With my job as an Africa travel consultant I am lucky enough to be able to visit some of the best lodges and beach properties in Africa. In November 2011 it was time to visit some new properties on Zanzibar, Tanzania. There was one particular property that I was excited about visiting, Mnemba Island. Since opening in the late 1990s it has gained a reputation as one of the finest beach properties in East Africa, if not Africa. So I was dying to see just how my experience there would live up to its reputation.
Mnemba Island is owned and run by &Beyond, and is considered the flagship property in their extensive portfolio.
To reach Mnemba you are met at Matemwe beach, and escorted by speedboat across to the Island. As I approached I was struck by the colour of the water, from a deep blue to the kind of turquoise that I have only really seen on postcards. The second thing to hit me was the blinding whiteness of the beach; you really do need a pair of sunglasses to see!
The Island is approximately one kilometre in diameter with the interior vegetated in Casuarina forest. It takes just 20 minutes to walk around the entire circumference of the island; with only ten rooms for guests on the Island it is very easy to feel that you have the whole place to yourself. The guest rooms are located on the fringe of the Casuarina forest overlooking the beach, about fifty yards from the sea. As you would expect from &Beyond, the rooms are beautifully yet simply designed. The luxuries that you would expect are there but subtle and often not immediately visible. This understated luxury is an element that carries through everything on Mnemba; ones expectations are almost constantly surpassed. The dining area is very simple and yet the meals served were to the standard of a top restaurant. The bar men are clearly experienced and the bar well stocked. Each guest room has its own personal butler who will do everything to make your stay feel as special as possible.
Other than the obvious beauty of the islands beach, another important point is that unlike mainland Zanzibar it is possible to swim in the sea through the day regardless of the tides. Mnemba is all-inclusive but the price also includes free dives. This gives guests the chance to take advantage of the islands Atoll reef, with diving sites considered some of the best on the Zanzibar coastline.
As much as I was impressed by Mnemba Island, this ‘bare foot luxury, both open to nature and exposed to the elements, may not be to everyones taste. I would however say that from my experiences Mnemba more than lived up to its reputation and justly deserves to be ranked as one of the best properties in Africa.
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