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“5 Stars in Every Way”

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Shamba Kilole Eco Lodge
Ranked #2 of 4 Hotels in Mafia Island
Reviewed September 29, 2012

I just got back from a stay at Shamba Kilole lodge, which was the cherry on top of a great Kilimanjaro/Safari vacation. I heard about Mafia Island from a friend, and after doing some research, concluded that it would be much quieter and relaxing than Zanzibar. Further research and reviews here were the deciding factor on which place to stay, and everything is true – Shamba Kilole is a very special place and the owners Marco and Francesca are wonderful people that provide an exceptional experience to their guests. It’s also the only certified eco-lodge on the island, which shows their commitment to the island and the people that live there.

Service – 5 Stars
Food – 5 Stars
Accommodations – 5 Stars
Diving (sites, equipment, experience) – 5 Stars

From the moment you are greeted in the main lodge with a cold coconut juice to the time you will be sadly leaving, it’s magic. The staff are all very gracious, hospitable and helpful, and it’s clear that this is an extension of the owner’s philosophy, personality and style. We stayed in the “Raha” bungalow, which was furnished with local furniture, art and antiques that Francesca has collected. Immaculately clean and very comfy. Much of the furniture was designed by her and built by local craftsmen. Plenty of room and light in the bungalows themselves and in front was a sitting area with a couple of chairs and a lounger with a view of the bay, the palms and the mangroves. The main lodge/restaurant area is comprised of several different seating areas, each one with its own personality – a big table for many people to sit around to talk about the day’s diving/activities, and other areas with games, or next to bookshelves. The roof is probably 50 feet high – like a huge palapa (thatched). Very comfortable and airy. They also built a loft area with great views of the bay. And there’s free WiFi there so you can upload pictures to Facebook and make all your friends green with envy. :-)

I had just gotten scuba certified before this trip so I could go on dives, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. We arrived in the afternoon our first day and couldn’t dive, but Simba (another divemaster and staff of Shamba Kilole) took us out on their boat to go snorkeling, and it was the best snorkeling I’ve ever done in my life. We then went on 4 dives over the next two days - Marco is a superb Divemaster. I am kicking myself for not staying more than 3 nights. Others were there that were staying for a week, diving every day, and they were raving about the dives. I fear that much of my diving after Mafia will be a letdown – it was unbelievable! Marco was totally professional, patient and knowledgeable about every aspect – identifying fish, currents, assessing our level of skill, providing tasty treats after the dive – you name it! Plus he provided me with a DVD of the dives complete with cool African music – totally unexpected.

There are plenty of other activities if you don't dive - there's a beautiful pool, walks along the beach, excursions to other nearby islands, turtle hatching, etc. and they'll be happy to organize these for you.

If you are looking for lots of bars and nightlife and crowds, then Zanzibar is the place. If you are looking for relaxation, spectacular diving, amazing food and very personal service, you will love Shamba Kilole. I sincerely hope I can come back some day for a longer stay.

  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled with friends
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2  Thank talbothall
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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53 - 59 of 124 reviews

Reviewed June 26, 2012

My visit to Shamba Kilole was short but ever-so sweet. I adore this place and wonder when work will find me back in Tanzania so I can make Shamba Kilole my once-yearly special getaway (Universe, do you hear me?). A postponement in the workshop I was co-faciliting in the region kept me in Tanzania for three unanticipated days. I wanted to get to water and Swahili culture and wasn’t interested in going to Zanzibar (I had been there 15 years earlier and had little interest in returning as it seems to have become a little over-developed). My Lonely Planet told me Mafia Island is where I wanted to be and TA helped me to make my top-three list. Shamba Kilole was on that list. I phoned the eco lodge from my hotel in Dar and reached Marco. Marco was very welcoming and after a couple of hours of consideration, I phoned Marco back to make reservations. Marco gave me the name of a man, Freddy, who could help me with tickets. Through Freddy I was able to make reservations with Coastal Air.

I arrived on Mafia on a Sunday afternoon. I was met at the airport by a local driver Shamba engages. I was delivered safely to Marco and Francessa’s warm welcome and that of their staff. So friendly. I was the only guest that night and Marco and Francessa offered to upgrade me to a bahati free of charge. This kind of hospitality is indicative of the kind of hospitality the owners and staff exude. That night I dined al fresco by the pool with impeccable service and the most delicious food under the most beautiful starry sky. The night I had my dinner in a loft under the thatch roof. The food is the most amazing combination of Italian and Tanzanian kitchens. I ate so well.

Marco is a divemaster’s master. I was reluctant to dive again after slightly traumatic diving conditions in Mozambique five years ago. I hadn’t planned on doing any diving and was completely inattentive to the fact that Mafia’s is a destination for diving. Marco reassured me of Mafia’s calm conditions and Marco’s decades of diving experience (navy & commercial). I did two dives (would have done more if I had more time) and was giddy for the next week, reconfirming my love of diving. On the morning of my afternoon departure, Marco presented me with a DVD of me diving (a complete surprise as I thought Marco’s camera was taking still shots of the aquatic life, not video of me). My trip ended after three perfect days just the way it started… with loving kindness.

Keywords: serene, exquisite simplicity, easy, restorative, amazing food, thoughtful, engaging, friendly

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled solo
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2  Thank Illana L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 6, 2012

The five star reviews are quite right - this is an absolutely fantastic place to stay, especially if you like snorkelling and diving. The lodges themselves are beautifully constructed and the main lodge is very African. The lodge is within the Marine Park & the coral & fish are wonderful - I saw three turtles during our stay.

