At any given time on Chumbe Island Coral Park, a 45-minute boat ride through the waves opposite Zanzibar, you’ll only find 16 guests, the maximum allowed on the island (including day visitors). But once the sun sets you’ll have your own island paradise to yourself — you and the enormous coconut crabs that you can spot on the shorelines or in the trees.
The coral park is a private nature reserve where the system itself, along with the lodge and its operation, supports both the locals and the environment in a sustainable manner. Bear in mind that this is not a luxury lodge in the traditional sense that you might imagine for the price being paid, but Chumbe has never advertised itself as luxury. Here, it is about the rustic eco-experience where the money paid goes directly into keeping the marine park and all it’s functionality going, including anti poaching patrols, staff training and environmental education. In fact, Chumbe has been receiving awards since its opening in 1991 for its sustainable and eco tourism practices.
Each double story open air bungalow is simple, yet attractive, built around the principles of eco-architecture and technology, from the layout that uses only natural ventilation to composting toilets, particulate filters that deal with any used water throughout the lodge and hand-pumped rainwater showers. There are no plug outlets in the bungalows (though you can charge phones at the main reception), because you are encourages to live out a real island-castaway fantasy, sans technology. The food is plentiful and delicious.
The staff are friendly and have a wealth of knowledge about the local environment and the excursions you can take to explore it. A real highlight — and probably the main reason for visiting Chumbe — is the beautiful snorkeling that can be had right on the doorstep of the lodge. The price might be quite steep, but the experience is incredibly unique, and you’ll have a chance to swim on some of the last remaining intact coral systems currently around Zanzibar. A day trip is always an option if overnighting is too much.
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