Manta Resort: Our full report
In the far north-west of Pemba Island, The Manta Resort is a remote, laidback beach retreat with fantastic ...... views, a powder-white beach and a range of accommodation that includes a unique underwater room.
We have visited The Manta Resort a number of times over the years and every time we go back it seems to have improved. The owners continuously work hard to upgrade the facilities and maintain the high standard of the lodge and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
The 18 rooms at The Manta Resort fall into two main categories: six Seafront Villas, and 12 Garden Rooms. These vary considerably in size and location, with the spacious Seafront Villas being much closer to the ocean whilst the Garden Rooms – both ‘standard’ and ‘superior’ – are set further back among tropical gardens. Inside they are all light, airy and beautifully designed, and their bathrooms feature complimentary toiletries by Inaya Zanzibar.
For something very special we would recommend a night in the unique Underwater Room. Anchored 250m offshore, this private, three-storey timber structure features a lounge and bathroom on the landing deck, with a set of wooden stairs leading up to a top deck with a large sunbed. But the Underwater Room’s pièce de résistance is three metres down: an impressive submarine bedroom surrounded on all sides by panoramic windows looking out onto the ocean, where on our last visit, in July 2017, we were enthralled by an abundance of marine life day and night, courtesy of efficient spotlights.
The elevated central areas of The Manta Resort have some of the best sunset views in Pemba. The large open-sided bar and restaurant is a cool and breezy place to enjoy these panoramic views, book in hand, or while sipping a cocktail from the inclusive cocktail bar. Quirky touches such as a bookcase constructed from an old dhow and a large old cannon lend character and individuality.
Steps from the main area lead down to a nicely designed pool area, where shaded sunloungers and chairs overlook the sparkling ocean beyond. On one side, the swimming pool flows into a small waterfall that cascades down a tiled wall into a plunge pool at the bottom. Bartenders are on hand to whip up a drink from the well-stocked beach bar, which leads directly on to a beautiful white sandy beach dotted with hammocks, and pairs of sunloungers beneath makuti thatch umbrellas.
Guests at The Manta Resort stay on an ‘all-inclusive’ basis, which means that almost everything, from drinks and food to laundry and even spa treatments in their Kipipeo Spa (although limited to one per day), is included in the rates. The only extras are activities and any excursions.
During dinner, the staff came around and chatted to us about our day and whether we'd like to do any excursions the next day as well as organising what time we would like to have a massage.
Activities focus on snorkelling and diving, but there are several other options, including sunset cruises, deep-sea fishing, bird watching trips to nearby Ngezi Rainforest, and visits to a local village.
The on-site PADI dive centre, Dive 360, offers a range of snorkelling and diving trips as well as training courses. Dive sites vary from shallow dives on the house reef through to more challenging deepwater dives; Manta Resort can accommodate new divers as well as those with many years of experience. Please note, however, that away from the house reef, these waters are known for their strong currents, so they are not recommended for novice divers.
The Manta Resort has strong links with the charity, Kwanini Africa, whose initiatives include building a school in the nearby village of Mnarania and establishing an organic farm. Manta is also working hard to conserve Pemba’s coral reefs; they have set up a no-fishing zone around their house reef, and are working with local fishermen to introduce sustainable fishing practices.
Manta Resort is certainly one of the more remote lodges featured by Expert Africa. On a far corner of the undeveloped Pemba Island, it is not a resort in the typical sense of the word, but it is laidback and unpretentious, and the views are spectacular. It commands a fairly high price tag – and if you're looking for a smooth luxury resort you might be disappointed, but if you want somewhere a little different and off the beaten track, we think it's well worth the money. And we would definitely recommend shelling out for a night underwater.
- Pemba Island, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- We’d recommend at least five nights to enjoy the beach and explore the area.
- The lodge is one and a half hours’ drive along bumpy roads from Pemba airport.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- On our most recent visit in July 2017, the food at The Manta Resort was excellent. Much of the fresh produce comes from their organic farm, and the menu places an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. Guests are assigned their own personal ‘fundi’, who will be on hand to serve you drinks and meals during your stay.
We understand that Manta is very flexible and that guests are encouraged to tell them what they'd like; they will then try and accommodate their choices (given the limited supplies available).
Breakfast is usually a platter of fruit, banana bread and pancakes, followed by eggs to order. Tea, coffee and fresh juices are also available.
Lunch is a three-course menu with a choice of two mains and two desserts. We started with freshly baked sesame bread with a carrot and peanut purée; this was followed by grilled chicken with a satay sauce and rounded off with a fruit salad.
Dinner usually begins in the bar, where guests are served snacks to enjoy with their cocktails. There is then a three-course menu with two options for each course. We enjoyed a tomato soup to start, followed by grilled lobster and prawns, served with rice and a pineapple salad, and finished with a passion-fruit tart.
- Beach holidays
- The Manta Resort sits on a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach. Its isolated location means that guests are unlikely to be disturbed during their beach break on Zanzibar – other than to be offered a fresh cocktail from the beach bar!
