An idyll beyond the clutches of the fabricated world of concrete materialism,Chole Mjini is that one place which would compel you to exclaim, “Ah,in the heart of nowhere!” In the midst of the tropical paradise of Mafia archipelago lies the tiny Island of Chole Mjini, just offshore the Chole Bay,and within its realms resides one of the most unperturbed holiday getaways,the Chole Mjini Lodge,set in the baobab trees unified with the thriving flora and fauna of the island ,its ruins and the mangrove forests . Although it faces the ounspoilt nature unrestrained by solid walls ,its wooden chalets with panoramic views,mounted on top of the trees provide the natural privacy without blemishing the Tarzan-Jane like living experience!
All set for the unmatched and unimaginable experience of a lifetime,of course without having to slave the modern-day amenities.Safari ya salama!
To reach Chole you would have to endure a 20 minute flight from virtually anywhere in Tanzania to the capital, Dar Es Salaam, followed by a 45 minute drive across the enchanting island of Mafia in a Dow to the waiting boat, hitched on a sandy seashore,and sail forth to the bewitching Island afloat over the sapphire sea.
After arriving here,you feel like you could go no more remote in the entire world. A real eco friendly lodge that will rid you of all your dependencies on mod cons that we often take for granted,and teach you to live contently without electricity,ac/fans,televisions and even geysers!Yet,inspite of all this ‘pain’ within the canopied realms of these picaresque tree houses ,the simple life of nature’s kind breathes the sense of such tranquility and contention,like never before.
However,like every great place has a great tale,Chole Mjini’s inspiring story seems to kick-start with ascend of the two dreamers,Jean and Anne De Villiers,who dreamt and strived to transform the lives of the Swahili tribals here,without having plucked them off their roots and in the process found true ‘life’ for themselves.They are the founders of the Chole Mjini Lodge and successfully run it to this day.However,creating the ultimate eco lodge was not what they aimed to accomplish when they had come here.Setting up a Dispensary and a kindergarten school for the kids is what they started off with.And,as fortune opens the doors and windows to the best intentioned persons,Jean and Anne discovered a new way to change the lives of all inmates of the Island,and also give to the world a remarkable abode of simplistic luxury of the nature,The Chole Mjini Lodge.Intriguing isn’t it? Now,lets venture into knowing the tree houses smoked with the Pure Lost City jungle effect!
While building the lodge Jean and Anne aimed at keeping it au natural .Even Though ,at the very initial stage,when both had settled here with their kids Didier and Maja,they had very limited resources to build it but with the help of the locals,they slowly managed to erect the lodge all by hand which has now become legendary. The family still lives there though the lodge, now is managed by a dexterous team.
The major parts of the tree houses are mostly made of natural materials and is aimed at having the least possible impact on its surroundings. This place has no electricity but as the night falls, the kerosene lamps are lighted, and chunks of fireflies flock around the balcony area,infusing the entire ambience with a sense of mystic beauty.So,no need for electricity as you can charge the all kinds of batteries,iPods,etc at the office using solar energy .Moreover,the absence of solid walls do good instead of any bad as it lets the cool Kaskazi wind(‘northern wind’ in Swahili)blow through the spacious rooms during the sultry months and one can enjoy cool nights for almost the entire year without having a/c or fans.The bathrooms are composting bathrooms possessing very basic long drop loos and no flush ,all directed towards being completely eco-friendly!Here,everything apart from the massive concrete floor and the concrete shaped sofas covered in large cushions, is made of wood,even the the bar, restaurant and top deck.
Now that you have set sail to this mangrove-lined shores of Chole Mjini and have come to live on the treehouses,contently though, leaving out almost all the relics of 21st century-roads,cars,electricity,computers and even mobile phones,under the star-sprinkled skies ,lets get a clearer view of the outstanding tree-rondavels!
There are only seven treehouses here,juxtaposed in a way to assure complete privacy.A trail of sandy path through the natural vegetation leads to the each rondavel adorned with the unbound views of the sea,close enough to hear the music of the waves crashing at the shores, lulling you to slumber.Moreover,there is also a second level for children,in most of the treehouses.Below is the detailed account of all the seven accommodations available.
Hidden high up within the canopy of a huge and ancient baobab growing unusually at the water’s edge and beside the beach,as if replicating a natural mangrove! is very popular for its views over the mangroves to Kinasi Pass and is claimed to be enchanted by fireflies, all night .Being closest to nature,in this cottage one can indulge in the pleasure of sharing the space with nesting fish eagles or even kites within the spacious deck that wraps around the tree. The only single level tree house,it has only one king-sized bed and the shower,is built in a bamboo thicket, though simple and rustic,but functions well,though the light provided is insufficient.
Situated in an outstanding location, Mbili one of the biggest, most ambitious construct. Under one roof,on two spacious and separate floors,it possesses two king-size beds and the views are breathtaking especially from upstairs. Mbili is one the most secluded and private spaces available in the entire Chole Mjini Lodge.
