Chumbe Island is a tiny coral island about six miles by boat from Zanzibar Town.
Chumbe Island Lodge: Our full report
Chumbe Island is a tiny coral island about six miles by boat from Zanzibar Town. Many years ago, Tanzania's had a military base here and strictly restricted access to the surrounding ocean. Thus the area's coral remained untouched – even by local fishermen. After that, conservationists realised its value and when the military left, in 1993 the area was placed under the protection of its own marine park: Chumbe Island Coral Park.
At the heart of this park stands the small island itself, and on this is the remarkable Chumbe Island Lodge. This is a trail-blazing, award-winning example of a lodge that is genuinely ecologically sensitive – and hence you may hear it referred to as “Chumbe Island Eco-lodge" or sometimes “Chumbe Eco-resort", or even simply “Chumbe Island Resort" – although, in fact, Chumbe doesn't feel anything like an island resort at all – and it's as far from a standard 'hotel' as you can imagine!
Chumbe Island Lodge is run by the not for profit private company Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP), and staffed by a very welcoming team of Zanzibari and Tanzanian people who are fully engaged with the projects aims and ethos. The ecologically-sensitive design of the lodge is award-winning. It's not only very green, but it also takes mainly local materials and building techniques to a higher level – to produce quite spectacular results. The main dining and lounge area, which also functions as an education centre, is particularly impressive in the scale of its design.
For accommodation, Chumbe Island Lodge has one single-storey bungalow, plus six double-storey bungalows. All are lit by solar power at night. Each of the double-story bungalows has a bedroom on the top floor, one wall of which can be lowered to stay open to the stars. Downstairs is a bathroom, a lounge/living room area and a large hammock. In the bathroom, the solar-heated shower uses rainwater, and the toilet is a clever, long-drop composting design.
It's important to understand that (like most islands made of coral) there's no good groundwater on Chumbe Island. Hence all of the lodge's buildings have been ingeniously designed to catch, filter and store their own rainwater.
All of the bungalows are within 30 seconds' walk of the beach. The food is simple but when we last visited it was very fresh and good, with a strong emphasis on vegetables, fruit and seafood – prepared using traditional recipes and spices.
To get the best out of a visit to Chumbe, get involved with the activities; don't try to treat the place as a conventional beach resort – it really doesn't work as one.
Many of Chumbe's activities are included in the cost of staying here, all are guided by resident guides and most focus on the island's ecology. Escorted forest walks look at the island's geology, flora and fauna - including endangered giant coconut crabs – seeing these amazing creatures is enough reason to visit Chumbe on their own! On Chumbe's beaches, walks explore the rich inter-tidal zone, and then further into the sea, guides who know the reefs around the island lead snorkelling trips (scuba-diving is prohibited). The reefs around Chumbe are one of the most impressive coral gardens off the coast of Africa; they contain over 400 species of fish and 200 species of hard coral.
Chumbe Island Coral Park ploughs its proceeds back into local conservation and education programmes; and has very strong links with, and involvement from, the local communities in the area.
Our viewIf you are conservation-minded, love snorkeling, or are interested in design – then you should certainly include Chumbe Island in your holiday – it's a great place offering a fascinating experience, and we're very proud to be able to support it.
Ideal length of stay: Chumbe Island Lodge is a delightful and fascinating place, ideal for a stay of two, or perhaps three, nights. It's nothing like a conventional beach hotel or resort – so we don't think that it works for a 7-night stay. However, 2-3 nights is perfect! Note that transfer times may require you to stay in the Stone Town area the night before coming here; ask us for details.
Directions: There is a scheduled boat transfer from Mbweni Beach on Zanzibar that leaves at 10am each day. The transfer takes about 45 minutes.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Chumbe Island is owned by a private, not-for profit limited company, CHICOP; the main owner is the Project Director and founder, Ms Sibylle Riedmiller.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Chumbe's food is usually served buffet-style, and it's relatively simple, but when we last visited it was very fresh and good.
Expect lots of salads, and a strong emphasis on vegetables and vegetarian dishes, plus a sprinkling of seas-food and meat dishes.
Deserts often revolve around fresh fruit and fruit salads – and the bar mixes up a 'mean' cocktail!
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Sodas, juices, water, tea/coffee and snacks are included; alcoholic drinks are excluded
Further dining info: Possible upon special request
Diving & snorkelling: Chumbe Island has some of the most pristine and amazing coral gardens in the world. The reef around the island has remained largely untouched and boasts over 400 species of fish and more than 200 species of hard coral. To help preserve them, the whole area is now protected by Chumbe Island Coral Park; no scuba diving is allowed here, but guided snorkelling trips guarantee an extraordinary underwater experience!See more ideas for Diving & snorkelling in Zanzibar
Attitude towards children: Children of any age are welcome.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Chumbe Island can arrange child minding services.
Equipment: Chumbe have baby cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Superb for older children with an interest in wildlife, who will enjoy the guided inter-tidal walks (around the rock pools), and other activities.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: Batteries can be charged in the main area. There are solar-powered lights in the bandas.
Communications: There is limited mobile access in the office. There is usually WiFi in the main visitors centre.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: There is hot and cold water that is heated by the sun. Drinking water is supplied. The toilets use a long-drop composting system.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There are first aid kits in the main area and the staff are all trained.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside every room.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Not possible.
Money: There are safes in all of the main rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Chumbe Island can accept payment in cash – TZS, GBP, USD and EUR. They can also accept Mastercard, Visa and Amex. Please note that there is a 5% surcharge for this.