- See ideas for Beach holidays
- Diving & snorkelling
- For diving and snorkelling in Zanzibar, Manta Resort on Pemba Island offers coral reefs and – for experienced divers only – waters with exhilarating currents. And in its new Underwater Room you have the underwater world around you, even while you’re sleeping!
- See ideas for Diving & snorkelling
- Attitude towards children
- The lodge welcomes older children.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under the age of 7 are permitted, and the underwater room has a minimum age of 12.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special activities.
- Generally recommended for children
- The pool at Manta is a good size, which children would enjoy, but the atmosphere here does lean slightly more to honeymooners and couples than to families.
- With no lifeguard at the pool, and direct access to the beach, children should be supervised at all times.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator
- There is WiFi in the central areas.
- TV & radio
- There is a TV in the dive center that is used for training courses.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All the land-based rooms are plumbed and have hot running water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first-aid kit in the lodge. Manta Resort has links to doctors in Pemba who will come out to the lodge in an emergency.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- The lodge is gated, and security guards patrol both night and day. There is also a guard boat which patrols the reef at night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers dotted around the lodge.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- The Seafront Villas have wooden safes, and there is a safe at reception where guests can store valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted with a 3.5% surcharge. Cash payments may be made in US dollars (newer than 2013 only), euros, Tanzanian shillings and British pounds.
Room types at Manta Resort
The 12 Garden Rooms, all en suite, are set back from the ocean, spaced out within beautiful tropical gardens. These rooms are a little smaller than the Seafront Villas and are split into two categories:
- Four Superior Garden Rooms are laid out in two pairs – with an interconnecting door between them – making these a good choice for families. These rooms are also air conditioned, and each has a small private terrace with baraza-style loungers. In addition to a large four-poster bed you can also find a small writing desk, wooden shelving, and a free-standing fan.
- The simplest rooms are the eight Standard Garden Rooms. These are set back in the gardens, with a small veranda at the front of each. Inside the style is much more basic, with a ceiling fan over the bed rather than air conditioning. Outside they have baraza-style loungers scattered with comfy cushions.
The six Seafront Villas are easily the best land-based rooms at The Manta Resort. The rooms are incredibly spacious and feel both bright and airy. The open-sided front of each room affords beautiful views over the Indian Ocean, with wooden shutters to close the ‘window’ at night. In the centre of each villa sits a large four-poster bed draped in a weighted mosquito net. There is a small coffee table, and breakfast may be brought to your room. Villas one, three and five also have a large ‘baraza’ style daybed, whereas villas two, four and six have an L-shaped sofa. Along with a wooden safe and a free-standing fan, there’s a recently installed ‘evening-breeze’ cooling system over the beds; this is an almost-silent air-conditioning system which keeps the bed cool within the mosquito net.
At the back of the room is an open-plan bathroom with a shower and twin sinks. Although the toilet is enclosed separately, this probably wouldn’t be the best option for friends travelling together, or those who like a little more privacy.
The Swedish-designed Underwater Room at Manta is one of the most unique rooms we feature at Expert Africa. A private, three-storey structure anchored 250m offshore, it is currently the only one in the world and is an amazing feat of engineering.
The underwater room is set in an area known as the ‘blue hole’, which is surrounded by a shallow coral reef. This area is home to an abundance of marine life and offers some great snorkelling opportunities directly from the room.
Above the water, the landing deck houses the lounge and bathroom. In the lounge, a U-shaped sofa is scattered with blue and cream cushions, with a wooden table at its centre where meals can be taken, and with a fantastic view of the sunset. A wooden cabinet houses a well-stocked minibar.
The bathroom features an eco-friendly marine toilet, a small sink, and a freshwater shower. To protect the delicate coral reef, shampoo and chemical products are not allowed in the underwater room but biodegradable toiletries are provided.
Up a set of wooden stairs is the top deck where a large daybed works by day for sunbathing and by night for stargazing.
But the real attraction of this room lies three meters below the surface. Reached by a small staircase, a suspended bedroom offers 360-degree views through the glass into the ocean. The room itself is reasonably small, just big enough for a double bed, but its size actually helps you to feel completely immersed in the underwater world. During the day the room attracts a wide variety of reef species including Moorish idol, parrotfish, sergeant majors, red cornetfish, trumpetfish, and a resident school of batfish. After dark, spotlights allow the fish spotting to continue; schools of trevally dart around eating microscopic plankton and on our most recent stay we were even joined by a large barracuda outside our window!
To help identify your companions, there are a couple of fish ID books on a small table –and a mobile phone preprogrammed with numbers for emergency use. The four anchors used to secure the room act as an artificial reef, and provide protection from larger predators.
The Underwater Room is not cheap, but spending a night here is a truly incredible experience, and one that you will be hard pushed to find elsewhere.
Other lodges in Pemba Island
Alternative places to stay in this same area.