When is the best time to visit Chole Mjini/ Mafia?
It all depends on what you want. The weather is coolest in June through September. Great snorkeling is available at all times. SCUBA diving is best after the tradewinds switch in September or October. Turtle hatchings peak earlier in June /July but there are still a few nests to visit throughout the year. The whale shark season runs from the beginning of October to February, sometimes up to March . The rainy season starts mid March onward and lasts for three months. We close for staff annual leave and maintenance March 31st until June 15th.
How do we get there?
The easiest way is to fly in from Dar-es-Salaam or Zanzibar. The old Stone Town of Zanzibar is an interesting stop over if you have to overnight to make the connection. Stop overs in Dar can be consumed by sitting in traffic. Coastal Aviation https://booking.coastal.co.tz/ has two flights per day connecting with other destinations in Tanzania. Tropical air https://www.tropicalair.co.tz/ has one flight per day (in the morning) also originating in Zanzibar and Auric Air https://www.auricair.com/en has three flights per week, the last flight of the day Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. There is no ferry service and coming by sea is a very time-consuming local transport adventure. We offer a meet and greet transfer service from Mafia airport to Chole Island. Let us know if you are having difficulty booking on-line, we may be able to help.
How do I get from the airport to Chole Island to the Chole Mjini treehouse lodge?
Mafia airport is on the West coast of Mafia island 15km from Utende on the East Coast where our boat will meet you to ferry you 1 km across to Chole Island. We offer a meet and greet service transfer service from Mafia airport to Chole Island for $40 per car (maximum 6 people). You can take a taxi from the airport (about $30) or a tuktuk, known locally as bajaji (about $10). If you let us know what time you will be arriving in Utende our boat will meet you or for the very independent who don’t mind lengthy waits – you can take the local ferry (about $1.00). The ferry runs on demand, or when it fills up between 8am and 6pm (try to avoid lunch hour – I think the ferry man has a girlfriend and often goes missing between 12.00 and 14.00).
Wear your water-shoes and clothes that can be hitched above the knee for wading to the boat.
Do I have electricity in my treehouse?
Yes there is a photovoltaic system in each treehouse but it only powers the fan which is needed half a dozen nights of the year when the trade-winds stop blowing. You are provided with rechargeable reading lights and the paths are lit.
Can I charge my camera and other electronics?
The Red Herring Café is solar powered and is the only place with (220V) charging points for Chole Mjini guests. You can safely leave your electronics with our attendant staff for charging during the day. We charge off the sun, so charging is limited to day-light hours (9.30 – 17.00). Standard three prong UK or 2 prong plugs fit. SA round prongs do not.
Is there WiFi at Chole Mjini?
We have WiFi at our Red Herring Café, reception and sunset bar. This is only open from 9.30am until sunset.
Can I SCUBA dive?
Absolutely. We are located in the heart of the Marine Park closest of all the lodges to the dive sites the closest being 20 minutes. We offer a choice between private diving with Jean or Anne, who each have more than 25 years of diving experience in and around Chole Bay or diving with the excellent five star PADI centre directly opposite Chole on Mafia island. They will pick you up and drop you off by boat en-route to the dives.
Do you have masks and snorkels to hire?
We are fully equipped for all sizes. We also have SCUBA gear and Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUPs) for hire.
Should I take anti-malarial prophylaxis?
At Chole we are fortunate that for most of the year there are very few mosquitos especially when the cooling trade winds are blowing however you may travel through a malaria areas to get here. We ourselves do not take malarial prophylaxis but we do take the risk of malaria very seriously so we have test kits and treatment available at all times. Please seek medical advice from your Doctor.
Can you cater for gluten-free / Vegan / Vegetarian diets?
Yes no problem. Anne eats gluten free. We offer gluten free baked products. We serve predominately fresh vegetables and salads to accompany fresh sea-food. We offer a protein rich vegetarian option at every meal for those who don’t eat sea food. Please let us know your dietary preferences when you make your booking.
Is Chole a good destination for small children?
Chole is heaven on earth for young explorers, budding artists and scientists. We don’t have television nor a swimming pool, nor any of those modern child distracting devices. Instead we offer so much to do and see for the inquisitive mind. It is the safest place we have ever been and we let our kids go almost feral because nature is benign and every Cholean feels that you are their guest and look after your kids like family. We can’t accommodate children under two years of age in peak seasons and children under the age of 5yrs need to sleep in the ground suite (Sita) for safety reasons. Excursions that are particular children friendly include; turtle hatchings, swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling, sand bank picnics/explorations, village walks, SUPping/ mangrove exploration, beachcombing/ catching crabs whilst the parents are sleeping, hand-line fishing for lunch. Our staff take their child-minding responsibilities seriously and we are a very small lodge, where the staff outnumber the guests three to one! A dedicated child minder can be arranged if you find you need one. WiFi is available in our Red Herring café (but your children do not need to know that!).
Can you include Marine Park fees on the invoice ?
No. Marine Park fees have to be paid in person on arrival at the gate (on the road from the airport to Utende beach) by credit card. Currently the fee is $23.6 per adult per night. Children up to the age of 15, half price.
What will I need to bring?
Occasional guests have lost their luggage en route and have survived incredibly well with just a swimsuit, a T-shirt, a kikoi and a pair of flipflops. If you are not taking malaria prophylaxis it is a good idea to bring long loose fitting trousers, shirts and socks to wear in the evenings. Sun protection. Toiletries. Aqua-shoes/ sandals that can be worn in the water for getting on and off boats (and on land too, if you are an adventurous explorer at heart and ready to walk around the island or across to the neighbouring island of Juani to the old ruins of the city of Kua circa 1200).
Do I need to bring cash?
You can enjoy your time at Chole Mjini without a cent of cash in your pocket but you may want some cash for tips and other purchases. There are locally made crafts and products like mats, coconut rope, hand forged nails for sale in the village and some local currency would certainly help. There is an ATM (local currency only) located near the airport on Mafia island. Diving, whale shark excursions, your bar bill and other excursions with us can be paid by card though cash is always welcome. We also have a tipping pool that is cash only, we cannot add this to your bill. We do not want to teach our children to become beggars and ask you not to give cash or anything else to encourage begging behavior. If you want to help people of Chole village please speak to our community liaison person, Hisan Tawakali, who will help ensure that your donation is transparent, accounted for and goes to the right destination.
Can we book the whole lodge?
Certainly. Chole is made for anniversaries and celebrations. It is also a fabulous place for contemplation, off-line retreats and workshops. Contact us.