Reviews of Pole Pole
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
A good place to stay
We didn't experience any major problems there, but somehow we felt it was not as relaxing as we had expected. Maybe Beho Beho has spoilt us for life ;) Anyway, the general impression was good, hence the rating we are giving, but there were a few details that left someting to be desired.
Pole Pole is indeed situated nicely among palm trees and right at a little beach. The managers and the staff were very friendly and no request was a problem for them, which we appreciate a lot. The massage on offer is great and the food was excellent indeed. The tomato soup and the carrot soup were the highlights - thanks for the recipe :) The flexible meal times is a great idea.
As for the activities, the two snorkelling trips we made were really nice - especially the second one, because there was sunshine and because some seat cushions were provided on the boat, unlike the first time. The visit to Utende was very interesting, many thanks to Mr Zeni, who proved a very good guide and took us to the primary school and the dispensary.
Unfortunately, the whale-sharks boat trip, for which we paid 60 USD per person, was absolutely unsuccessful - we spent half a day searching for them and found none, probably because of the bad weather at the time. We were charged in full for the trip, though. We understand that there are some costs to be covered anyway, like the driver's and the boat crew's fees, but we would have appreciated an appropriate discount, especially since - as were told - it was the very first time when no whale-sharks were to be seen.
Our general idea was to go to Pole Pole to relax after a safari, also to do a bit of snorkelling etc, but mostly to read and chill out in peace and quiet. Due to the tides, there isn't much sea to swim in in the mornings and not much of a beach in the afternoon (and the neighbouring beach wasn't very tranquil, really), so do not expect to be able to swim and use the beach any time you want, you have to spot the right moment for it. You can spend your relaxation time on your lodge's terrace, but there is only one day bed, so if you are two people that are NOT travelling as a couple, someone has to sit in a not-too-comfy chair or lie down on a bed in the room. Another option is to relax is the library - there is a hammock and you may be lucky to find it unoccupied. Might be a good idea to put hammocks in all the terraces.
The room and the bathroom were clean but the towels were kind of smelly, so we asked for a change, but the new ones smelt of damp as well. The beach towels were clean but there were some old yellow stains on them, which is a bit disappointing in a place that clearly has ambitions to be simple, but still a bit posh.
If we may make a suggestion, a price list for the soft drinks and alcoholic drinks should be privided in the rooms and in the bar - firstly, it's just nice to know what exactly is offered, secondly - it's nice to know the prices beforehand and not only when you sign the bill in the evenings.
Expert Africa comments
It is good to hear that Pole Pole’s standards of service, massage and food remain great. “No request was a problem for them” is a real accolade; backing up what we have always found - that Pole Pole’s team are fantastic. This is why the lodge is one of our favourite beach spots.
These travellers raised some interesting points. When we sent these comments to Pole Pole, the owner, Massimo, replied directly to us.
- Firstly, at that time there were problems with the towels. It was approaching the rainy season; humidity was above 80% and there had been bad weather. Hence, although clean, towels and linen left exposed to the air ended up feeling slightly damp, and with the towels it was hard to avoid the slightly musty smell that these travellers described. (This is a problem that hits coastal lodges at this time of year.) Pole Pole tell us that they are continuing to do their best on this – but short of tumble-drying every material every day (with a consequently huge ecological impact), it’s difficult to solve completely when the weather is very humid.
- These travellers had no boat cushions for the first of their daily complementary snorkeling trips. Pole Pole apologized profusely for this. Apparently the cushions had been caught in the rain the day before – and were being cleaned and dried. The lodge assures us that the boats should always have comfortable cushions, and this was an oversight.
- Pole Pole have taken on board the suggestion about ‘hammocks on verandahs’ and are aiming to implement something along these lines before re-opening in June 2009.
- They also noted that although there is already a drinks price list on display in the bar, there isn’t one in the rooms. This is another good suggestion and they will add this.
In general, Pole Pole’s Owner, Massimo, was quick to point out that he wouldn’t describe the lodge as “posh”, and that this is never what he has aimed for. We can vouch for that! Since the start – we first visited Pole Pole eight years ago in 2001! – Pole Pole have aimed to be a laid back, rustic yet stylish beach lodge – offering good food, cooked well and efficient, friendly service. They’ve never aimed to be either glitzy or posh.
Finally, it’s worth echoing one of the first comments that these travellers made – “maybe Beho Beho has spoilt us for life”.
Beho Beho is one of our top lodges in Africa, with impressively high standards of service, food, guiding and accommodation – and a price tag to match. (It costs about 3 times what Pole Pole costs!). Be warned: we find that it is so good that wherever our travellers go onto next ... it often doesn’t quite match up.
Pole Pole review
Very well managed by Gabrielle and all the staff were a delight. Food could be a bit more exciting though the fish was excellent.
Snorkelling was very well run and massages were superb and good value. Beautiful garden. Laundry service excellent.
The beds were poor especially the mattresses and the linen both of which need to be replaced by better quality ones.
Beach life at Pole Pole
Pole Pole was a treat - we loved the fact that it had only 7 rooms and hope it never expands - that would change it completely.
