Part of the virtually unknown Mafia archipelago that lies south of Zanzibar, Chole is a tiny tropical island located in the largest marine park in East Africa, a few clicks off the Tanzanian coast. Set sail for its mangrove-lined shores, and as the first tree houses hove into view, the last vestiges of the 21st century recede: no roads, no cars, no electricity, no computers and no mobile phones. Just a star-spangled sky, flickering candles, superb food, great company, and the timeless luxuries of space, privacy, and utter peace.
With only seven tree houses, carefully placed and designed, privacy is assured. Open to the elements, with the king-size bed the throne-like centre piece, each thatched platform is reached via sandy paths that lead through the natural vegetation. All have views of the sea; some are close enough to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the tide trickling back through the mangrove roots. Most tree houses have a second level to accommodate children.
Having watched the sun set and moon rise from the rooftop bar, guests gather around a candle-lit table under the stars, either within the 19th-century ruins, the crumbling walls clasped by fig tree roots like giant fingers in the flickering candlelight, or next to the murmuring ocean. A strong Swahili influence provides delicate yet intense, flavourful spicing, and the judicious use of coconut milk. Fish is freshly caught and delivered daily; vegetables are grown on the island. Anne has yet to find the time to create the recipe book her guests keep begging her to produce, but here are two.
Chole Mjini Lodge
Address: Chole, Mafia Island 23000, Tanzania
Tel: (+255) 784 520 799 www.cholemjini.com
Style: Beach front eco lodge
Rooms: 7 tree houses
Airport: Dar Es Salaam / Zanzibar