Blue Season Madness…
We are pretty sure you have heard us talk about why Zambia and Malawi are fantastic in the Baby Season (aka the Green season). But it isn’t just about the ridiculously cute and entertaining babies! The bush transforms after the rains into a luscious emerald savannah. It offers fantastic photography opportunities, the birdlife is abundant, there are fewer folk around which results in less vehicles on the roads and the prices are often 30%-50% less than in peak season!
We think enjoying the incredible wildlife at this time of year and incorporating the beach into any holiday is worthwhile. As most of the spots on Lake Malawi are closed for renovations, and Mozambique can be wet at this time of year, we have found the perfect alternative and combination if you want to mix up a beach and bush trip, *DRUM ROLL*…. Introducing: Blue Season! (as we like to call it), our beach extension to exquisite Tanzania.
Regular flights from Lilongwe, Lusaka and Blantyre make this a very easy connection to Dar Es Salaam, and from here there are great connections to Pemba/Zanzibar/Songo Songo/Mafia Island (the list goes on). The best art about TZ is there is a wide range of lodges and options available depending on what you fancy. Kite Surfing? Diving? Snorkelling? Culture? Seafood? Again, the list goes on. In Africa we make a plan… and the plan is to ensure it suits everyone’s needs and requirements.
On this particular trip I decided to focus on Pemba, Mnemba and Zanzibar. I left Malawi on the 4:30pm flight on a Friday afternoon arriving in Dar 8:00pm Tanzania time (1 hour ahead of Malawi). Although I landed late, I wasn’t too worried as I know the new Dar airport is very efficient. I had my visa in one hand, my bags in another and was on my way to the city for seafood and cocktails… the only way to start a trip on the right foot, good food and cold drinks! I had one of the finest crafted G&T’s in hand by 9:30pm and a delicious diner by 10:00pm.
A little side note; if you fly from Lusaka you can land at 5:30pm and be in Zanzibar for the same treats that evening.
I had a great evening in Dar and very responsible (by Friday night standards), I was in bed by midnight and up with the sparrows to catch my flight to Pemba Island. My 7:15am flight had me on Pemba Island (via Zanzibar) with breathtaking views just 50 minutes later.
First Stop: Fundu Lagoon
After a 45-minute road transfer from the airstrip, I was met by boat at the harbour. It was a quick 15 min boat ride to Fundu Lagoon and all this was done by 9:00am so there was plenty of time to enjoy the day. Fundu Lagoon is in a wild, off the beaten track location with no other lodges nearby (unlike most of Zanzibar). The rooms were basic but comfortable and each has that all-important fan. The premium rooms and suites have their own pools which is a huge win on those hot days when all you want to do is cool off before a siesta. The food was yummy and the staff were very friendly and accommodating.
Fundu’s beach itself faces the sunset, which is spectacular, and the sunset bar is in prime location! It doesn’t have as white sand as others but it is beautiful all the same and adds to the rustic charm! A short boat trip away lies Misali Island, which, in my opinion, is close to being one of the best beaches in the world. It is uninhabited with amazing turquoise waters, fantastic snorkelling and diving. I wish I could have stayed longer; Fundu Lagoon is in a great spot and at a reasonable price point… I will definitely be back!
Next Stop: Mnemba Island
Today I had an early start, ready to be on the boat by 8:00am and at Pemba Airport by 9:00am in time for my 9:40am flight to Zanzibar. Another stunning flight with incredible views. Upon landing I was met by ‘&Beyond’ who drove me to the meeting point for the boat transfer to Mnemba Island. I was extremely impressed with the whole experience &Beyond offer. Picked up in a brand-new Toyota Landcruiser, air-con blasting, cold water to hand and even a tasty snack for the journey…what a welcome. It was an interesting 1-hour road transfer to the boat, then a quick 10-minute boat ride to Mnemba Island… absolute paradise!