A trail through a foliage tunnel takes you to Tatu,also known as ‘the house on the rocks’.Built on two levels under two separate roofs, it is almost like two separate houses connected by a single staircase and the main house is on rocks under a Tamarind tree, at the ground level,while the stairs mount upto the second house,over the beach in amongst the mangroves.
Set in the firefly city,it is closest to the sea,so much that during Spring tides the water rolls right up and wets the floor of the lower house,twice a year,in March and February.The shower here is set in a beautiful rock garden but the toilet is another of the three original paradigms of Chole Mjini.
Nne is again one of the favourites for its upstairs ‘tea house’ design,which is an elevated room with its own thatched roof jutting out,above the summit of the main roof that allows for a 360-degree view of the sea especially during sunsets which are spectacular from here.
Moreover, it has also perhaps has the most impressive of all the showers and toilets which are basically designed by Anne and built by Fundi Rashid.
Set in the midst of the fig-entwined ruins of a huge 19th-century house, tracing back to the period when in Chole Mjini the swarming trading port blossomed by trading between the Shirazi Sultanate of Kilwa, on the Tanzanian coast, and the Omani Sultanate of Zanzibar. It has the second tea house,with overwhelming views of the Chole Bay and sweet breezes. The walls of the ruins are bound by the braided roots of a giant marula fig tree whose fruits when ripe attract the beautiful ‘flying foxes’ with fox-like facial features and russet back fur,that inhabit Chole. Built into a remnant of ruin ,the shower here is huge as if to fit an entire football team,while the toilet is refreshing and breezy.
Sita is the ‘ground house’, best for families with small children or for those afraid of a heights of the tree-houses or simply for anyone who cannot live without a flushing toilet! It’s very large, with a throne-like king-size bed at the peak, two Zanzibari beds on the next level which is a few steps down, and a daybed on the porch further down.
It has a concave, mosaic bath that can work as a micro swimming pool for the kids, a shower and the only en-suite toilet on Chole.
The ground house,open to a stretch of gardens on either side, lead to the mangroves and their inmates,the fireflies at night.
Although the closest house to the bar and restaurant,it still assures privacy thanks to the prudently planted hedges and wall-to-roof curtains.
Saba,the largest of all tree-houses,is constructed on a splendid tree encircled by ruins.It can easily house two adults and two children and possesses a tea house with fantastic sunset views and a large sun deck over the beach. The toilet is fresh,light-filled and airy and with a shower.
However,due to its position too close to the beach,it can sometimes turn out to be a bit noisy in the mornings when the fishermen leave or return,but that again adds character to the entire setting!It is the only house with a stupendous view of Mafia Island across the waters, though now,it has some nasty exuberance of electricity at night causing the fireflies to disappear.
Ready to shed some calories?
Alls settled in the beautiful chambers mounted upon trees,its time for some action!Chole Mjini adornes a wealth of water activities,which include snorkeling, swimming with whale sharks and jellyfish, watching turtles hatch, and sunset sailing. The Mafia Island Marine Park’s waters known for its extraordinary reefs and dive sites, with more than 400 species of coral exploiting the myriad niches.,is a must watch.Moreover,if you wish to SCUBA dive or learn it,this is a good place to fulfil it.With Jean,as the PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer,with his encyclopedic knowledge,and wife Anne who is a biologist, a PADI Divemaster and an accomplished underwater photographer,you are left with no fear!
However,if you’re not a water or adventure sports lover,then the island provides for you a plethora of other activities to do and see aside from diving, such as a trip to Popo Park, the world’s first sanctuary for fruit bats, or a friendly and welcoming visit to the Chole Village or just plain and simple sunbathing on the Funguni sandbank, a strip of dazzling white sand, approximately 600-700m long,only accessible by boats
Best epilogue to an extraordinary day!
As you get all perspired after the day’s long adventure ,its time to journey to the abode of heavenly tropical delicacies waiting at the evermore glorious restaurant. and bar that serves the best wine and beer along in company of the outstanding picturesque views of the sea and sky.
The food here is simple,flavourous,fresh and beautifully cooked.This is the paradise of seafood which is freshly caught and delivered daily and the vegetables are grown on the island itself.All the delicacies have a strong Swahili influence and the use of judicious use of coconut milk which provides a intricate yet intense,flavourful spicing!Papa lemon soup and Roasted vegetable salad are the two items that top the list!
Indulge in the experience of candle-lit dining while watching the sun sink into the sea and moon soar high up into the starry sky ,either within the 19th-century ruins, the crumbling walls embraced by fig tree,with roots like giant fingers or next to the whispering ocean.
Chole Mjini is a true Robinson Crusoe island – step back in time, where a traveller can immerse into the ambience of the singing seas and shining skies,an air of calm and comfort hung around.Popular with both,families and honeymooners it is the best place to elope to;to be lost and found away from of clutches of the depressing rat race!