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“A trip to Pemba & Zanzibar”
Review of Pemba Lodge

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Pemba Lodge
Istanbul, Turkey
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“A trip to Pemba & Zanzibar”
Reviewed October 17, 2013

The Pemba Eco Lodge is a most charming place; the only one of its kind on the little island adjoining Pemba. Its style is minimalist & its lodges build in the old-fashioned high-roofed African hut style, elevated above the ground by about one meter. As might be expected from a high-end, eco-friendly hotel, alone on an isolated little island, one is bound to encounter the more interesting type of traveler. Thus we too encountered a wonderfully cultured Spanish gentleman who, as one of our company put it, was hunting ghosts.
In fact, the Spanish gentleman was a writer & documentary maker, much of whose interest seemed to be centered around the contact between the human realm & what the Arabs call alam al-ghayb (the world of the unseen). He shared many stories of strange encounters with African medicine-men & women, who communed with spirits. There was a particular charm in such conversation in the middle of the night, in the reception hut of a poorly-lit eco-friendly hotel situated alone on that part of the island. All seemed fine on the following morning except for one of the guests, who was visited by strange spirits which were pulling him by the shoulder until he managed to force himself to sleep - thus simultaneously causing their disappearance
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The man in charge of the day-to-day operations of Pemba Lodge is Ali. A native of the nearest village, located on the adjoining island, through sheer will power & love of learning he worked his way up the educational ladder until he reached the level of higher education on Zanzibar & proficiency in English. His family's inability to provide regular financial support forced Ali to leave his studies and join the tourism industry. His determination & skill won the admiration of Nassor, the owner of Pemba Lodge, & in return Ali has been able to help his village by employing fellow villagers & thus extending the financial benefits of working with Nassor. Ali is also building the largest house in his village & commands impressive respect by all villagers, from children (who obeyed unquestionably when he scolded them for being inappropriate with us mzungus during the village tour) to elders whose almost blind trust in this successful son of their village is most touching.



And so began our little trip to Zanzibar, the mystery island once ruled by a wise and ruthless Arab sultan, famed for his grace and keeping a great harem with the most beautiful women, ranging from tall, high-cheekboned Abyssinians to slender, blue-eyed Circassians. The charm & grace of royal rule wasn’t fated to survive past the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1960s a dark storm descended on the charming island, which until the middle of the twentieth century was still the great center of Islamic civilization in that part of the Indian Ocean. Malign powers stirred emotions, laced with a blend of the communist dream of equality & vengeance fired by racial pride. In the 1960s a revolution erupted; its final result the expulsion of the last sultan & the old Arab ruling caste to boot. The Communist dreamland would be for Africans only. Once a sign of superiority, which everyone wished to claim, now Arab blood was looked on with disdain and only the staunchest Arabs remained on the island, in spite of many threats and occasional brutal beatings.
But then ... who could blame them, especially after reading the many ghastly accounts of the slave trade. True, those lucky ones who had survived the brutal march from inland Africa to the east coast & the even more brutal transportation by ship to Zanzibar, the island were, by all accounts, treated rather well by their new masters. Many (if not most) of these new slave-masters were part of the ruling Arab elite, which was thoroughly convinced of their superiority and the naturally servile status of the African. With so much baggage it was presumably not difficult to rile up people’s emotions & turn them against the haughty Arab elite.
The post-Communist, “racially purer,” society seemed less promising than the great accounts of Zanzibar during its heyday: a cosmopolitan society with a renowned Muslim scholarly class connected to & in regular contact with the great centers of Islamic learning all around the Indian Ocean; a proud aristocratic caste made up of Arabs, ancient Shirazi settlers & the offspring of generations of intermarriage between Africans, Arabs & Persians; ancient Indian merchants & traders, both Hindu & Muslim, who had inhabited that same island (& the whole eastern African coast) for generations; & of course the local Africans whose language Swahili had become the medium of communication between all these different groups, castes, ethnic & racial groupings.

