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“relaxed atmosphere and great snorkelling”

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Pole Pole Bungalows
Ranked #1 of 4 Hotels in Mafia Island
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
213 reviews
92 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 185 helpful votes
“relaxed atmosphere and great snorkelling”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 28, 2009

Pole pole is well named - it means slowly slowly in swahili and that is indeed its ambience. Its a small lodge - just 7 rooms - and thus peaceful. It has a small beach (note: noth facing so looses the sun before it goes down). Every day the lodge runs complimentary snorkelling trips to reefs in Chole bay - it takes less than 30 mins to get there and the reefs and fish are superb (better gthan Pemba where we went before). There is also complimentary lunches on a sandbank - they bbq the fish they caught that morning. The rooms a nice - not deluxe but large and comfortable. Each lodge has a large verhandah which has a large day bed and chairs - nice sea view through the trees - i like the sun so i was a bit disappointed that the rooms were north facing and thus lost the sun after 10am, but it did make them a nice cool shady place to relax to the sound of the sea and great views. The small beach in front of the lodge is nice and never busy - as the sea is tidal swimming is only possible for part of the day. Food was good - not deluxe but very tasty - mostly based around seafood and pasta, with salads. Dining was not communal and tables were well spaced for privacy. One night there was a swahili buffet when there was communal dining. The manager Lynne was very attentive and helpful. The staff were pleasant but their english was quite basic. We did the option trip to look around the local Chole Island village which was very nice - they all seemed very happy and no begging children or anyone trying to sell you anything (there was opportinity to buy local made products). At the end of this village there is a great bar to have a sunset cocktail before sailing back over to Pole Pole.

  • Stayed September 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank gerbilsontour
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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238 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (28)
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English first
jungle
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 4, 2009

I am almost loath to write a review, as I want to keep Mafia Islands Pole Pole lodge a secret but I must not be so selfish! It is an adventure from the beginning to the end, from arriving at the tiny air strip of Mafia Island having crossed the cobalt seas from Dar and then to the Lodge in a jeep along a dusty road where one waves constantly to locals on their bicycles or just walking. One begins to get a feel of just how lush this tropical Island is and the unfamiliar sounds and sightings of sunset swooshing fruit bats. Maura runs the lodge and Moez the diving centre and they are a fantastic team who somehow never tire of all the guest’s repetitive questions. One can take off ones shoes and spend the whole holiday walking bare foot except of course when one has ones flippers on. Chungalulu’s (long black fat worms) were a great source of entertainment as they appeared and disappeared with the weather and a mysterious very shy velvet monkey who would peer in our window sometimes. Hermit crab races on the beach at dawn and dusk and making up calypso songs were how we spent ours days when not under water marveling at the rich marine life. Kwaza was my patient diving buddy and would show me the mysteries of the oceans corals and its inhabitants as well as sometimes beckoning me to follow him at great speed to then find ourselves in front of a huge Napoleon wrasse. Sailing out to dive on a beautiful dhow with batik sails and having a picnic lunch with whale sharks swimming nearby is pretty exceptional and highly memorable. Everyone at the resort without exception was so charming and discreet. Evening cocktails reading Joseph Conrad whom I had never managed to read before but he somehow fits very well into Mafia Island. The food was absolutely delicious and what a joy to be in a place with only a few other people since there are only 7 individual rooms. I highly recommend Pole Pole to anyone who wants to allow their imagination the time to breath freely.

