Chole – a magical retreat

After much research my first trip to mainland Africa was to be Tanzania. South Africa appeared to be too much like a staged show for viewing the big game – but I still fully intend visiting this wonderful country.

Our first stay in Tanzania was not in one of the safari parks, but on a small island. Chole is just off Mafia Island and we had booked at the Chole Mjini Lodge. The magic started the moment we got off the car, near beach. I saw a holiday resort just on the beach – it looked wonderful and just as I had started to smile at the prospect, our driver and guide said “not there – we are on the island just across from here”. The mode of transport to get to the island was a boat bobbing in the sea. I failed to see any jetty and then caught on – with shoes off, and rolled up trousers, we waded out to the boat. As we scrambled in, the luggage was also added to the boat.

Waiting to welcome us at the Chole beach was Lyndsey (the Lodge Manager). We waded out through the water and had our first introduction to Chole Mjini. Lyndsey was bare feet, and we soon realised that shoes were unnecessary; all the pathways round the estate were covered in sand.

A brief introduction to Chole Mjini was followed by first sight of “our” tree house – named Tano (meaning number 5, I think!). A fantastic, luxurious structure set amongst the treetops with sweeping views, especially from the upstairs relaxing area. In keeping with living on a tree house Chole Mjini has no electricity – except for solar powered torches; however there is a facility to charge mobiles, laptops etc.–that is if you want to try to keep in touch. The great charm of the place is no TV, eco friendly drop down toilets (not a hint of any smells), and not even running water. A tank was filled everyday for the unique open air shower – water heated by a small paraffin filled can. I, and others, spent ages working out how on earth it could produce an instant hot water shower? I am doing my best to acquire one of these from Tanzania. This too was part of the magic of Chole.

Lack of electricity, however, did not stop the bar – on a tree house, where else – from having ice and chilled drinks. A gas refrigerator performed this miracle. But, actually, it was Lyndsey and her staff, who made the stay a unique experience, performing a real miracle daily.

Dinner spot varied – in the ruins, by the beach, under the stars, and so on – and all the guests preferred to eat together round a big table.

The walk round the village and the school was both enjoyable and enlightening; snorkeling was fantastic; but we missed seeing the turtles hatching or the whale sharks as this was not the right time of the year. We also never spotted the mice that eat any soap left in the open – how did they acquire a taste for it?

But I shall be going back to Chole Mjini for these. What a magical place to chill out. My trip was arranged by Chillout365 www.chillout365.com

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