Chumbe Island was the first marine sanctuary created in Zanzibar; a colourful little island surrounded by a shallow reef alive with 90 per cent of all the coral species ever recorded in East Africa, estimated to be around 200 species, and home to more than 350 species of fish, sea turtles and lobsters. Migrating humpback whales pass westwards in October/November, and dolphins occasionally pass throughout the year.
Most of the island is forested, and knitted with curious twisting nature trails that lead past the haunts of rare and endangered coconut crabs and a host of doves, rare roseate terns and other birds.
The paths emerge on to prickly coral cliffs with clear and peaceful views over the ocean. Chumbe Island is open all year round, and despite its proximity to Zanzibar Island it receives significantly less rainfall!
At the island centre, a historic old gas-powered lighthouse built by the British in 1904 still stands tall, commanding superb views of the island and Zanzibar Town if you can endure the precarious climb to the top. A 100-year-old mosque in a quiet state of dilapidation is still used by the staff and rangers for prayers.
Chumbe Island Lodge
Lovingly tended and beautifully designed, the eco-lodge is centred around a dining room and education centre created from a lofty makuti thatch, yet strangely reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House just a bit smaller.
This area was built on the foundations of the house of the old lightkeeper, an old Zanzibari who tended the lighthouse for 30 years and has now retired to live with his family. Two-storey beach bandas for guests all adhere to the ecologically friendly aim. Each uses only rainwater stored in huge tanks beneath the floor, and all water waste is channelled into filter systems and recycled. Composting toilets ensure that no sewage is directed into the sea, and electricity and hot water are solar-powered.
Chumbe Island is a fantastic little lodge for a couple of nights. The diving and snorkeling on offer are genuinely superb, second only to Mnemba. However the island’s lack of beach is a major downside to this award winning eco lodge. Similar to Chole in Mafia, a good choice for the tree hugger in us all!