Every now and again you come across a place that is so mind-blowingly beautiful that all you want to do is get back there as quickly as possible. On a recent research trip to East Africa I found one such place (two actually - Vamizi is the other one): the magical Mnemba Island Zanzibar. This place is very special.Mnemba is a private island hideaway just a short boat ride from the island of Zanzibar but it feels a million miles away. With just 10 villas (bandas as they call them) it offers an incredibly intimate experience.
Sand so white it hurts your eyes in the sun (the whitest and softest I have ever seen), impossibly blue water and wildlife everywhere make this a very special place. I was there for just two days and in that time I played with tiny deer that roam the island, swam into the sunset with newly hatched turtles and went for a dip with dolphins after breakfast. Magical.
If you were visiting this part of the world just for the diving, you wouldn't choose Zanzibar as there are better option but if the diving is one element of the trip that is important to you along with stunning beaches and a beautiful place to stay, then Mnemba is hard to beat.
It's also not for everyone. For one thing it is extremely expensive (though once you have been there you understand why). For another, it is very simple and rustic which, to some people, may seem at odds with the cost. Everything is made of natural wood and stone, the bandas are totally open to the elements and the wildlife…most people who visit will fall in love with the place but not everyone.
I for one did fall head over heels in love with this place. There are few places like it on Earth and I hope that it can retain its charm in the face of the continued development of Zanzibar.
The message is simple. Go now if you can.