I wanted to take the the time to write a review about our recent stay at the Manta Resort. My main concern in writing this review is that I would not have enough superlatives to describe the amazing experience we had there.
First of all I should point out that the wonder of the Manta Resort is not in it's fittings and fixtures but in it's remoteness from the hustle and bustle of the western world and of course in it's beautiful settings in the northeastern part of Pemba. It's stunning white beach, lush tropical surroundings and impossibly emerald green/azure blue seas and not forgetting the underwater coral reef. If you are looking for 5 star accommodation in which everything is perfect and the real africa is outside the cocoon of your resort/room then perhaps you should consider another destination. Again if you want a tv in your room and a phone to call for room service then you should look elsewhere. That is not to say that the Manta Resort is not luxurious it is , however it quite rightly reflects the fact it is on a small and poor island in the west Indian ocean. It is designed to fit in with it's surroundings not to seal itself away.
We arrived at the Pemba Resort after a 90 minute drive from Pemba Airport and where transported there in a 4X4 jeep which clearly is a working vehicle. The drive for the most part is on a good road until the last 30 minutes when you pass through the Ungezi Rainforest on a muddy track. The drive is a real eye opener and kept me fascinated despite 24 hrs of travel. On arrival we were warmly greeted by the management and staff and presented with a cold refreshing drink. An earlier reviewer mentioned that they felt they had come to the end of the world but for me a more accurate description would be that it felt like you had come to the end of human civilisation, only to be greeted by the Manta terrace and it's breathtaking vista. Imagine our delight to find out that we had been upgraded to a sea view villa and also that we were only guests in the resort for the first 3 days of our stay! Such luck! The staff at the resort are part of it's charm and were concerned that we had been travelling for a long time so they took us straight to our room and suggested that once we had showered and returned for a late lunch they would explain more about the Resort and what we could expect.
Our "fundi" (chap who looks after you during your entire stay) was Lucas and he was funny and charming - and endlessly patient during our attempts to learn an assortment of words in swahili. Lucas made every effort to make sure that or stay was nothing less then perfect. I was particularly taken back when on my birthday, we where taken down to a private table down at the beach bar (by this point 6 other guest had arrived - the cheek of it!) which was beautifully decorated in bougainvillaea and other local flowers and presented us with a seafood platter containing lobster, king prawns, octopus & king fish - it was sublime. However the surprise did not end there afterwards I was presented with a freshly made and iced birthday cake and some of the staff sang happy birthday in both swahili and english.
The food at the Manta resort is both delicious and plentiful - the Manta Resort buys a lot of it's produce from local farmers and fishermen. The breakfast involves a large platter of fruit, bread, banana bread, creps & honey in it's self a meal and then is followed by eggs, the usual cooked breakfast options and my personal favourite porridge with the local honey. The food is never presented buffet style and is always freshly cooked, generally you are always presented with two options nearly always something from the sea - which was more often then not my preferred choice. Dinner is always a three course affair. The chef is ingenious at working with what I guess most be seasonal and of course locally available produce. I can think of only one disappointment which was the malva pudding which was rather heavy. The chocolate mousse however is almost reason enough in itself to visit the Manta Resort!
We divided our time between the pristine white beach and the pool. Although both took a fall in attendance once we tried our first scuba dive. We booked the introduction to scuba diving course which involved training in the pool and then a dive. David was our instructor who was excellent, he explained things in a way that was clear and easily understood without making us feel like complete dunces. We always felt safe and secure diving with him. Once we had completed the pool side of things the following day we went on our first sea dive. I had always been a fan of snorkelling but diving was mind blowing and leaves snorkelling in the shade! The quantity,diversity and intricacy of the sea life is just quietly simply awesome (in the true sense of the word). The dives last about 45 mins and I can honestly say I did not want it to end. We dived a further 4 times which culminated in the Njao Wall (an underwater cliff) and the Coral Garden - words can not begin to describe it. We saw so many fish - it was like the who's who of Indian Ocean fish - the highlight of which was a sea turtle.
We also undertook a few other trips including the walk to the light house at Kigomasha a fascinating walk with our fundi through local villages where the Manta resort staff lives to the Lighthouse where we met Ali the light house keeper (who would like to invite the world to see his lighthouse) who was very informative on the history of the lighthouse. The view from the top gives you and excellent understanding of the geography of the northeastern peninsula of Pemba. The children in the villages are a delight, they a fascinated by "misungus" (foreigners) passing through and are never happier then when they are having their picture taken. A simple "jambo" (hello) is enough to have them posing all day long.
We also went to the sandbank (the hotel arrange for you to be taken there in a boat with a small outboard motor. The sandbank is a beautiful and pristine island of white sand only visibly during low tide. We took a few local beers with us and snorkelling gear (the snorkelling is excellent). Although you can take your lunch there and have a picnic. I would highly recommend the sandbank if really is magnificent, beautiful and like having your own private idyll for just a few hours.
Another day we went on a sunset cruise on a local dow - so peaceful - again cannot recommend this highly enough. On our final day we went on the walk through the Ungezi Rainforest which was interesting but of all the trips we made this was the one that was the least inspiring - but I suspect this is because we got caught in rain for most of the tour.
They are so many things I have not mentioned - the free daily spa treatment, seeing the starlit night sky on the beach without any light pollution - (it's like someone turned on the christmas lights!). The bush babies sneaking into the main socialising area to steal sugar sachets to feed their addiction, watching the large fruit bats at dusk from our balcony, shooting stars, cocktails on the terrace watching the sunset, falling to sleep lulled by the sound of the waves and the night song of the cicadas - the only sounds.
The Manta resort is a true gem I loved every day of our weeks stay. It's seductive charm lies in it's rustic, laid back manner, in its remoteness, it's tranquil lush surroundings and in it's staff. The resort has approx 20 villas and I can't imagine it would ever feel crowded as it is designed in a way to always feel private. It is a fully inclusive resort (includes alcohol) and a daily spa treatment and of course your own fundi. I would go back there in a heartbeat. It seems funny when I remember being worried that The Manta Resort would not live up to my expectations, because I had built it up so much in my head - but it met them in every way and indeed surpassed them. If you're thinking of visiting The Manta Resort - and you should - Then read all the reviews here on Trip Advisor because they will help you understand exactly the type of paradise you will find yourself in. Then just sit back relax, forget about all your worries and enjoy!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Elevated and crafted along an idyllic island beach, The Manta Resort offers privacy, romance, adventure, and water sports on East Africa's finest island sanctuary. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Manta Hotel Pemba Island
- Manta Hotel Pemba Island