Just 1.5km in circumference and lying off the clove-and-cinnamon-scented coast of Zanzibar lies Mnemba Island, a proverbial paradise of powdery beaches, turquoise water and frolicking dolphins. Lying on this fantasy isle is Mnemba Island Lodge, where the dedication is to true ‘barefoot luxury’.
Only 10 thatched chalets – known as ‘bandas’ – make up the accommodation and the indigenous suni antelope and adorable Ader’s duiker are known to wander happily past them on their way to fresh grazing. Footsteps away from your banda is the beach – occupied by rare coconut crabs – and beyond that the tempting ocean, with its treasure trove of warm water, good visibility, sheer drops, a coral atoll and about 430 species of fish, including quizzical whale sharks. Mnemba Island Lodge is equipped with a PADI dive school and two dive boats, meaning you will always be able to take to the waters when it suits you. Water babies will also thrive on kayaking, windsurfing, swimming on the permanent beach and late-afternoon dhow cruises in this marine conservation area.
Landlubbers are not forgotten: spend the day bird watching (there is a large colony of doves that lives on the island) or relaxing on a daybed set up on the beach with a book from the library. Mnemba Island is also home to a fascinating green turtle population; peak turtle season is from April to August and privileged guests may even be able to witness these incredible creatures being born. Whatever you do, do not bother unpacking your shoes… no shoes and no dress code means a laid-back ambiance second to none.