I loved everything about &Beyond Mnemba, particularly the location. From the private, rustic luxury chalets, to the personal service provided by the whole team and the incredible cuisine, I was blown away by the hospitality and beauty of this spot.
As a keen diver, it goes without saying this is a great spot for it. Although the fish are smaller there is plenty to see, I even got the chance to jump into the water on the way to a dive and swim with the wild dolphins. The popular spots are close to the island, so you don’t have far to go. I would recommend heading out as early as possible to avoid the crowds as boats from the mainland do head to these gorgeous spots too.
In keeping with the rustic and authentic theme, there are no swimming pools on Mnemba, however the waters around are crystal clear and very safe. Who needs a pool when your back yard is the glorious ocean?
A visit to Zanzibar
A quick boat trip back to the mainland to meet my road transfer to Zawadi, which is about an hour’s drive away. I popped into a few of the lodges off Mnemba (Zanzibar Queen and Zanzibar Retreat), these are in a busier area but offer perfect access to the magical diving and snorkelling off Mnemba Island. If you are on more of a budget and don’t mind a busier part of Zanzibar this may be perfect spot for you. Zanzibar Queen is bigger but with good food, comfortable rooms and fantastic service.
The Zanzibar Retreat is much smaller with slightly more of a personal touch and incredible food. I also popped into Scuba Fish, one of the local dive operators in the area and was very impressed with the professionalism, diving equipment and the fact they offer specialty courses; underwater photography being one of them. What can I say… I guess I will have to come back and test the waters… pun intended.
Next Stop: Zawadi and Breezes (The Zanzibar Collection)
There are 4 lodges on this strip, all owned by The Zanzibar Collection. As my colleague Tapiwa had tried out Baraza and The Palms last year, it was my turn to test out Zawadi & Breezes. Arriving at Zawadi I was treated like royalty, the warmest of welcomes and what a beautiful resort – I was blown away. The villas are spacious with amazing interior design, huge bathrooms, the most modern of finishes, incredible plunge pools and amazing views.
The lodge is similarly designed with everything being the very best. The cuisine and cocktails were just as amazing and complimented with excellent service. The view over the pool is pretty special, overlooking the ocean and resident reef – a perfect location for snorkelling and very close to all the dive spots.
The dive operation was flawless, brand new equipment, a good diving boat and experienced instructors. I was impressed with the dives themselves too, lots of beautiful fish, gorgeous coral and I even bumped into a few larger fish; Groupers, Barracuda, Napoleons and the spectacular turtle! If you enjoy the finer things in life then Zawadi is your perfect spot, you won’t be disappointed!
Breezes was also a wonderful stay and I received the warmest of hospitality throughout. Although not as extravagant, the melas were delicious (all buffet), the rooms comfortable and I was still made to feel like royalty. It is a great spot for families as it is a larger resort. The pool is a great spot to relax and there are also a few fantastic little bars around to enjoy a cocktail, or two…or more??
Dar Es Salaam
On my way back to the city of Dar, I stopped off at White Sands to have a quick look around and fill the belly with fuel. I loved this spot and I felt it was a solid 4-star product, in between Breezes and Zawadi. I indulged in a delicious lunch and again, was very well taken care of.
Time to head off to the ferry… I thought I’d better try it out for myself and was pleasantly surprised. I had a comfortable seat and enjoyed the 1.5hr boat trip back to Dar. The ferry is a good option to consider if you are staying in Dar for the night as it is quick and easy to connect to Zanzibar, and more affordable than flying. However, if you are connecting from Dar the same day I would suggest flying onto Zanzibar as the drive from the airport to the ferry is a fair way and traffic can be horrific at certain times of the day.
On arrival into Dar, my driver met me and took me to my accommodation for that evening. I enjoyed another evening of seafood and cocktails before turning in for the night (another early one I might add). An early flight and back home to Lilongwe by 09:40am… just in time to get a good day’s work in at the office, feeling very revitalised after a fabulous trip to Tanzania!
Would you like to visit Tanzania? Contact us today!