Summer Beach Holidays

As June approaches most people are busy dreaming about their big summer holiday. After a long cold winter and a lot of hard work, most of us sun-starved Brits are dreaming of some relaxation in the warm sunshine with a bit of a dip in the sea if we are lucky.

So where are you going this year? If you haven’t booked anywhere yet why not try something a little bit different this year – how about Mauritius or the Seychelles or Zanzibar?  We have some truly stunning 4 and 5 star beach resorts on offer for prices that are comparable to the Mediterranean but with better beaches, better weather, better sea temperatures, better food and better facilities and scenery. What’s not to like?

Mauritius

A large and lush green island that sits off the coast of  South Africa in the Indian Ocean, this is a great destination for those looking for large beach resorts with excellent facilities and great day trips. The beaches are soft white sand lined by palm trees and the stunning mountain ranges that are scattered around the island. The water is crystal clear and as warm as a bath and perfect for snorkelling or scuba diving. Mauritius has an interesting Creole culture and history which makes for some great excursions into the island to see the towns and villages. We have a wide range of accommodation from romantic getaways for honeymooners to fantastic family hotels with kids clubs and plenty of watersports. Why not take a look at Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel which is adult only and perfect for honeymooners or Long Beach Resort which is great for families?

Seychelles

Now if you fancy pushing the boat out and really revelling in a bit of luxury then an island in the Seychelles would probably suit you. There are many different islands and resorts to chose from including tiny little private islands to larger islands with bigger resorts boasting all sorts of facilities from spas and tennis to scuba diving and sailing. All are luxurious and surrounded by absolutely stunning scenery. The beaches of course are the main draw with the softest white sand imaginable and clear warm turquoise water surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful coral reefs.  Choosing which resort to pick can be tricky as they are all wonderful but if you really can’t make up your mind you could even do a couple of different islands and resorts on our island hopping option.

Zanzibar

The evocatively named Spice Island sits just off the coast of Tanzania and works very well as a beach extension to a safari in either Kenya or Tanzania. However Zanzibar also works very well as a stand-alone beach destination. There is wide range of accommodation on the island from historic hotels in the Unesco World Heritage Site of Stone Town to small boutique resorts tucked away in quiet locations to large modern beach resorts with the full range of watersports and all inclusive packages.  For honeymooners or those looking for a bit of privacy we can recommend a private villa such as those at Zanzibar White Sandy Luxury Villas and Spa which are truly stunning and even have outdoor bathrooms and hanging beds.

If you want some more information you can find all our beach options under the lodge library on our homepage or just follow the link. If you would simply like some advice or to book a great summer getaway with guaranteed sunshine and some of the world’s best beaches then give us a call!

Posted by Ruth

 

Our Top Ten Island Getaways in Africa and the Indian Ocean (Part 2)

Brrr, this hasn’t been a warm summer so far has it? Are you dreaming of some proper sunshine and some beautiful far off beach where the water is the temperature of a warm bath and the sky is always a perfect blue? Well forget the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, Africa has some truly gorgeous island getaways just right for escaping our typically British wet summer or at any time of the year.  Way back in January we covered the first five of our top ten island getaways and now it’s time to reveal the next five.

Some are tiny with just a handful of rustic hideaways whilst others are much larger and more established with lots of luxury hotels, fantastic water-sports and world class restaurants.  All of them have sublime scenery; some have dramatic rocky coves whilst others have dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Here are the next 5 in our favourite top 10 as voted by the Real Africa team.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is still commonly known as the Spice Island (although its official name is Unguja or Zanzibar Island). It is the largest and most populated island of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The African island has been for centuries an important trading centre, a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences. Zanzibar’s major attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed colonial houses, charming shops, bazaars, mosques, shady squares and intriguing courtyards. Stone Town is a very atmospheric, exotic, exciting and historical town where you can catch glimpses the sea and boats plying their trade in and out of the bustling port. Many buildings are crumbling away and there are tiny alleyways to wander down, bustling markets and the smell of spices fill the air. Another big attraction are the beautiful white sandy beaches lapped by the turquoise sea. The coast of Zanzibar is truly spectacular and all the beaches are stunning from rocky coves to huge stretches of perfect palm backed soft white sand. There are a wide range of hotels here with small boutique five star options such as the fabulous Baraza Resort to larger more family friendly options. There are places to choose for their seclusion and tranquillity and places to go for fabulous food and nightlife. Many of the larger resorts offer great water-sports facilities and fabulous excursions such as dhow cruises and dolphin safaris.

