Lodges

Chole Mjini

An original, back-to-basics lodge in a heavenly Indian Ocean setting

Chole Mjini

A charmingly rustic eco-lodge (built before the term became a catchphrase), Chole Mjini is one Tanzania's most original small lodges. It lies on Chole Island, near Mafia Island, and is a peaceful and charming hideaway in an area off the tourist highway. Despite the isolation, though, there's a wonderful community atmosphere, some fascinating historical sites nearby and that blue, blue sea to explore. The rooms are charming, but don't expect much in the way of mod cons – the toilets are long-drops – but if you have a yearning for a Robinson Crusoe-esque experience, you're in the right place.

At the lodge

The hotel

The communal areas, made from natural materials (apart from the polished floor and a few sofas of concrete strewn with cushions), include a large open-sided lounge and dining area with views through mangroves to the sea. Overhead, in the rafters of the thatched roof, is a bar with more sofas and, incongruously, an old-fashioned bicycle attached to a cross-beam. Mealtimes are flexible (dinner is three-course) and the food is splendid. Chill afterwards with the staff, playing bao, the local board game.

The rooms

Chole Mjini has seven rooms, six of which are set on platforms high up in baobab trees. The seventh, slightly more conventional, is at ground level, with an en-suite bathroom and the island's only flushing toilet. Each tree house is different (some are two-storeyed), but all have storm lanterns instead of electricity, a shower heated by an effective paraffin burner, composting long-drop toilets and no aircon, although small solar panels provide for fans beside the huge and very comfortable beds.

On safari

Experiences

Take a dhow trip to a remote sandbar, where you can relax on a beach surrounded by the sea. Snorkel, dive the shallow marine park or, for more advanced divers, head out on a dhow to explore outside the bay, where the reefs and wall dives descend to about 30 metres. Explore the island's ruins and mangroves alone or with a guide (take a late-afternoon walk to see a huge colony of fruit bats rousing themselves for the nightly foray to Mafia Island).

When to go

Mafia Island by month

January

Season: Dry
  • Temperatures are reasonably hot, with little rainfall at this time of year. New Year is crowded and the wind starts to become a problem that persists through January and Feb after the crowds have dissipated.
  • This is the best time to swim with the mighty whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
  • The ideal month for exploring the coral reefs and exotic fish with water clarity of 25 meters or more.

February

Season: Dry
  • This is the best time to swim with the mighty whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
  • The ideal month for exploring the coral reefs and exotic fish with water clarity of 25 meters or more.
  • Temperatures are reasonably hot, with little rainfall at this time of year.

March

Season: Wet
  • The weather is not good over this period with high temperatures and plenty of rain, often in the form of storms.
  • Scuba diving continues to be good in this month

April

Season: Wet
  • Temperatures are high and windy, with rainfall continually falling over this period.
  • This is the end of the Scuba season (but still excellent), with water clarity dropping because of the weather.

May

Season: Wet
  • Temperatures are high and windy, with rainfall continually falling over this period.
  • Diving is not ideal during this month, with water clarity dropping because of the weather.

June

Season: Dry
  • At the end of the wet season, temperatures are cooler, wind can still be strong with sporadic rainfall across the month.
  • Diving is restricted to inside Chole Bay because of strong winds and huge seas outside the bay.
  • Be aware that many local restaurants and stores close during the period of Ramadan.

July

Season: Dry
  • Turtle hatchings almost daily in July, August, September tailing off until Christmas
  • Diving is restricted to inside Chole Bay because of the potentially strong winds and huge seas outside the bay.
  • Be aware that many local restaurants and stores close during the period of Ramadan.

August

Season: Dry
  • Diving is restricted to inside Chole Bay because of potentially strong winds and huge seas outside the bay.
  • Weather can pick up over this period with the potential for strong winds and big seas
  • Turtle hatchings almost daily in July, August, September tailing off until Christmas
  • Fantastic potential to see humpback whales in August

September

Season: Dry
  • Weather is more consistent over this period with cooler temperatures, little wind and low rainfall.
  • There is the possibility of whale watching, as an added bonus during this time of year.
  • Turtle hatchings almost daily in July, August, September, tailing off until Christmas

October

Season: Dry
  • Weather is more consistent over this period with cooler temperatures, little wind and low rainfall.
  • Whale sharks best in late October, November and early December, just before Christmas
  • The ideal month for exploring the coral reefs and exotic fish with water clarity of 25 meters or more.

November

Season: Wet
  • Temperatures are hot with the arrival of the summer rains and wind.
  • If you are a keen fisherman, billfish fishing season kicks off.
  • This is the best time to swim with the mighty whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
  • The ideal month for exploring the coral reefs and exotic fish with water clarity of 25 meters or more.

December

Season: Dry
  • Temperatures are hot with the arrival of the summer rains and wind.
  • This is the best time to swim with the mighty whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
  • Diving is not at its best but decent during this month, as long as weather doesn't pick-up.

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