Even though it seemed to fall short of the romantic descriptions of its past glory, we decided to try our luck & explore this beautiful island that had enchanted a whole array of foreign visitors, whether Europeans, Persians, or the great Omani sultan who, enthralled by the languid beauty of Zanzibar moved his throne from Oman to the island.
Our trip began in Stonetown was followed by a lengthy visit to the eastern shore of the island. It was not long before the ennui & constant dampness that seemed to envelop all – except the swarm of tireless European kite surfers & local “businessmen” patrolling the beach & offering everything from massages to dhow trips with local fishermen to Chinese made figurines of oversized African natives – began to take its effect. Neither of us managed to get much work done. The constant water shortages & overbearing cashier-waitress, whose school mistress attitude relentlessly tried to browbeat us into eating their terrible meals did not help.
Thus, one morning we decide to pick up & head north; trusting in the strength of kismet (lit. fate, fortune) we hoped for the best. As such things usually go, it was by sheer accident & inspired by a slightly wild fancy of exploring Zanzibar’s northern island Pemba that we were put in touch with a man named Nassor Salim Ali Maharouky. At Zanzbar’s northernmost tip we met a man named Paul, an Englishman & jack-of-all-trades: former military-man, policeman, fire-fighter, chef, world-traveler, now hotel manager on Zanzibar & diving instructor in the training. It was Paul who introduced us to Sidi Nassor, the man whose hotels he manages. Nassor, a successful & cosmopolitan Pemba businessman, descended from an old Omani family, owns the Mnarani Beach Cottages, located at the northernmost tip of Zanzibar, just beside the great light tower & the Pemba Eco Lodge, located on Shamiani, a tiny island at the southernmost tip of Pemba; known by the locals as ras ul-pemba (Arabic for head of Pemba).
The acquaintance turned into a tour of Nassor & Paul’s new “package”: a short stay at Mnarani (a luxury hotel) followed by a catamaran trip to Pemba lodge. As we did not stay very long at Mnarani, I feel unqualified to remark on much except for the remarkable quality of the dishes & the wonderfully designed rooms.
Sailing at seven in the morning from Zanzibar to Pemba was an enchanting experience, enriched endlessly by Nassor’s skipper Abdallah, a taciturn, local fisherman with a remarkable sixth sense for the Indian Ocean. According to Nassor, it took quite some time before he realized the breadth of Abdallah’s experience & knowledge of the sea; all due to Abdallah’s taciturn & humble nature. And here was embodied the key to understanding the Orient: true knowledge is never immediately volunteered & certainly not advertised. Its acquisition demands patience & a level of humility. As a rough rule one might say that true knowledge & verbosity do not mix. Rather, knowledge must be sought out, & in true Oriental fashion is found through a combination of perseverance & sheer luck or again, kismet.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Emin L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, October 30, 2013
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to write such a candid review, not only of your stay at the hotel & lodge, but also of the experience you had and the interesting people you met whilst staying with us. I think if people take the time to read the review they will also be fascinated by the short, precise and potted history of Zanzibar (I found it very informative and interesting).

I respect the fact that you also took the time to understand and integrate with the local staff we employ and the reasons for our work ethic. I truly hope that you do return to us one day as both Paul, myself, the staff and other guests found you both a very open and interesting couple.

I think the Pemba Lodge ghost story may become a highlight of anyone’s visit to Shamiani Island.
Once again thank you for taking the time to write this review.'
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91 reviews from our community

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Foixa
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed September 19, 2013

I was looking for a quiet place away from everything to rest for a few days. I wanted to walk, eat good fish, swim and write. I did not want to socialize or share buffets. Zanzibar is too massified (although I like a lot the Mbweni Ruins Hotel and Chumbe Island), so I went to Pemba. I read somewhere about the Ecolodge in Shamiani and I wrote them. I was stunned by the beauty of the place and the fabulous beach. To walk was a delice. In the low tide I could see a lot of strange marine creatures and once I went up to the reef. Also Turtle Beach it was fabulous and in the way you have to traverse some shambas. There are huge baobab trees too.
Food was really good. Caught of the day always. Ally "Karibu Tena" was friendly and helpfull.
Then I went back to Zanzibar but I did change my ticket plane and went back to Pemba Ecolodge for another week, I think that that is the best thing I can say. No?
Jordi Esteva
Foixà

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
4 Thank Jordiesteva
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, October 21, 2013
Thank you for your review we are proud of our lodge at Shamiani and are so pleased you enjoyed your stay with us.
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Arusha
Level 4 Contributor
31 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed September 15, 2013

After a lovely first encounter with Pemba Lodge we were finally got back. This time with friends and toys: wind- & kite-surfs. Despite the low tide the boys had a few epic outings, surfing for hours at a time, while I was mostly chilling at the white-sand beach with books and my journal.
The highlights of this trip for me was hiking for 15 minutes to the opposite side of the island to the Turtle beach and reef walking at low tide through bays, caves and intertidal pools with beautiful corals and tiny fishes. Then hiking up on the top of the cliff to see the vastness of great oceans, breaking waves and numerous ngalawas at the horizon. This time we have also discovered nearby a beautiful salt water sacred lake surrounded by mangroves and visited the local village, where we became the event of the day. All in all it was a wonderful holiday.