The  Seychelles

The Seychelles are being included as a group of islands, mainly for the reason that I cannot pick one over the other! There are several islands where we offer a fabulous beach getaway; from the larger Mahe and Praslin to the smaller private islands of Bird Island and Denis Island.  Once a hideaway for pirates and Arab merchants the islands now a popular tourist destination with many different hotels and resorts. Its white sandy beaches  are among the most beautiful in the world and you may well have seen these iconic beaches in photographs before. The palm trees, soft white sand, huge granite boulders and turquoise waters are truly perfect. The Seychelles also have substantial expanses of tropical forests with birds such as the endemic Seychelles Bulbul. You can chose from quiet little boutique hotels perfect for a honeymoon to large family friendly resorts with fantastic water-sports across the Seychelles and all the islands have something different to offer. The snorkelling and scuba diving is wonderful with coral reefs providing a home to a huge range of marine life. We like Praslin for its pretty scenery and its glorious beaches but all the islands are fabulous. If you are looking for luxury, romance, style and the most incredible white sandy beaches on a private island – then Denis Island is the place for you! We also offer hotels on La Digue, Mahe, and Bird Island.

Funzi Island, Kenya

Funzi Island is a tiny island off the coast of Kenya sitting in the middle of the gloriously warm and crystal clear Indian Ocean. It is easy to reach being only 15 minutes by air from Mombasa. This is the place to come for a true Robinson Crusoe style getaway. Although this is barefoot luxury not basic! If you want to stay on Funzi Island you will stay at the lovely Funzi Keys which nestles peacefully in the private white sands of its own peninsula. Designed to blend unobtrusively with its idyllic beachfront setting and to reflect the influence of the local culture and coastal architecture, the accommodation consists of nine spacious sea front cottages set along the high-water line and eight sea view cottages, all constructed of stone and thatch with large netted windows open to the balmy sea breezes. Surrounded by water and superbly located on a west-facing beach with glorious views of the African sunset, this remote and exclusive hideaway is the perfect place to escape from the outside world in style.

Nankoma Island, Marelli Islands, Lake Malawi, Malawi

Nankoma Island is one of many different islands on Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is like a beautiful inland sea due to its enormous size. The waters are crystal clear and warm and perfect for swimming in. You will find many different white sandy beaches around the lake and islands as well as rocky coves, laid back beach bars, expensive boutique hotels, tiny rustic lodges and bustling towns.  There is something for everyone here and it works perfectly as a beach extension at the end of a safari in Malawi. Tucked away on Nankoma Island, a part of the Marelli Island archipelago, is the Blue Zebra Island Lodge. The lodge is a simple, eco-friendly place with rustic safari chalets which are great for those who want to make the most of the location for water sports and scuba diving and who are looking for a laidback informal type of holiday. For those who don’t want a safari tent you can also book a larger more private wooden style chalets called the Kingfisher, the Cormorant and the Fish Eagle. It is also a great place for families.

Mauritius

Mauritius is a huge island and country in its own right. It is a beautiful, lush green island that offers the visitor lots to see and do. There are national parks to visit, mountains to climb, waterfalls to gawp at, hiking trails to explore and bustling markets to shop in. The scenery and wildlife of Mauritius are wonderful and this is a great family destination. Port Louis is the beautiful and atmospheric French Creole capital with lots of French colonial architecture but also many foreign influences as befits its place in the Indian Ocean between Africa and Orient. There are lots of wonderful restaurants, shops and galleries across the island so you will never be bored.

