Let's Spend The Night Together: Chumbe Island, Zanzibar

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The Independent Travel

A speck of fossilised coral in the Indian Ocean, Chumbe is one of the many islands of the Zanzibar archipelago, scattered off the coast of mainland Tanzania.

A speck of fossilised coral in the Indian Ocean, Chumbe is one of the many islands of the Zanzibar archipelago, scattered off the coast of mainland Tanzania.

Winner of a number of awards for sustainable tourism, Chumbe offers the seldom-enjoyed luxury of pampering your conscience, safe in the knowledge that your presence on the island has close to zero impact on the environment.

In the six years since Chumbe opened its shores to tourists, all profits have been put into local conservation projects. Only about a kilometre in length and 300 metres wide, Chumbe's blanket of rag forest, swaying palms and giant baobab trees is home to two of the world's rarest creatures: the fierce-looking coconut crab, which can be seen scrambling up palms after food, and the highly endangered Ader's duiker, a shy antelope hunted to near extinction elsewhere. The surrounding reef is formed of over 200 types of coral and home to 370 different species of fish, as well as several resident hawksbill turtles.

There's no diving, but floating above the spectacular shoals of fish and vibrant corals, snorkelling is spectacular. Twice-daily trips are led out to the reef by the island's super enthusiastic rangers (former fishermen turned conservationists). Nightly entertainment takes the form of reclining in your hammock with a sundowner, listening to the waves and watching dhows glide past.

LOCATION

Chumbe Island Coral Park (tel. and fax: 00 255 24 2231040; www.chumbeisland.com)

Time from international airport: The island lies 13km south-west of Zanzibar's main island, Unguja. Transfers depart from the Mbweni Ruins Hotel, about a 20-minute drive from Zanzibar airport. The 30-minute boat crossing to Chumbe Island leaves daily at 10am.

COMFORTABLE?

Seven split-level, palm-thatched eco-bungalows, set back from the beach along the fringe of the forest, provide accommodation for a maximum 14 guests. Designed using state-of-the-art eco-architecture, they are the epitome of desert island chic. Downstairs, in the large living area is an impossible-to relinquish hammock and a bright, mosaic-patterned bathroom. A wooden staircase leads upstairs, where beds draped romantically with mosquito nets face the ocean. A pulley-operated panel can be lowered for stargazing or a glimpse of the ocean on waking.

Freebies: Handmade clove-scented spice soaps in the bathrooms and spice-filled sachets on your pillows. A traditional kanga (for women) or kikoi (for men) to relax in while on the island.

Keeping in touch: A stay on Chumbe offers a rare chance to leave it all behind with no telephones, internet access or TVs. It's possible to feel you have the island to yourself - turn off your mobile and enjoy being incommunicado.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Low season (16 Mar-14 Jun, 16 Sept-14 Nov): $150 (£83), high season (1 Jan-15 Mar, 15 Jun-15 Sept, 15 Nov-31 Dec): $200 (£111), both rates are per person per night and include return boat transfers, all meals, soft drinks and activities. Pick-ups from Stone Town can be arranged for an extra $10 (£6).

I'm not paying that: Set in landscaped gardens across the water from Chumbe, the Mbweni Ruins Hotel (00 255 24 223 5478/79; www.mbweni.com) has rooms from $180 (£100) per night, including breakfast. A day trip to Chumbe, bookable in advance, is also an option, costing $70 (£39) including boat transfers, traditional Zanzibari lunch and activities.

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