Room Tip: If you have time - arrange a trip to Misali Marine Park for diving. It is a bit far, but it will giv...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank Katya R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, October 21, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to write a review for us and thank you very much for the photographs as well. It would be great to see you back here one day.
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Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Level 5 Contributor
52 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed September 10, 2013

This is probably as close as a traveler can get to feeling alone on a remote Indian Ocean island; you'll feel soft clay-like white sand between your toes, and hear nothing but the distant waves crashing on the fringing reef, accompanied by the cries of hornbills and herons scrabbling over grubs and crabs exposed on the foreshore by the retreating tide.
If the tides are low, getting here is an adventure - expect to wade through soft mud to the boat, following an hour drive from Pemba airstrip. Tip: have a pair of flip-flops ready when you get out of the taxi and be expected to get a bit grubby en route from the pick-up point to the accomodation.
This remote eco-lodge will not be for everyone; ensure you have your forward travel plans booked before you get here. There is no internet but you will pick-up a weak mobile signal if you really want to stay hooked into the outside world.
Accommodation is in 5 elevated bungalows, each with own chemical toilet, warm shower, 4-post bed, mozzie nets, balcony and high roof. Air-con is basic and lighting is weak - as it's solar powered. There is musty pong from the toilet system which can be a bit annoying, but it's not a deal-breaker.
Food is tasty, fresh, locally sourced and there's always a fresh supply of spice tea, water, coffee etc throughout the day.
There's not much to do here, only visit the nearby Shamiani village or get in the boat and do a bit of snorkelling - though mind the strong currents. You can burn a few hours wandering around the reef and the mangroves, but really this place is about escape. And escape you will.
Three days and nights was enough for me though - I ran out of books!

Room Tip: All as good as each other and each feels remote.
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled solo
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
1 Thank Lolwood
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, October 21, 2013
Thank you so much for the review. It was nice to read you had such a great experience and we will endeavour to get a few more books to the Lodge, so you stay a few more days next time.
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Arusha
Level 4 Contributor
31 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed April 30, 2013

Shamiani Island where Pemba Lodge is located was a surprise. I thought I know Pemba Island fairly well, but when on our recent Pemba sailing trip we anchored in the bay close to Shamiani on the South-East we could not believe our eyes. It was out of this world. We were so awed by the place and the waters that at the end of our sailing trip my husband & I agreed to extend our departure to have a mini-honeymoon at this little paradise.

Pemba Lodge could not find a better location. Shamiani island is isolated from the main island by a salt-water creek covered with mangroves. The reef and cliffs on the west side of the island create a beautiful bay with a white sand beach that protects it from the Indian Ocean weather. At sunrise fishermen from a tiny village sail hundreds of ngalawas (traditional outriggers) out into the open ocean, beyond the reef and at sunset they come back with huge tunas and dorados.
There are only 6 beautifully crafted guest bungalows – each with an ocean view, comfortable dhow wood furniture and kanga decorations, a private veranda, compost toilets, and solar heated showers.

On a high tide the color of the water is magic turquoise and you can go for a swim only 20 meters from your bungalow. When the tide is low you can kayak in the mangroves, visit the friendly village or walk 15 minutes to the other side of the island to either swim or snorkel. If you don’t feel adventurous just ask the manager to arrange a massage for you and chill in your private gazebo with a book and a cold beer.

My personal TOP 10 at Pemba Lodge:

1) Boat ride through the creek the mangroves entering and leaving the lodge with swimming kids smiling and waving at us.
2) A glimpse of a life on the island – children coming back from the market crossing the creek on a low tide, dragging a calf half-submerged in the seawater, a basket on the head and a chicken in the hand above the water.
3) Water adventures – snorkeling, swimming, finding shells, diving & windsurfing with our own gear.
4) Water colors – the most spectacular Pemba blue and hundred shades of blues and greens.
5) Star-gazing at night - coming back from the restaurant to your room you can see the Milky Way so clearly!
6) Sound of the ocean when you sleep.
7) Not wearing shoes – the beach sand is spectacular; there is a pot with water and a coconut scoop at every entrance for feet washing.
8) Incredible food at the lodge – usually fresh catch of the day cooked local style with sauces and salads. The crab on the last night was the biggest I have ever seen with claw bigger than my palm.
9) Awesome daily fresh juices and spiced teas!
10) And a very special notice should be made to the staff friendliness - Ali and the crew made us feel very much at home.