But of course, Mauritius is most famous for its wonderful coastline and amazing beaches. White sandy beaches backed by palm trees and the soaring volcanic peaks. And the water is crystal clear and warm with wonderful coral reefs and abundant marine life meaning this is a fantastic place for snorkelling and scuba diving. If you are looking for somewhere lively then you should head north to Grand Baie, where you’ll find a lively restaurant and bar scene. If you love water-sports and windsurfing and kitesurfing then the north is the best part of the island for you. The east coast is best for beach lovers and the south-west corner is a family favourite with calmer waters and some excellent diving and dolphin-spotting too. We offer the Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius, a wonderful luxury beach resort on the East Coast. Set in beautiful tropical gardens of almost 20 acres and 158 acres for the golf course, the hotel is surrounded by lush greenery making for a tranquil retreat. The beach itself is protected by an offshore coral reef making it ideal for swimming and water sports.

So now you can dream all about tropical islands in Africa and the Indian Ocean. You can find out much more on our lodge library at the top of the home page where you can find all our beach retreats or follow the link here. Or you could give us a call and let us know just what kind of place you are dreaming of and we can fix you up!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

Marine Safaris in Tanzania and Mozambique

We are famous for our safaris but did you know that you can also enjoy a marine safari off the coast of East Africa? We have several wonderful places where you can explore the incredible range of marine wildlife whilst swimming in the crystal-clear, bath-warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Fundu Lagoon, Pemba, Tanzania

This small and intimate award winning eco-resort is set on the tiny and unspoilt island of Pemba off the coast of the larger island of Zanzibar. This resort has won many awards for its barefoot luxury accommodation and this year it won the Best Marine Safari Experience in Africa for 2015. The resort and its partner diving operation , Dive 71, focus hard on preserving the unique marine ecology in the area whilst offering a 5 star PADI diving experience. You can do everything from snorkelling up to specialist week long diving qualifications.

The area’s main attraction are the warm, clear waters with visibility between 20-40 metres and temperatures around 25-28 degrees. There are miles of pristine coral reefs which hosts a vast array of fish and other sea creatures. The shallow reefs combine with huge drop offs which make for exciting diving and also a spectacular range of sea creatures. This area has currents so all diving is drift diving.

The area has a wide range of marine life from hawksbill and green turtles to manta and eagle rays, from dolphins and barracuda to tiny reef fish. At certain times of the year you may see whales passing on their migration routes. This area  is one of the best diving locations in the world.

Click on the link to find out more about Fundu Lagoon.

Ibo Island Lodge, Quirimbas, Mozambique

Another award winning lodge that we are proud to offer is Ibo Island Lodge which won the Best Marine Safari Property at the Safari Awards this year. This stunning lodge on a tropical island off the coast of Mozambique is also an excellent place to see the incredible marine wildlife in this area.

You can go snorkelling if you are inexperienced but just want to catch a brief glimpse of the underwater life. You can head deeper to the coral reefs and dramatic drops for the more serious and experienced divers.  The PADI dive centre at Ibo offers a wide range of diving experiences and qualifications.

This area offers incredibly beautiful underwater landscapes with clear waters and excellent visibility and warm temperatures. There are gentle currents here so no worries of drift diving. The best diving around Ibo Lodge is at a place called the Light House. It’s a long coral reef that stretches across a square kilometre. This shallow reef contains large gardens of coral tables, soft corals, bucket corals, green tree corals and a drop off of 21m were you can see a good range of tropical fish.

Another site close to Ibo is Matemo where you can swim with dolphins and turtles and the many brightly coloured reef fish. Another exciting place to dive is the wreck of a 100 year old steamer just off a nearby sandbank. As this is shallow it is perfect for snorkelling and the water is so clear that visibility down to the wreck is excellent.

The Quirimbas Archipelago is a magical mix of rare and beautiful fish, pristine reefs, crystal clear waters and fantastic marine mammals. Whether you are an experience diver or a novice snorkeller you can see all kinds of marine life including dolphins and turtles, not to mention the hump backed whales which you can often see between July and September.

Ibo Island Lodge also offers the rare experience of swimming with wild dolphins in their natural environment. The dolphin experience lasts 2-3 hrs and includes an introduction to dolphins and their behaviour, a briefing on boat safety, marine life and responsible interactions with the dolphins. The dive centre uses the regulated Swim Code of Conduct, created to ensure a sustainable eco-friendly approach. They wait for the dolphins to approach and never try to swim after them.  Dive Quirimbas  is an Ethical Marine Mammal Campaigner in Mozambique who supports the dolphin care code of conduct.

