Half-way through reading my degree in Law at Newcastle University, tired and distracted, seriously deficient of Vitamin D and in need of an adventure: I decided to find an exotic destination to spend my summer and remedy my withdrawals from travel. Equipped with my PADI Divemaster qualification, which I had gained during my gap year living in Sharm El Sheikh (and consequently used to fund my lust for travel and diving over my next two 'gap-years' across South East Asia), I set about finding a dive centre/hotel/anywhere that would have me, rather like a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

Due to my then lack of experience with 'exclusive luxury destinations'…

My initial attempts at finding paid work failed miserably. Desperate, I switched tactics, offering up my full range of skills for bed and board alone. I emphasised the fact I was researching for my final thesis on the effectiveness of Marine Protected Environments; the fact I had worked for a few fancy hotels like the Hilton and Sheraton as a Dive Guide whilst in Egypt; and finally, that I was an avid scuba diver having already lead over 600 dives and that I would do absolutely anything to spend my summer on a tropical island: helping with conservation efforts, hospitality around the lodge and most importantly of course in the dive centre. A big, bubbly South African gave me the break I was chasing: offering a bungalow in the jungle or tent on the beach (whichever I preferred) and food in abundance, plus all the diving I could get my webbed hands on. In return, I would be Vamizi Island's odd-job boy. My dreams were answered.

Landing in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania)…

For the first time is quite an ordeal. Visa-control operates like a Chai-Walla in Mumbai Central Railway Station, during rush hour. Thankfully I was pushing on to Zanzibar to acclimatise for a few days before heading south to Mozambique.

In Stone Town, I tried ZIFF and Konyagi…

Zanzibar International Film Festival - celebrates an eclectic collection of East African art, film, music and culture and kicks off early in July. Dancing to the rhythm and beat of Mama Africa (and Konyagi) in the stunning lit-up grounds of Zanzibar's Old Arab Fort, ZIFF provides a wonderful opportunity to discover all about this fascinating Spice Isle and its rich and exotic cultural heritage. With the blurry beat of African drums behind me, I took my seat next to the whirling blades of the Cessna Caravan that would carry me south. I spent the whole flight glued to the window staring out over dense green bush fading across pure-white sands, turquoise reefs and into the emerald sea, eagerly anticipating what lay ahead.

The dusty landing strip on Vamizi Island…

Reassuringly buffered at each end by jagged-sharp coral reefs and the sea beyond; touching down is quite an adrenaline rush. After a confident landing, we were warmly greeted and helped onto impressively large 4x4's that navigate the islands' unbeaten tracks. My sense of adventure was being tantalised and I couldn't sit still the whole bumpy ride to the lodge. I felt like I had just entered Jurassic Park. Though there are no T-Rex and the terrain is generally flat, the feeling of being in the midst of nature is overwhelming. After being shown my tent, I was introduced to staff and given a tour of the lodge. I settled in very quickly as the staff are all extremely friendly and their contagious 'nothing is too much trouble' mantra took hold of me.

As the ‘odd-job’ boy…

I began to work out my niche. When I wasn't exploring the island mangroves and tracking humungous coconut crabs and cheeky samango monkeys through the forest on days off; I taught sailing and windsurfing, rescued kids who had floated out to sea on paddle boards (this happened surprisingly often), guided snorkel trips, took guests kayaking through mangroves, searched for dolphins and humpbacks, assisted with game-fishing trips, chased bats out of villas and best of all, I did as much scuba-diving as physically possibly!

It is hard to justify… 

How amazing the diving is around Vamizi. The best dive site by a mile is Neptune's Arm (imagine an arm and protruding from the depths and you are half way to envisaging the magnificence of this natural underwater spectacle). Its surface (the curled fingers of Neptune) glistens with healthy coral and colourful reef fish seeking refuge. Huge shoals of shimmering pelagics twinkle in the blue as you look out from this monstrous pinnacle and sharks pass by (in numbers), drawn to this cleaning station by the currents. The melodic song of humpback whales provided the soundtrack to my most memorable dive there.

Vamizi Island Lodge…

Does not make any false claims as to who they are and what they stand for though I do feel they can be often misunderstood. From what I have learnt, 'luxury' (like most things) is a perception; it can involve all the comforts we would expect during a spa day at the Dorchester Hotel, but it can also focus on a unique experience, such as a naturally preserved habitat (a real luxury amidst the concrete jungle most of us are used to). I loved being away from TV, AC, DVD's and other tech-ronyms and having the chance to appreciate the simple joys in life, such as the sheer number of stars that exist in our night's sky, the effect of the moon cycle on our tides and the way that hermit crabs swap shells. As a dive guide, I was lucky enough to spend as much time exploring underwater as I did swinging from trees and lounging in my hammock on the beach. I became part of the family that nurtures this piece of paradise and the pristine reef and plethora of life it supports and took as much care with the small local community as I did with the divers I lead on aquatic adventures.

The disparity in leaving…

For England and university, was balanced by the promise that I could come back in my winter holiday as a genuine member of staff (fully paid) and I unpegged myself from the tent on the beach that had served as my home for the last few months. I learnt a lot during my time on Vamizi; the most significant thing I discovered is that ethical tourism and responsible tourists do exist. It may sometimes come at a higher price, but the rewards are evident and promising in our battle for a sustainable future. My experience of working in tourism in Egypt and Thailand had influenced my decision to return to 'reality' and study law, with a key interest in the balance of environmental rights with our own human wants and needs. Despite the struggles and hardships I witnessed in East Africa, in stark contrast to the luxurious splendor of places like Vamizi and suave resorts on Zanzibar, a sense of responsibility and positivity encouraged my outlook and inspired me to pursue responsible tourism after completing my degree… And here I am now, at Original Diving.

Have you ever been to Vamizi? If so, tell us about it. And do get in touch if you would like to learn more about Vamizi, or any of the other destinations in our portfolio.