Marco & Simba & their team were great in helping us enjoy the marine park - I got into snorkelling for the first time (complete with life jacket) and my wife Andrea got back into diving after 18 years (and a practice go in the pool). And sailing in their dhow was great too

You need to fast before you go - the food is tremendous.

Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
2  Thank Richard G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 4, 2012

Shamba Kilole was the last and best place me and my girlfriend stayed in on our three week trip through east-africa early 2012. The great food, wide range of activities and comfortable bungalows alone were enough to make it great. On top of that we also got impecable service and the owners are wonderful so it turned out to be a fantastic experience we didn't want to end!

This was the second Lodge my girlfriend and I stayed in on Mafia Island after a two and a half week trip trough Uganda and Tanzania. We had shopped around a bit when we arrived in Utende but had missed this one because it wasn't in the guidebooks yet. However, one of the other lodges (which was fully booked) recommended Shamba Kilole for two reasons; The friendly Italian owners, Marco and Francesca, and the great food. Indeed, the owners are great hosts and the staff is very helpful. The food was the best we had during our three week trip and it was more than enough as well. It is important to note that on Mafia Island meat like pork and especially beef is hard to come by so you mostly get served fish and other seafood. But it is so fresh that if you've been snorkeling in the afternoon you might have seen your dinner swim by.
The activities that we joined in on where whatching whalesharks (on the other side of the island) and diving. Diving usually is with Marco who is a dive instructor with years of experience. I am an unexperienced diver (open water, 20 or so dives) and aware of the dangers underwater but felt completely safe with Marco during the two beautiful dives we made. Also, the equipment is all well maintained and looked pretty new. Other activities include island trips to one of the many islands around Mafia Island or watching turtle hatch.
The 6 or 7 bungalows have hot water through sunboilers, lockers and the usual good beds, mosquito prevention and facilities. You have to like the Italian styling. There is a beach where you can go and swim which is a 5 minute walk. Remember there is tide all around the island.
The only minor inconvenience we had was that we had to switch rooms after one night but that is what you get when you show up without reservation. However our luggage was moved by the staff and basically we just got a different key and a better room with view at the bay.

All-in-all this was a great place to stay for whaleshark watching, relaxation and diving. And if we are ever a two hour flight away we would definitely go again for a week at least.

  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank SjoerdPieters
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 30, 2011

We spent 5 days here and Francesca and Marco and the staff could not have been more welcoming. The lodge is small and friendly. The accommodation and food are of a very high standard. The chef prepared wonderful seafood. There is a pool and garden with sea views. The lodge arranged snorkelling and swimming expeditions and trips to the islands. The coral and fish are amazing. It was a wonderful holiday.

  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank Beth R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 26, 2011

Really friendly small lodge. Only 6 rooms. Simple but stylish. Terrific pool overlooking the sea (not many pools on Mafia) where you can have an intro to scuba before you go in the sea. The owner, Marco, is infectiously enthusiastic about diving so we thought we would give it a go... and were so pleased we did. The whole family really enjoyed the experience as Mafia is a fantastic place to dive (and snorkel).
No beach, but you can easily walk to one just beyond Pole Pole if you do need (the tide is often a long way out so pool is often better than beach anyway). They also take you out to a sand bar for a picnic if you want which is fantastic. We were also lucky to see turtles hatching on a nearby island.
They employ a lot of locals and seem to be actively involved with the community. Staff extremely friendly and helpful.
We find that the websites of places we travel to often flatter (no surprise). However Shamba is much better even than it appears on their site.
If small, friendly is your thing and you don't need Four Season's style glitz this is highly recommended indeed.

Stayed: August 2011, traveled with family
1  Thank 91Chris
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 18, 2011

The lodge fo Marco and his team is beautifully situated at the shore of the Indian ocean. The bungalows are spacious, well equipped all very originally furnished and with excellent views.
The same counts for the restaurant and the pool, all placed in a wonderful garden filled with flowers, bushes freqeuntly visited by wodnerful birds and nightly active galagos
The whole staff is very welcoming, friendly and helpful - you really feel like at home.
Food is local, simple, but extremely tasty and well prepared - I would travel miles in Europe to get such excellent cooking.
The trips are awesome, whether snorkeling or diving, and Marco is a wonderful, very experienced dive guide. We had even the chance to go for a turtle hatch trip - a unique chance. It was just overwhelming to see hundreds of small turtles hatching in a very isolated and highly protected bay after an adventorous but safely guided 1hour walk through the island.
If you have found this lodge, you have found the paradise.

  • Stayed: August 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank Peter S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Shamba Kilole Eco Lodge

Address: Kilole. Kiegani | Kilole, Kiegani, Mafia Island 0000, Tanzania
Phone Number:
Location: Tanzania > Pwani Region > Mafia Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 4 Hotels in Mafia Island
Price Range: $200 - $300 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The relaxing lodge has 6 bungalows facing the sea all surrounded by trees and garden. Swimming pool, private jogging park, dive school, restaurant with conference room, wine cellar, terrace top. All rooms are in different style following Swahili tradition and history. Ideal for sea lovers, honeymooners, bird watchers. ... more   less 

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