Click on the link to find out more about Ibo Island Lodge

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Our Top Ten Island Getaways in Africa and the Indian Ocean (Part 1)

Are you sitting at work dreaming of escaping to a tropical island in the sun? Forget the Caribbean, Africa has some truly gorgeous island getaways just right for escaping the cold winter or a wet summer. Some are tiny with just a handful of rustic hideaways whilst others are much larger and more established with lots of luxury hotels, fantastic water-sports and world class restaurants.  All of them have sublime scenery; some have dramatic rocky coves whilst others have dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Here are the first 5 in our top 10 as voted by the Real Africa team.

Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Mfangano Island is found at the eastern end of Lake Victoria and it is one of the team’s favourite islands. The island is a great combination of beautiful scenery, laid back African atmosphere and great wildlife. You can while away many hours just relaxing on the island watching the incredible birdlife or going fishing for your supper. It is also home to one of our favourite camps run by the team behind Governors Camps.  Mfangano Island Camp is a luxury, island hideaway lodge lapped by the waters of Lake Victoria, shaded by giant fig trees, and a secluded atmosphere. There are beautiful lush gardens set on a private bay with enormous boulders which sit at the water’s edge providing a perch for cormorants or giant monitor lizards to sun themselves. You will feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life on Mfangano.

Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Our intrepid explorer Lily nominated Ibo Island as one of her favourites having travelled to Mozambique last year. Ibo Island is part of the famous Quirimbas Archipelago which nestles in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of northern Mozambique. Once Mozambique’s mighty trading centre, Ibo Island has remained all but forgotten to the outside world for almost a century. Wander around this colonial little island town and hear tales of pirates and prisoners, turtle shells and silver. Explore old forts and ancient romantic buildings where you can almost feel the history come to life. Ibo is home to some wonderfully majestic historical architecture, some beautifully restored and some left as atmospheric ruins. Add to this almost dazzlingly white sandy beaches and warm turquoise waters, mangrove swamps and quaint fishing villages, giant sand dunes and lush greenery and you have a real paradise. Mozambique and the waters off Ibo Island are also famous for their pristine coral reefs and incredible marine wildlife including manta rays, rare dugongs, a variety of dolphins and all sorts of species of whales. We offer holidays to Ibo Island Lodge which is an award winning beach hotel with a fantastic location and stylish luxury accommodation.

Pemba, Tanzania

Pemba is a small island off the coast of its larger and more famous neighbour Zanzibar. Its remote location and small size has meant that it remained an untouched and pristine island of great beauty and history. The lush mosaic of forests, swamps, mangroves, and gently undulating hills combined with stunning hidden beaches and quiet lagoons makes for a serene and beautiful island getaway. The history of the island is told in the scattered ruins of mosques and tombs hidden away in the forest, some of which date back to Arab colonisation in the 17th century.

Likoma Island, Lake Malawi, Malawi

Likoma Island is another very popular destination amongst the team.  It is unusual in that it actually sits in Mozambican waters but is still part of Malawi. Likoma has a gentle, pretty landscape made up of rolling grassland dotted with trees, secluded coves and beaches and stunning views over to the mainland. There are a handful of hotels on the island but very little traffic as there are no paved roads and people travel by boat.  The waters here are crystal clear and warm making it perfect for snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing and sailing. The waters of the lake are also home to wonderful birdlife and the whole atmosphere is very peaceful indeed. We offer stays at the wonderful Kaya Mawa which is a 5 star luxury lodge with incredible views, secluded beaches and gorgeous rooms. It was voted by Conde Nast as one of the top ten most romantic places in the world.