  • Stayed July 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank monkeyJungle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ontario
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 4, 2009

Out of 12 different places we stayed in Tanzania, this was our favorite. We arrived to a tasty coconut beverage and a friendly intro/tour of the quiet resort. Our bungalow was beautiful! Lovely African decor, spacious bathroom with 2 sinks (the complimentary shower products were appreciated as I was all out of shampoo!), comfortable beds & insect protection, large veranda with nice chairs and even a daybed, & I must make a special mention of the ceiling fans which were a must when the breeze died down. We were surprised and delighted by the gourmet cuisine presented to us every meal. Juicy,fresh fruit at breakfast with whatever else you wanted (eggs, pancakes etc). When we wanted coffee we were asked what kind (French? Italian?). At dinner, home-made pasta was the best we've tasted anywhere. They also focus on seafood fresh out of the ocean - the interesting recipes prepared for us were perfectly delicious. The staff was very friendly, courteous, & respectful of your privacy if desired.
We chose Mafia Island after our safari for the diving and we weren't disappointed. Pole Pole works with Mafia Island Lodge Watersports Centre, just a 3 min beach-walk. The staff was great, and dive-groups were small, the most we had was 6 divers with 2 dive-masters. Our dive boat was a spacious, wooden dhow (actually very comfortable), and we were very well looked after - when we asked if we could help carry equipment- "No! You are on holidays!". The diving is ocean-tide dependent, and the days when we were out over lunch, we were packed a delightful cooler full of tasty sandwiches, fruit & beverages. We were very happy Pole Pole accepted Visa, and our diving was conveniently added to our bill.
If I had to make any suggestions, the only thing I could think of would be tucking in a small, eco-friendly swim-pool for when the tide is out and there's no breeze. But all in all, we were delighted with our stay at Pole Pole, and sad to leave!

  • Liked — The tranquil atmosphere & cuisine.
  • Disliked — No dislikes.
  • Stayed January 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
Thank honey3Ontario
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
UK
Level Contributor
115 reviews
41 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 133 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 6, 2008

We stayed at Polepole for four nights at the end of a 7 day safari in the Serengeti, Ngorngoro and Tarangire through Expert Africa. We felt that we would need some peace and quiet after our hectic safari schedule. The resort was indeed very peaceful. There are only 7 rooms. They are lovely, being built of wood with a beautiful veranda with a day bed as well as two chairs. The room had a fan but no air conditioning, which was probably the main draw-back as it was very hot and humid when we were there. You are asked not to use a mobile phone except inside your room so as not to disturb anyone.

The food was excellent - but you do need to like seafood. As its only a small place there is no choice, however the food is beautifully cooked and of a very high standard. We had seafood for every starter and main course every day but one, when it was a swahili menu which included beef. At lunch time there was usually a sea food salad and fish main course, with a desert of ice-cream. At night there was a sea-food starter such as shrimp cocktail, a seafood pasta course then some sort of fish with vegetables, followed by a nice desert.

One lovely touch is that at 6:30pm someone knocks on yoyur door to ask what sundowner drinks you want, then they deliver them to your room along with a dish of snacks such as banana crisps or peanuts.

There are a number of sunbeds on the beach under straw parasols. The sea is OK to swim in at high tide, but not good at low tide as it's very shallow. You do, however, get a free snorkelling trip in a boat every day - they check at dinner and breakfast if you want to go. I went out twice and the coral and fish were good - not as good as in the Red Sea or Maldives, but well worth seeing. One snag about the beach is that there are sand-flies about. I got over 100 bites despite using 100% DEET repellent. My husband did not get any bites at all - I guess it depends whether they like the taste of you or not.

Maure the manager and Angela her deputy are very kind and all the staff are very attentive. When we got there my husband had a chest infection and was very ill. Maure arranged for a doctor to come and see him and he got some antibiotics which improved him enough to enable us to get home. It was very cheap as well - he only charged $10 for the consultaion and $5 for the tablets. Unfortunately though it meant we couldn't do anything much while we were there. We missed out on a trip to see and swim with whale sharks. A Japanese couple staying there at the same time did the trip and said it was amazing.

I did have a back massage which I can thoroughly recommend - the masseur was excellent and really knew his stuff.

