Pole Pole, considered one of the most exclusive eco-resorts in the world, is renowned for its great cuisine, unpretentious and laid-back atmosphere, and warm but discrete hospitality. Balancing luxury with respect for local culture and environment, it is the perfect place to relax after a safari, and the ideal base for exploring the underwater wonders of Mafia Island.
With a touch of style.
When you first visit east Africa, you quickly learn three words of Swahili – they echo about you, accompanied by big grins, from the moment you arrive. The first is karibu, which means ‘welcome’ and is liberally applied to anyone who looks pale enough to have recently arrived. The second is jambo, which means ‘Hello’ (or, from a child, ‘please can I have ten shillings for looking cute?’). And the third is pole pole, meaning ‘take it easy’.
Which is exactly what guests at this understated little beach lodge on the untrodden island of Mafia spend days doing. There is no noise or hassle, just sunshine and silence. No dusty roads, just a mangrove-lined tidal beach. No requests for ten shillings, just excellent service and cuisine from the elegant Italian manageress and her team. No crowded hotels, just a handful of wood-and-thatch bungalows with comfy Italian fittings. So, if you just want to chill out on a remote island, with nothing to disturb your reverie but a gentle sailing or diving trip, then off you go! And take it easy
There are 7 wood-and-thatch, stilted bungalows spread along the top of the hill with views over the sea to Chole Island.
The Luxury Bungalows (the name flatters them somewhat) are spacious, with a large sitting-sleeping room, a covered veranda and an ensuite bathroom. The double (or twin) beds have mosquito nets, a ceiling fan and Italian bedlinen; they are quite comfy, though a little on the narrow side. There is also a writing desk, plenty of clothes hanging space; outside there’s a day-bed and a couple of easy chairs. The walk-in shower is hot and effective, and the twin basins are a pleasant surprise. A secondary net separates the whole interior from the thatched roof above. The overall atmosphere is spacious and cool but rather gloomy. At the far end are 2, newer Luxury Family Bungalows with 2 bedrooms (with 1 double and 1 twin) and a bathroom in the middle. The per-person rate is the same, with under 12's paying 50% of this.
At the bottom of the hill is a reception-kitchen block, and next to that an open-sided split-level dining-bar area, with views out to sea. The dozen or so tables are laid with candles, paraffin lamps and surprisingly elegant crockery and glassware. The staff check the proposed menus with you in advance, and can always take account of particular requests or allergies.
Antipasto African-style came in the form of a fresh octopus salad, followed by a pumpkin ravioli in tomato sauce for the obligatory pasta dish. Both were tasty and tender - certainly not as al dente as is de rigueur in Italy. Primo piatto was a white snapper with potato slices and grilled green peppers, a nice dish let down by stale spuds. The passion sorbet with vodka was small and delicious, and particularly impressive when you remember that there is no mains electricity here. You can wash it down with house wines (by the glass), beers, cocktails or the day’s fresh fruit juice - all excluded from the rates, but reasonably priced. Breakfast is a light and healthy spread of fresh fruit (our mango and papaya were wonderfully juicy), bread or toast, hot and cold drinks, and eggs to order. There’s a light lunch menu, or if you are on a day-trip a picnic is provided.
When to go?
Any time except April and May, when it is closed for the long rains - though Mafia is drier than Zanzibar. There is a high season supplement from December (which can also be a little wet) through March (which can be very hot). Best ‘value-for-weather’: September – October.