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.
- 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