Being a family with three adult children (age 17-22) we spent a week at Manta over Christmas. A main activity for us was scuba diving, which we did almost every day.
A lasting impression of this stay is one of uniqueness and exclusivity. Pemba itself is a fairly large island but has almost no private cars, very few tourists and only a handful resorts. Except for at the tiny airport, we didn't see any signs at all for hotels or restaurants and we never came across any other tourists outside of the resort. The uniqueness and exclusivity also applied to the diving. There are only two dive operators on the entire east coast (Manta being one of them) and at every site we visited, we were the only dive boat in sight.
The resort itself also provides a very pleasant experience. In addition to the great service other reviews have described, it is superbly relaxing not having to touch your wallet during the stay. Positive features are indeed a setting where the locals still come to play football in the afternoon at one end of the beach (and you're welcome to join in) and the local fishing boats still are being pulled up on the beach at the other end. You are also welcome to try sailing with the local sail trimaran, ungalawa.
All this fits well with the serious effort the resort is making to the community development and being a good community citizen in general. This includes a priority for providing local employment opportunities, buying local products, establishing a community based organic farm right next to the resort, supporting local schools, a no-fishing zone at the reef in front of the hotel, etc. Thus, while you often can question whether tourism in exotic locations is a positive influence for the local community, here's an opportunity to have a very pleasant stay at a place that truly cares and makes a very serious effort both to the tourists and the local community.
With regards to the diving, how does it rate? Well, it doesn't beat places like Egypt in terms of corals, visibility and large fish or Indonesia in terms of abundance of tiny creatures and visibility. However, it does clearly beat places like Bonaire, Oman and anywhere in the Mediterranean and is probably at par with what you'll get in Thailand and the Maldives. What you will get is nice corals and huge numbers of the typical smaller tropical fish of the Indian Ocean. In addition, we saw plenty of somewhat less common stuff such as colorful slugs and flatworms, garden eels, large numbers of leaf fish and scorpion fish and an orange giant anglerfish (frogfish). Thus, plenty of things to see combined with having the entire reef for yourselves at each and every dive makes for a unique dive experience. Moreover, we didn't see any signs at all of plastic pollution in the water, which unfortunately is widespread at many other great dive sites.
All in all, Pemba and Manta is probably as far off the beaten track you can get and still be able to enjoy the comfort of a well managed resort. And you can leave hoping that you'll actually have contributed to making a positive local impact.
- 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
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- Also Known As:
- The Manta Hotel Pemba Island
- Manta Hotel Pemba Island