Mad about Manta

2022-05-03T15:28:02-05:00May 3rd, 2022|

It’s a proper journey to get to The Manta Resort, even from mainland Tanzania. Leaving northern Serengeti, it was four (admittedly short) flight hops (with a couple of plane changes) to get to Pemba Island. Once you arrive, it’s another 90 minutes or so to The Manta Resort. And it’s worth every single moment to get there.

A quick note about the drive – it’s lovely. You pass through bustling villages, schools, active agriculture areas, the lush Ngezi rainforest and more. It’s a window into daily life on this unspoiled island. The roads are excellent for about half of the drive, and once you’re on the unimproved roads, it’s still interesting enough not to care about the bumps.

Our Albatros Kusini FAM group was warmly welcomed on arrival by the Manta staff, including GM Juma Bakar. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that gives off a mellower, more pleasant vibe than Juma, and he instantly puts guests at ease. We walked through the main area to the elevated terrace where guests are treated to sweeping, palm-laced views of the turquoise Indian Ocean. We were offered cool drinks and freshly warmed cashews while our bags were taken to our rooms. I was instantly on ‘Manta time.’

I ordered a Pemba Lada (similar to a Pina Colada) and retreated to my Seafront Villa and its private plunge pool to sip and savor the sea breeze and stunning vista. It was time to slow down after a wonderful but very busy safari, and three nights at Manta was a very welcome treat!

I had forgotten how incredibly soft the sand is on Pemba Island – my last visit was in 2018 – so a trip to the beach bar to watch the sunset was in order. Talcum powder-soft, the white sands at The Manta Resort are lovelier than any other beach I’ve visited in the world, and the beach bar is the perfect place to sink into a comfy chair or hammock, dig one’s toes into the sand and let the cares of the world shrug off your shoulders (though that weight really lifted more or less the moment of my arrival). Tip – keep an eye out for Pemba flying foxes at dusk!

The food at The Manta Resort is exceptional. Breakfasts include beautiful fresh fruit and warm, freshly baked breads followed by a hot breakfast made to order. Lunches and dinners have multiple choices – generally a fish dish, a vegetarian option and a meat entrée. I opted for fish at every meal it was offered. When in Rome, right?

I think I ate lobster (among other freshly caught delicacies) four times during our stay. It’s not possible to tire of the incredible fresh seafood. Simply and perfectly prepared, every meal is a feast for the senses and the palate.

I was excited to learn during dinner that each of us would have the opportunity to spend the night in the Underwater Room. I raised my hand to go the first night after dinner. I grabbed a small bag, placed a drinks order and was whisked off the beach under a glittering night sky in a small motorboat to the room. Fish jumped out of the water at the boat’s spotlight as we traveled the short distance to the Underwater Room, making the quick journey even more special.

I was given a briefing about how everything worked and then retired down the ladder to the bedroom. I could hardly close my eyes for the show going on outside! Myriad fish species were doing their fishy things outside of the room’s huge picture windows (there are eight of them!), and I didn’t have to think about my scuba gear or avoiding coral or anything else. I could just watch from the comfort of the bed with the cool breeze of the air-conditioning.

I would wake every few hours to see what was going on, and every time I opened my eyes, I saw a new species. Tiny, pearlescent jellyfish squelched by the windows, trumpetfish stared at me as they flitted by, shoals of glittering silver bait moving in beautiful murmuration – it was absolutely mesmerizing. I didn’t want to close my eyes!

You could choose to sleep on the Underwater Room’s roof under the vast expanse of the Milky Way, but I’d save the roof for sundowners, a bit of sunbathing (if that’s your thing) and maybe a few minutes of the night sky. You’re here for what’s two floors down!

Guests staying in the Underwater Room can ‘check in’ in the early afternoon. The main level has an outdoor lounge perfect for gazing out to sea, reading, playing a game, or jumping off the side to snorkel and check out the reef fish. The fridge is stocked with beverages that you order in advance with your butler, as well as snacks. Freshly made dinner and breakfast will be motored out to you at the time you request. A mobile phone, wifi hotspot and a walkie talkie are all available to guests should they need anything or wish to get their Instagram posts up in real time.

I can’t say enough about the experience of sleeping in the Underwater Room. It’s truly once-in-a-lifetime (though I hope it’s not!) and shouldn’t be missed!

While I can’t say anything topped the experience of sleeping in a bedroom below the Indian Ocean, the rest of my stay at Manta was filled with constant pleasure. The next day, a few of us headed out for an excursion to a sandbank that appears at low tide. We sailed out on a wooden boat – an ‘ngalawa’ – on calm, beautiful waters. On reaching the sandbank, nearly snow white in the midday sun, we dropped our things under a canopy the staff had set up for us and headed back out to the impossibly blue waters with a cold beer to splash around.

While we were relaxing and chatting in the water, the fantastic Manta team members that accompanied us were bustling about preparing an absolutely outstanding lunch. We came back in out of the sun to find an absolute feast had been prepared for us in a very basic, makeshift kitchen right on the sand. We filled our bellies on grilled lobster, shrimp, octopus and fish along with coconut rice and sautéed bell peppers (and perhaps another beer) in the most improbably beautiful location.

Storm clouds were building, making for a dramatic scene and a cue to get back to The Manta Resort. Under darkening skies, we sailed back to our familiar beachside home for a leisurely afternoon of swimming and enjoying spa treatments. It even rained a bit during my massage, adding to the zen-like atmosphere.

I spent my final day walking, swimming, beachcombing, lazing at the beach bar and eating wonderful food – everything you want to do when you’re in paradise. We capped off the day with a gorgeous sundowner cruise on the ngalawa.

There’s much to do at The Manta Resort. Outstanding diving on its beautiful coral reef should not be missed. Snorkeling is very rewarding for those who don’t wish to scuba. Customized inland visits might take you to the ancient Ngezi rainforest, a local spice farm, a nearby lighthouse and other places of interest. Anglers can also enjoy exceptional deep-sea fishing. You can also do as little as you wish. I do recommend leaving some time unstructured each day so that you can enjoy Manta itself. It’s hard to describe what a special place it is.

The Manta Resort isn’t fancy. It’s not uber luxurious, but it is extremely exclusive. It has wonderful, thoughtful service, a caring staff that makes you feel like family and a intangible way of making you feel at home. It is a place that truly allows you to shrug off the weight of the world from the moment you arrive. It’s an experience like no other. I can’t wait for my next visit!

About the Author:

Gretchen Healey
Gretchen is the Marketing and Social Media Manager for the Kusini Collection.

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