  • Liked — Evening drinks on your verandah
  • Disliked — Lack of air-conditioning in the room
  • Stayed February 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank travelfanaticsUk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
35 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 22, 2007

Bit of a trek to get to all the resorts in Chole Bay along a rutted dirt road, after the only flight there in the afternoon from Dar es Salaam, which does not connect very well with the incoming early morning flights from Europe. But a really friendly welcome made it worthwhile. The room and verandah are nicely put together in traditional local style, private, spacious and clean, with hardly any bugs to spoil it: authentic castaway atmosphere with none of the bustle of a larger resort. Staff were very friendly and enjoyed looking after us, food pretty good for the back of beyond, and sometimes superb, in an atmospheric setting. Early morning tea in bed and sundowner cocktails served on the verandah made us feel at home. Best bit was the way the resort and dive shop managers would mingle at dinner time and find out what we all wanted to do the next day – be it boat trips, diving, excursions, massage, or just nothing, and planned the days events around this (and the tides). Extras were all reasonably priced, so no worries about racking up a big bill at the end. Also no vendors to spoil the peaceful beach.
Snorkelling ranged from good to world class, depending on how you caught the tides. Scuba diving was pretty good, with mature textbook specimens of most reef fish, prolific to the point of overcrowding at times (but none of the big stuff). The dive-shop is professionally run and the dives well organised in parties of 2-4 with no other divers in sight: returning under sail in a dhow after a dive in the afternoon was serene. 2-tank dives are the norm, but the dive-shop gladly organised 1-tank dives for us oldies who find 2-tank dives a tad exhausting and not what we like on a relaxing holiday, but I am sure they would equally organise 3-tank dives for keen divers.

Stayed March 2007
Helpful?
Thank SimonGGB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
England
Level Contributor
197 reviews
111 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 268 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 20, 2006

I spent 5 nights at Pole Pole and really enjoyed it, though it was not quite what I was expecting. The bungalows are spacious with large verandas and ecologically friendly. I thought the food was really good (though for those who don't like fish there could be a problem) and although the menu is "take it or leave it" it was personalised so that it didn't include any of my pet hates, though all the portions were rather too large for me. The staff were all friendly and helpful and the service was good. Unlimited drinking water is supplied and although other drinks are charged for the prices seemed reasonable. Having a drink delivered at 1800 (as well as tea or coffee from 0700) to the veranda is very civilized. Laundry is also included in the rate and you are given the option to have the towels and bed linen changed each day, or not.

It is not a place for people who just want to sit on the beach, because there is no beach at high tide (particularly around the time of the full moon) and the beach is rather shady in the afternoon. There are, however, different types of excursion included and for people wanting to watch birds or fish it is a good place. The snorkelling is from dhows and while I was there meant trips of about 45 minutes to get the the coral sites but there is an amazing variety of fish and I was able to go out even when I was the only one booked to snorkel.

There is a village nearby and the option to have a look round one on the nearby island of Chole. Even walking around on my own I never felt uncomfortable and although not many of the local people speak English a "jambo" and a smile are always returned.

I was told that the dirt road from the airport has recently been upgraded, still a bit bumpy and dusty but the journey to and from the resort gives the chance to see the countryside.

All in all it is a very relaxed and quiet place - a good option for after a safari - don't go there if you want night life (apart from watching the fruit bats and listening out for bush babies). If you take a massage do so when the tide is high so you can lie there and listen to the sound of the waves.

  • Liked — My veranda with the sea view (even if it was windy)
  • Disliked — The fact that the outside light stayed on all night
  • Stayed September 2006, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank KK06
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Pole Pole Bungalows

Property: Pole Pole Bungalows
Address: Plot 16 - Utende Beach, Mafia Island, Tanzania
Location: Tanzania > Pwani Region > Mafia Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Hotels in Mafia Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:4 star — Pole Pole Bungalows 4*
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Seven bungalow suites overlook the infinite hues of blue of Chole Bay, the core of Mafia Island Marine Park. Pole Pole is an exclusive eco-resort, renowned for its great cuisine, unpretentious and laid-back atmosphere, warm but discrete hospitality. Balancing luxury and respect for local culture and environment it is the perfect place to relax after a safari and the ideal base for exploring the underwater wanders of Mafia Island. With a touch of style. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Pole Pole Bungalows Hotel Mafia Island

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