Green travel and sustainability credentials are right at the top of the modern traveller’s check list, and while some hotels are still promoting their plastic free pledges, others are making real environmental change, and sit head and shoulders above the rest.
Just a few nautical miles off the coast of Tanzania, amidst the turquoise waters of the Shungimbili Marine Reserve, Thanda Island is the epitome of how a small island can have a big impact. Swedish entrepreneurs Dan and Christine Olofsson were involved in preservation and community projects for years. It was based on their honest commitment to improving the marine reserve and bettering the lives of neighbouring Mafia Island’s inhabitants that the Tanzania’s government agreed to leave this special island in their hands, which is running as a luxury five-star private hotel – Thanda Island Private Marine Reserve.
An island designed with sustainability in mind, it is entirely powered by solar energy, and the water on the island is naturally depurated by a desalination plant. A leading hotel in ocean conservation and regeneration, Thanda Island employs a full-time marine biologist, who oversees a coral nursery, where young coral is grown until it’s ready to be put back into the reef.
Guests willing to learn more about the marine life can book private diving sessions where even the diving gear is eco-friendly, (rash vests made from recycled plastic waste). Guests of Thanda are also encouraged to take part in the Whale Shark Citizen Science Programme, which asks the public to help with the process of collecting identification data on whale sharks via underwater images.
Headed by its philanthropist owners, Thanda’s team works closely with local NGO Sea Sense to educate the people of neighbouring Mafia Island on marine conservation environmental concerns. The team also supports the Marine Park Rangers, who patrol the western side of Mafia Island to stop illegal fishing, by teaching to the new rangers how to dive and supporting them with boat maintenance. With the support of the Olofssons’ ‘Star for Life’ charity, Thanda also provides sponsorships for community initiatives such as the purchase of medical supplies for the local hospital and schools.
A beautifully private destination, Thanda Island does more than do good. It also offers guests an immersive journey through the rich culture, wonderful nature and warm humanity of East Africa. Epicures will savour dining on the island, including a Swahili feast, a decadent affair that includes curries with hand-squeezed coconut milk, fresh lobster and oysters. All is prepared in traditional fashion with locally sourced ingredients by the island’s chef. The warm community of staff will cater to any guests’ desire and arrange bespoke itineraries accordingly.
Nestled within the Shungimbili Marine Reserve, the island itself is tiny and appears to float carelessly in the Indian Ocean, and the marine fauna thrives. As a private island, it can host up to 18 guests, in a stunning beach villa with five suites – complete with an extensive dining area, an outdoor patio, infinity pool and air-conditioned gym.
The solar-powered main villa is built in a breezy throwback plantation style, with five suites, a dining area, an outdoor patio, infinity pool and air-conditioned gym. Eight more can reside in the two bandas, a glamorous take on the traditional Tanzania beach homes. Guests can dine as often as they’d like, enjoy spa treatments, access the extensive boathouse, the yoga pavilion, tennis and volleyball courts, as well as use the super yacht and the helicopter for overnight excursions at no extra cost.
Intrepid guests may decide to start their day with a breakfast of herbs and fruit from the island’s organic garden, before heading to the boathouse for water sports. Those wishing to drift off can sign up for oceanfront yoga classes before enjoying a traditional copper bath at sunset. At lunch and dinner, guests gather on the villa’s patio or directly on the beach for themed food parties; drinks are sipped around the clock and wine and liqueur tastings can be organised on request.
Visitors wishing to explore the culture-rich region, including nearby Zanzibar, can do so on the 82-foot M/Y Sea Leopard yacht or board the private helicopter while treasure hunts, volleyball matches, and tennis tournaments are held on the island daily.
Those who think that it isn’t possible to combine this kind of once-in-a-lifetime bucket list luxury with making a positive impact should take a closer look at this little corner of paradise; a tiny, unique emerald and ivory island.
A buy-out of Thanda Island costs $45,000 / £33,000 per night. Minimum stay is five nights. The rate includes domestic transfers, use of the 82-foot M/Y Sea Leopard, all meals and drinks, unlimited spa treatments, all water activities, yoga, volleyball, tennis, laundry, local VAT, conservation Levy and Marine Park Levy.