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 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.
If 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.
- South-west Zanzibar, Zanzibar
- 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.
- 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
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
- Further dining info, including room service
- Possible upon special request
- Drinks included
- Sodas, juices, water, tea/coffee and snacks are included; alcoholic drinks are excluded
- Family holidays
- For older, adventurous kids Chumbe Island can be a great choice. There is only one lodge on the island, with lots of space to run around and explore. Teenagers are likely to enjoy snorkelling over the reefs and discovering the tropical forest.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Diving & snorkelling
- Chumbe Island has some of the most pristine coral gardens in Tanzania and reef around the island has plenty of fish and coral. To help preserve them, scuba diving isn't allowed here, but guided snorkelling trips are a wonderful experience.
- See ideas for Diving & snorkelling
- Attitude towards children
- Children of any age are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Chumbe Island can arrange child minding services.
- Chumbe have baby cots and highchairs.
- Generally recommended for children
- 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 notes
- Batteries can be charged in the main area. There are solar-powered lights in the bandas.
- There is limited mobile access in the office. There is usually WiFi in the main visitors centre.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- 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.
An all-inclusive environmental education programme
As an award winning nature reserve, Chumbe Island is the ideal location for adventurous eco-tourism, offering guests exclusive access to the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary and the Closed Forest Reserve, where no damaging activities are allowed. Nevertheless, access to education is poor for the locals, and often requires pupils to memorize through repetition information that has little relationship with the surrounding environment. This, in return, raises challenges when it comes to the long-term sustainability of the region.
To change this, Chumbe takes locals – from school children and teachers to government officials and fishers – in sponsored field trips and provides free environmental education. Prior to the excursions, teachers involved in Chumbe’ Environmental Education program pay interactive visits to the schools. This allows them to take a first step towards making students aware of the environmental problems the island is facing. It also provides them the chance to find out more about the students and therefore plan the camp according to their interests. Using innovative teaching techniques, accompanying teachers learn to link theory with field practice. For example, during a one-day excursion to Chumbe Island, students learn about the nearby ecosystem, whereas teachers get insights in how to teach practical field based environmental education.
The initative was well-received by all participants, and got the support of many NGOs, among which the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN). Tourists’ contribution is also extremely valuable for the programme. Visitors can choose to donate their snorkeling masks after their stays, or bring useful items along with them through the worldwide ‘Pack for a purpose’ initiative.
See more great sustainability projects in Zanzibar
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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.
- 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.
Other lodges in South-west Zanzibar
Alternative places to stay in this same area.