Pemba Lodge is on Shamiani Island...
Pemba Lodge: Our full report
Pemba Lodge, sometimes known as Pemba Island Eco Lodge, opened in November 2011 on the very small Shamiani Island, just off the south-east coast of Pemba Island. With just five rooms, it’s a rustic lodge dedicated to promoting responsible tourism, creating a balance between conserving the natural environment and showing sensitivity towards the local community, while allowing visitors the chance to experience this little-visited area.
Pemba Lodge was conceived when Pemba local, Nassor, arrived at Shamiani Island on a dhow boat trip. Impressed by its natural and untouched beauty, he decided to build a lodge that was in tune with its surroundings – preserving the environment and giving job opportunities to local people. Shamiani Island has only 150 families, largely dependent on fishing and subsistence farming. Employment among the staff at Pemba Lodge helps to provide income for the community.
Pemba Lodge is currently the only lodge on Shamiani Island, and a visit here will allow you a real insight into the daily life of the local people, as yet untouched by tourism or Western development.
Getting to the lodge is a bit of an adventure in itself! From Pemba airport, you’ll take a 45-minute road transfer to a small port in the south-east of the island. From here the 20-minute boat trip to Shamiani Island will allow the captain the chance to sail up to local fishermen and buy some of their fresh catch for dinner. Depending on the tides, it’s then a 10–20-minute walk through farmland to the lodge itself. Don’t be put off by this journey, though – you’ll be rewarded by a truly beautiful stretch of beach with powder-white sand that rivals the best in Zanzibar. When the tide is out the beach takes on an almost lunar landscape stretching into the distance, but when the tide is in, it’s stunning.
With only five rooms at Pemba Lodge, it’s very peaceful and relaxed. Although the rooms are basic, and not for those who like their creature comforts, they are attractive, and it is clear that some thought has gone into their design.
Four of the rooms are identical – spacious, but very simply made from palm and thatch, and retaining an authentic African appearance. They’re raised on stilts about a meter off the ground to help keep them cool and capture the breeze, while the small wooden deck in front of each is a nice shady spot to sit and relax with a drink.
Inside each room you’ll find a four-poster bed, a sofa, a desk with a chair, and a bookshelf made from half an old dhow boat. In fact, all the furniture is made from reclaimed dhow wood so is very solid and chunky. Woven palm leaves line the walls, and the floors are of dark wood; although this makes the rooms very dark, even during the day, it also means that they remain relatively cool. Colourful kangas, woven mats and some wall decorations lend character and a touch of individuality. Each room is also equipped with a standing fan, a safe and a full-length mirror.
A wooden door separates the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom, which houses a hot shower, basin and a composting toilet.
The lodge also has a two-storey family house with two bedrooms sharing a bathroom – perfect for a family with children.
The communal areas at Pemba Lodge are incorporated within an open-sided thatched structure that houses the lounge, bar and restaurant. These are designed in much the same style as the rooms – expect chunky wooden furniture and colourful African fabrics.
A board in the bar gives the times for low and high tide, so you can plan your day’s activities. During low tide, chill out in one of the hammocks; have a massage from a local lady in a little hut on the beach; or simply relax on a sofa leafing through the coffee-table books. You can also visit a local school and village, or take the 20-minute walk to the lodge’s ’turtle conservation project’, where you may be lucky enough to glimpse a turtle awaiting release in the lake.
When the tide is higher, take a kayak to paddle round the island (if you can’t make it all the way round, they can meet you half way and bring the kayak back for you), or try snorkelling in the shallow waters. Diving can also be arranged with an operator on the Pemba mainland, but they will need a day’s notice for this.
Our viewFor those who want to get really off the beaten track, Pemba Lodge offers a chance to experience something a little different. Don’t come looking for luxury, comforts or activities; instead come for a rustic, environmentally sound escape to a beautiful and untouched area of Tanzania’s islands.
Ideal length of stay: Spend 3–4 nights here for a chance to explore this small island.
Directions: Following a 45-minute drive from Pemba’s airport, you’ll be met at Mpene port, and transferred to Shamiani Island by dhow. The length of this crossing will depend on the tides. Please note that at low tide you may be required to wade out to the boat through mud. On arrival on Shamiani, again depending on the tides, you may have to walk for about 10 - 20 minutes to reach the lodge.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Pemba Lodge are predominantly seafood based, and depend on what the local fishermen have caught that day.
All meals are served in the main restaurant area, although tea and coffee can be brought to your room in the morning.
Breakfast consists of a fruit platter and then a choice of eggs, or pancakes. On our last visit in July 2014 we had pancakes with boiled cassava (a local vegetable) and some fresh pineapple juice!
Lunch is a light offering, while dinner is a more substantial three-course meal. The menu for dinner is written on the board during the day (once they have visited the fishermen!). We enjoyed a spicy vegetable soup with fried bread, followed by fresh crab, served with carrot and cabbage salad, and chips. This was rounded off by roasted pumpkin with vanilla, cardamom and clove sauce.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks are included, but alcoholic drinks are extra.
Further dining info: Tea and coffee are served to your room in the morning.
Attitude towards children: Pemba Lodge welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no specific age restrictions.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children, but both kayaks and snorkelling equipment can be used free of charge.
Equipment: The family house is designed for parents travelling with their children.
Generally recommended for children: Pemba Lodge has some activities for children, and the chance to visit a local school will allow them some cultural interaction, but the logistics of getting to the lodge make it unsuitable for very young children. It is a very quiet and relaxed lodge so wouldn’t suit children who need a lot of things to amuse them.
Notes: Children are always the responsibility of their parents.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is solar power in all of the rooms and batteries can be charged in the bar area.
Communications: They have dial-up internet for use in emergencies.
TV & radio: There is no TV here.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Pemba Lodge has a first aid box on site. For more serious issues they have a boat on standby to transport people back to Pemba's mainland.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: A security guard patrols the lodge.
Fire safety: Pemba Lodge has fire extinguishers in each room. Due to the flammable nature of the building materials, all electrical wires are sealed within pipes, and guests are encouraged to be particularly careful.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is possible at an extra cost of about US$1 per item, with a 24-hour turn round. Clothes are washed in the local village.
Money: All the rooms have safes.
Accepted payment on location: Pemba Lodge can accept cash in US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings and British pounds. They also accept Visa and MasterCard, please note that there is a 4% surcharge for this.