Island and safari...Tanzania
by Selling Travel Editorial | 13 April 2021
I am sipping on a large, freshly harvested coconut. It is filled to the brim with natural water that sploshes onto my bikini. But I don’t care: I am taking my coconut for a walk straight into the gorgeous, turquoise blue sea that surrounds Tanzania's Fanjove Island.
This remote, palm-fringed tropical island is just off the country's southern coast, in the Songo Songo archipelago.
Travelling here is an adventure in itself: a 45-minute flight from Dar Es Salaam, down the Tanzania coast, with a quick stopover on Mafia Island, then hopping across to Songo Island followed by a short tuk-tuk ride and finally a transfer in a traditional dhow sailing boat.
Fanjove Island is tiny: it takes just 30 minutes to walk around it. My beach banda is one of only six, positioned perfectly to benefit from sunrise and sunset views. The rustic wood and thatch a-frame has a four-poster bed and upper viewing deck from which guests can enjoy the million-dollar sea views. Thoughtful amenities include kikoy towels (brightly coloured, pure cotton beach wraps), woven grass beach hats and pure coconut oil, to be applied to sun-kissed skin.
The quality of the food is simply off the charts. Head chef Issa serves up delicious Swahili island-style fusion sea-fare delivered daily by local fishermen: shellfish, calamari, snapper and grouper - but more on the grouper later.
Local knowledge is everything! A fisherman tells me he has just seen dolphin, so we commandeer the resort's speedboat to find them – and It is not long before we are in the middle of two large pods of spinner dolphins.
I can hear them inhaling loudly as they breach the surface. A few do those classic dolphin spins, for which they are named. It is an awesome sighting and I am overcome by emotion. I know just how lucky I am right now: it is the last week of January and, with much of the world in lockdown, I am in the Indian Ocean surrounded by the sheer majesty of this big blue, in the company of these beautiful, playful mammals.
The 11 kilometres of pristine coral reef that envelopes Fanjove Island is a nursery for blacktip reef sharks and I make sure to snorkel very close to Abdullah, the water sports instructor.
Birdlife and sea turtles
Within minutes of wading into the warm sea (28 degrees) I am floating above vivid orange and purple corals. There is up to 30 metres of visibility, shards of sunlight piercing the water and illuminating the pretty pelagic fish. We clock lion, clown, butterfly, damsel, angel fish and a turtle. It is easy to lose yourself for hours in this underwater, marine dreamscape.
The island is also a haven for migratory birds and the Songo Songo archipelago is an important nesting area for hawksbill and green sea turtles. The island team have been trained to protect nests and record hatchling data.
Fanjove Island and The Selous Safari Company partner with local communities in the Songo Songo archipelago, playing an active role in the conservation of the reef, with a percentage of revenue from guests paying for social development projects.
There is no timetable on this ‘barefoot freedom’ island: you can do as much or as little, and at your own pace. But back to the grouper: toes in the sand, I tuck into simply the best fish burger ever, flavoured with lime, cumin and coriander and served with a side of sweet chili slaw.
Giraffes and hunting lions
Just a few days earlier I spent three days at another Selous Safari Company property in Tanzania, Siwandu in Nyerere National Park (formerly called Selous Game Reserve). Sitting in the back of a safari vehicle as we drove into the palm forest along the shores of Lake Nzerakera the pandemic felt another world away. Nyerere NP is nicknamed #GirafficPark–how cool a moniker is that?!
I am lucky enough to spend time with all Siwandu’s great guides: Chris, Amos, Mohamed and John found us journeys of giraffe, hunting lions, breeding herds of elephant, mud-bathing buffalo, and my personal favourite, the African wild dog.
Siwandu'sspacious octagonal tents, with mozzie netting sewn into their fabric, offer guests views of both the bush and lake. As I sat on the deck, listening to the call of fish eagles, it was melt-your-make-up-off humid – but that is what the alfresco bush shower is for!
The elevated dining deck provides epic views of Lake Nzerakera and the BehoBeho mountains in the distance.
Siwandu's head chef Edmund and his service team, Mau and Alphonse, are superstars, serving creative and cracking fresh East African fusion fare. Among their many imaginative creations was a crocodile-shaped brioche bread, which we were served during a surprise lunch on a pontoon, a slow moving boat with floats for buoyancy and a canopy for shaded cruises. Guests can enjoy a blissfully laid-back cruise past pods of honking hippopotamus.
Fast forward to a sundowner game cruise, to the confluence of the mighty Rufiji River.
As our speedboat zipped past palm-tree punctuated waterways, taking us up close to crocodiles and more hippos, I pause taking photos to appreciate that I am on a true African safari adventure.
Book it with... ARP Africa Travel
The operator has an 11-night option, with six nights at Fanjove Island, on a full-board basis (excludes drinks), and four nights at Siwandu on a full-board basis including local beer, house wine by the glass and non-premium spirits. Prices from $5,074pp, based on two sharing. This price includes internal flights and park fees but not international and regional flights.
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