Quirky, individual, not for those who want mainstream comfort or indeed luxury – on the other hand, the experience you get here is priceless and will particularly appeal to many of our readers. It’s four hours by car (including 1.5 hours on a dirt road) from the nearest big population centre, Pemba, then, on a deeply rutted track leading past a very poor African village, a further 2 km (4X4 essential). Until you arrive, you can’t believe that there’s a well-run, comfortable place to stay here.
There’s no running water – it comes from bore holes. And no bathrooms. To shower you stand outside in a walled enclosure under the stars and pull on a rope. The ingenious timber shower contraption delivers a stream of hot water – surprisingly efficient. WC? No flushing lavatories here: instead compost loos in a charming bamboo hut up on stilts with views out on to the Indian Ocean. Washbasin? It’s a clay bowl you fill with bottled hot water delivered to your room. Light? Paraffin lanterns. Walls? Traditional African mud-daubed box structures – no concrete, almost no metal. Everything is natural and made by the local people, down to the cushion covers and clay floor tiles. The office runs its computers from a generator – charge your mobile or laptop there.
The food is well above what you’d expect. There’s a dive centre, and boating expeditions to the islands opposite. And then there’s 2 kilometres of wonderful white sand beach that belongs to the hotel.
The few drawbacks are insignificant compared with the charm. Some of the furniture (e.g. the bar stools) is a little hard-edged. Occasionally there are minor shortages of kitchen ingredients, or the wine list is restricted – you’re at the end of a long supply line. The people who overcome the nightmares of keeping this kind of enterprise running, in this kind of location, are heroes.