I would highly recommend this place for honeymooners, families with kids, eco-enthusiasts and people who love to stay away from the crowds and discover remote un-spoilt cultures.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank Katya R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, May 10, 2013
There is not a lot I can say with regards your lovely review. We are so glad you enjoyed all the aspects of your stay on the Island and from your comments we seem to have most things right.

I might use your top 10 things to do list on our website and facebook.
Thank you again for taking the time to publish this review and please do come back for another 'mini honeymoon'
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nairobi
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed April 3, 2013

Ideal setting for a few days de-stressing. If your ideal is a deserted beach, fascinating rock-pooling and snorkelling and excellent food and service then look no further. Kayaking through the mangroves is delightful and the accommodation lives up to its 'eco' billing.

I stayed five days during the short rains and only had one wet day.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
5 Thank virginia c
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, April 5, 2013
Dear Catherine,

We are delighted to learn that your enjoyed your recent stay with us.

Wet season here is often as you describe and when it rains it usually clears to beautiful skies soon afterwards, quite unlike people's preconceptions of it, and everything is fresh and green.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
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Cph
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed March 2, 2013

Wonderfully relaxing beach paradise. If you like falling of the map then this is for you. People told us Pemba was a must-go whilst visiting Zanzibar and they were not wrong. It is another world.

We spent 2 nights at Chumbe afterwards (it must be said that the bungalows there are very special & probably the best part of that experience) but Pemba Lodge then went up in our estimation compared to this renowned & highly rated island.

Pemba Lodge is not wildly luxurious or five star and this is reflected in the price which seems very fair for what you get. Everything is well done. Think natural, simple, authentic. At the moment it does not get too busy and there were only a few other guests during our stay. On New Year’s Eve we had the whole place to ourselves. They served us dinner by the ocean under a star-filled sky and made palm-leaf bowers for our room and beach bed to celebrate the New Year. Very nice attention.

We kept on laughing out loud at having the whole beach and all the staff just for us – it seemed so crazy and lucky.

You are on a small island inhabited by fishermen/sharecropping farmers so you will meet the locals as they go about their business on the beach and in the sea.
Everyone is very friendly and slightly surprised to see strangers – especially the kids who go all goofy (a bit scared/a bit showing off).

The beach is to die for. The finest sand we have ever come across - it’s like talcum powder & goes to a soft seductive fudge texture when it is wet. It is very tidal (as I believe all the beaches in the Zanzibar archipelago are) so you can only really swim at high tide and even then it is quite shallow. Turtle beach is a 15 minute walk away and this gets a bit deeper with some surf – you can watch the sunset from there. If you like birdlife there is an abundance, so bring your binoculars, we saw something new every day.

The food is good – not exactly amazing but very good - and mainly about the daily catch. Highlights were the fantastic fruit plate at breakfast, an unctuous braised octopus, a nicely cooked white snapper, and a great grilled whole fish for new year. A couple of minor criticisms (management please note): the fish with very little natural fat such as tuna was overcooked and dry, and the use of either rice or chips with the main dish was a bit boring after a day or two. You have a good chef who makes tasty food so we feel you could extend the repertoire of side dishes and accompaniments & this would enhance the food experience a lot.
Go local, not international. You are very nearly there!

All the staff were great. Ali was running the place during our 5-night stay and he really looked after us. A star. Seeing him in action on the breezy dhow trip was amazing.

All in all, very special. The resort experience trimmed back to something truer and more rewarding. Get there before the rest of the world finds out.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
4 Thank Nick P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nassor_Maharouky, Owner at Pemba Lodge, responded to this review, April 3, 2013
Dear Nick,

Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback on your New Year stay with us here at Pemba Lodge. It is always rewarding to hear when guests have enjoyed our lodge and services and to receive affirmation that we are on the right track in our vision of providing an affordable eco-friendly experience.
I will ensure that your comments regarding the overcooking of fresh fish are passed on to our chef for his attention. It is only through such critique from our guests that we are able to improve the service we provide.
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Additional Information about Pemba Lodge

Property: Pemba Lodge
Address: | P.O.Box 3361 - North Coast, Kiweni (Shamiani) 3361, Tanzania
Phone Number:
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Pemba Island > Kiweni (Shamiani)
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Kiweni (Shamiani)
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Pemba Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Pemba Lodge, situated on the remote and beautiful Shamiani Island off Pemba, Zanzibar’s sister island.It is Pemba’s first true eco-lodge ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pemba Lodge Pemba Island, Tanzania

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