Mafia Island, Tanzania

Another small island off the East African coast and part of the Zanzibar archipelago, Mafia Island is a proper Robinson Crusoe desert island. It is a place to get away and soak up nature in all its finest. Mafia Island’s coral reefs are renowned as an excellent, world-class diving destination. Scientists have confirmed that Mafia has some of the richest reefs in the world, with an unparalleled variety of hard and soft corals and diversity of tropical fish. If you are not one for diving you can explore the island’s nature trails and discover the hidden ruins of lost buildings reclaimed by the jungle. However it is really the gloriously pristine white sandy beaches lapped by gentle warm waters which you tend to have all to yourself that attract most people to Mafia Island. It is wonderfully peaceful and calming and a perfect place to relaxing. We offer a fantastic little rustic retreat called Chole Mjini if Mafia Island sounds the place for you.

If you fancy turning your daydreams into reality then give us a call and we can fix you up!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

 

 

Spotlight: Zanzibar, the Spice Island

Introduction

Zanzibar is a truly fascinating island just off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. Its location has been extremely important to Zanzibar and has made it a rich island at times and always a popular one. It is really a kind of crossroads in the Indian Ocean as its location means it has been an important stopping off point for trade routes between Africa, the Middle East, India and the Far East.

History

It has been inhabited by so many different races and peoples that it is a cultural melting pot even to this day. In ancient times it was the Sumerians, Assyrians and Egyptians who came toZanzibarand used it as a port and trading post Then later came the Indians, Chinese and Persians who all traded and lived on the island. Then over the past couple of centuries and in more recent times the Arabians and British vied for control. During the colonial era the British establishedZanzibaras an important stopping off point for trips to the furthest outposts of theBritish Empire. It was onZanzibarthat they could stock up with food and fuel to make the long journey eastwards. It was also a starting point for many British explorers including David Livingstone and Richard Burton.

Stone Town

HistoricStoneTownis protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so as it encapsulates the fascinating and diverse history of the island. The architecture in some parts is particularly grand with huge ornate wooden doors studded with metal bolts in decorate patterns. The architecture is a legacy from the days when rich Arab traders lived here and made their money from slave and spice trading. Much of Stone Town feels very Arabic rather than African with winding tiny alleyways more reminiscent of Morocco than Cape Town and there are bazaars dotted around as well still selling the famous spices that the are grown on the island. You can stay in some beautiful hotels inStoneTownmany of which have fantastic roof terraces where you can watch the sunset over the sea and soak up the evening atmosphere. There are also some great tours of the city whose past will come to life as the guide talks you through its colourful and characterful history.

Beaches

Most people come to visitZanzibar to relax on the beautiful white sandy beaches and to swim in the warm, turquoise waters of theIndian Ocean. The coastline ofZanzibar can compete with some of the better known islands such asMauritius and theSeychelles for truly spectacular beaches.Zanzibar has different coastal regions which have different types of coastal habitat and beaches. The beaches here are just as you would imagine a perfect tropical paradise. Tall coconut palms shade the edges of soft white sandy beaches that slope gently down into crystal clear warm waters abundant with colourful marine life. Most ofZanzibar is surrounded by coral reefs which protect the island from rough waters and create calm waters for bathing. The reef is also home to all sorts of colourful fish and dolphins, rays and even whales can be seen in the area. It is a perfect place for scuba diving and there are many resorts which offer PADI courses.

If you are looking for a remote and quiet beach then Mangapwani is the place for you or you can head to the remote and rugged beaches on the southern tip of the island including the Menai Bay Conservation Area which is an excellent place to see dolphins. If you are looking for coral lagoons and more options then the Nungwi Peninsular to the north is the place for you although this is more popular.

Accommodation

Most of the best beaches can be found on the east coast of the island which is around an hours drive or so fromStoneTown. It is here you will find the more established beach resorts with lots of facilities including watersports, fishing, spas and all-inclusive packages. If you head away from the better known areas you can find places that are truly tranquil with quiet beaches and small, boutique style hotels. These tend to be small with only a handful of rooms and minimal activities. However they are also often very stylish, with friendly hosts and the remote location means you almost have the place to yourself. These are a great option if you are choosing to honeymoon onZanzibar. However for families and sporty types then the bigger resorts are a better option.

Zanzibar is a great option for a beach package on its own or as an extension to a safari holiday in nearby Kenya or Tanzania.