The name Pole Pole means ‘slowly-slowly’ in Swahili, which is reflected in the laid-back pace of life you’ll experience while staying at this beachside ecolodge.
Designed to blend in with its natural surroundings of palm trees, lush forest and soft sands, the lodge’s accommodation is in stilted wooden bungalows hidden in the foliage and looking out to sea, while the thatched, open-sided dining area refrains from playing music so you can simply enjoy the sound of the waves and the sea breeze.
At dusk you can witness the mass exodus of fruit bats from Chole Island as they depart in search of food.
Pole Pole is friendly, relaxed and has a superb location. We find that the food and service is excellent, and its uncommercialized atmosphere, along with excellent snorkeling, makes it one of our favorite properties.
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The lodge offers just a small number of thatched bungalows, set on stilts on a small hill overlooking the turquoise sea. Offering peace and privacy, each of them is spacious and stylish, featuring large double or twin beds with muslin nets, antique furniture, ceiling fans and en suite bathrooms with brass fittings. Extra beds can be provided, and there are several family bungalows with two bedrooms. Each bungalow also boasts a large, private veranda furnished with comfortable chairs and a carved Zanzibari bed, making a peaceful place to relax in the afternoon sun.
Pole Pole is situated on a white sand beach on Mafia Island’s Chole Bay. It’s located within the island’s marine park, which offers excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. The island’s main village, Kilindoni, and its airstrip are a 20-minute drive away. By air it’s 45 minutes from the Nyerere National Park and Zanzibar, or 30 minutes from Dar es Salaam.
Food and drink
The dining area is situated just above the beach, serving a variety of cuisines. Swahili dinners are offered once a week, and dietary requirements can be catered for. Most ingredients are organic and locally sourced to support the island’s fishermen and farmers. For breakfast, guests can enjoy pancakes with honey and fresh fruits, such as mangoes; seafood salads are served at lunch, while dinner is four courses.
Families can be accommodated in the two bedroom bungalows, depending on availability, and extra beds can be added to the bungalows.
Facilities and activities
There’s a spa by the swimming pool offering massages, while the library provides books, magazines and games. You can easily swim from Pole Pole’s beach when the tide is in, or a five-minute walk around the bay at low tide will lead you to another beach where you can swim at any time. There’s also a dhow, Kimulimuli, which takes guests to reefs and sandbanks for snorkeling.
Environmental and social responsibility
Pole Pole is a low-impact property when it comes to the environment, featuring a phyto-purification plant to treat waste water that would otherwise pollute the environment.
You could choose to explore other nearby islands in the Mafia Archipelago, including Chole Island where you can visit the fruit bat colony and Juani Island where you can discover the archaeological site of Kua, which contains the remains of an 11th century Arab settlement believed to have been destroyed by Madagascan pirates. The lodge can also organize excursions by car to visit local villages and markets or to explore more of the island’s beaches.
Pole Pole is affiliated with a nearby fully-equipped dive center, Mafia Island Diving, which offers a range of PADI-certified courses for all levels. Diving safaris are offered around Chole Bay, and the 821 square kilometer marine park is home to diverse marine life in its reefs, including 48 genera of coral and 400 fish species. Almost all of the best diving can be enjoyed at depths of less than 30 meters, with the warm waters of the inland bays and lagoons suitable for those new to diving. You can also go swimming with whale sharks, which are harmless to humans.
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Alternative places to stay nearby
Where possible, we like to offer a range of accommodation for each stop of your trip, chosen by our specialists as some of their favorite places to stay. To help you make the right choice, we give each property a rating based on its facilities and service, but we also look for hotels with distinct character or a location that can’t be bettered.