The person who ran it had disappeared 3 weeks before so we had a stand in manager, Gabrielle. She was wonderful - and couldn't have done more for us. It was beautifully run with every comfort and attention to detail. If you were looking only for lazy days at the hotel then the beach was a little bit disappointing - at low tide one would have to walk 10 minutes round the point for a swim. We didn't really mind - we got into the habit of a daily snorkelling trip by boat. The extra activities were expensive - the $ exchange rate didn't help but as the isalnd is small, $60 pp for a trip and picnic to another island or beach seemed quite a lot.
Having said that, the whole experience was wonderful, the food excellent and we loved being there.
Expert Africa comments
We are delighted that Pole Pole was such a success for these travellers – it is a firm favourite of ours as well. When these travellers say that the person who ran it “disappeared” 3 weeks ago – they meant that the usual Manageress, Maura, was on leave. We’re glad that Pole Pole’s high standards did not slip under the relief manageress Gabriele.
A daily dhow trip in the Chole Bay area is always included for our travellers at Pole Pole. These travellers opted to do these on most days – and we’re sure they enjoyed them. Such trips are typically a relaxing dhow trip to a sandbank with a picnic, with snorkeling on the way back – or maybe an excursion to explore Chole Island and its ruins. They’ll usually last 3-5 hours, depending on what travellers want.
These travellers commented that “extra activities were expensive” – referring to excursions further afield, to islands outside of Chole Bay. They didn’t take any of these trips, but such trips are always charged as an extra at Pole Pole.
For example, trips to islands outside Chole Bay currently cost $45 per person; trips to see whale sharks (seasonally in the area from around October through to March) are $60 per person; and there’s a full-day trip to Bwejuu Island (which is half way between Mafia and mainland of Tanzania”) which costs $60 per person.
Quiet and formal lodge
A quiet atmosphere lodge for an older age group or peple seeking a more intimate holiday. Our visits to Chole Island were wonderfully memorable.
The beach was small but with a max 14 guests at the lodge it was never crowded. Impecably clean and well maintained. Good snorkelling but quite busy due to adjacent lodges.
Pole Pole review
Life at Pole Pole was luxurious, tranquil and calm. The staff were graceful, seeming to really enjoy the job of looking after the guests
and just watching them serenely going about their work made me slow down and relax.
The food was a wonderful surprise, a wide variety (including a delicious Swahili meal) served outside overlooking the ocean. With linen and flowers at every meal (even at the 3 course breakfasts) the fish and local fruits were especially fresh (no worry about food miles here.)
The Dow trips out to the coral beds for snorkeling were a highlight especially the day we sailed onto a sandbar for barbecued fish served by the Captain and his crew. The colony of fruit bats which passed by our veranda each evening at sundown will be remembered for a long time to come and having a massage from Jenny whilst overlooking the beach is a treat we would recommend.
We (reluctantly) left feeling like we'd been there for weeks not 6 nights and determined to return one day.
Pole Pole review
The food was really excellent. Every meal was always something special.
The only disappointment was the beach. It was not very pleasant and we didn't know about that.
Pampering at Pole Pole
A totally different experience from the previous three lodges - this was a more upmarket, exclusively professional and a highly enjoyable tropical retreat, where the real world was kept at bay. The lodges were very comfortable in luscious settings overlooking the gardens leading down to the beach.
Every aspect was directed at providing a second to none experience and at the end of our trip we appreciated the pampering of wonderful food, electricity, flush toilets and a quiet electric roof fan to make sleeping possible. Three nights was just right for us. All local staff were extremely helpful and spoke and understood better English than on Chole.
The boat and snorkelling trips inspired confidence, were professional in all respects and planned individually for guests the previous night. All staff were upbeat, polite and professional in every respect.
A brilliant end to our two weeks in Tanzania.
Pole Pole review
You couldn't get much more relaxing than a few days at Pole Pole. On our first morning, totally exhausted from our safari, we surfaced at 11.30 and were amazed to find that breakfast was still being served. Maura was so welcoming and we loved discussing the food with Mattija whose passion for fresh, local food is really impressive (and his homemade chilli oil isn't bad either!).
Everything was set up so that you could do as much or as little as you wanted and the dive trip (departing from the dive centre at Mafia Island Lodge next door) was really enjoyable, as was the snorkelling trip on our first day.
Being served dinner (and champagne) alone in the beach hut as a surprise on our last night was a really special touch which we really appreciated.
Pole Pole review
Great staff, trained v well, and always pleased to help. Too much food! We had to try and order single portions for 2 after a few days. Meals almost at any time.
Impressed the way one of the staff remembered I had asked for fresh coconut juice, but none was available that day (6pm and no one available to climb a tree!), so they arrived with one the next day!
Pole Pole review
Very relaxing, just what we needed after the safari which is more tiring than one thinks!
unfortunately we both had coughs when we got there so my husband was only able to do one dive and we coughed well down our snorkels!
Everyone was very helpful and the fruit was especially lovely at breakfast. The boat trips are glorious especially when the sail was put up on the return journey.