highly recommend Pole Pole.
A useful tip: no-one tells you to keep the receipt for the Marine Park readily available - don't throw it away as you need it when you leave the park because they check it - a Dutch couple we were leaving with couldn't find all of theirs and got charged the entry fee again - and they were only allowed to pay in US Dollars, Tanzanian currency was refused!
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.