Who can resist decadent dining, exclusively exploring the seas of a tropical island, topped and tailed with a soupçon of safari? Not I for one! And so it was decided that ‘perfect’ Pangani would be our destination. A convenient long weekend, a friend with a tank sized car and a couple of helpful directions later meant I was living that dream. Woop!

We had a good drive up, setting off early to avoid the traffic, so we only took an easy five hours from Dar es Salaam. The short cut was through Saadani National Park, a small, protected area where the bush meets the beach, as it is Tanzania’s only reserve on the Indian Ocean. However, we didn’t see much in the way of animals on our way through, as it was a little late in the morning for spotting wildlife.

We reached our destination, the Tides lodge, in Pangani just after lunch. Our hosts Florian and Laura were there to greet us and give us a little tour around. After being shown the swimming pool, dining area and water sports equipment for us to use for free, we explored our charming cottage.  Inside there was a spacious, clean and nicely decorated bedroom, a large bathroom, huge shower and a sweet seating area on the porch outside. I perused the menu of the many different activities available, as some have to be booked the day before. We decided against a historic tour of Pangani village, deep-sea fishing, the dhow trip and scuba diving and opted for the whole day snorkeling trip.

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The beach cottage bedroom

We slept so soundly

Our cottages’ beach setting was beautiful, and we ventured as far as the shaded loungers about ten metres away. What a spot to relax in! I synchronized my breath with the rhythm of the waves, and deeply inhaled the fresh salt-tinged air to maximize the calming effect. Soon all the worries of the world disappeared with every exhalation.

It wasn’t long before the sun began to retire and it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to indulge in a cheeky tipple before supper. And where would it be the most appropriate to do this? In the sea? Of course! I grabbed the cups and the bottle of pink bubbly wine and we were set. The natural warm water bath was the perfect spot to have a proper girly catch up, and was almost private as we had the ocean to ourselves. How I savoured that quality time with my truly special friend.

We were ready for dinner and Florian made sure that we were specially catered for, as my pal required gluten free meals. Everything was nicely presented, deliciously delectable and I washed it down with a rather generous glass of red wine. We had a quick chat with some of the other guests who were propping up the bar and then headed to our beds in preparation for our snorkeling fun.

Breakfast consisted of yoghurt, fruits, bread, jams, museli, cheese and fresh muffins from the buffet, as well as one of the hot options. I was definitely in need of some swimming exercise after that feast. Soon we were kitted out and all board our boat heading out to Maziwe island, only a short ride away. Established as a marine park in 1981, it has a couple of guys who guard the reefs so it is kept pristine. I would still classify it as deserted.

Ali was the most brilliant snorkelling guide. He obviously knew the reef like the back of his hand and pointed out all the fabulous sightings whilst also keeping an eye on our wanderings. “Follow me’ he repeated, which was a signal that there were underwater goodies ahead. I kept up with our mini Jacques Cousteau, and was rewarded with a super treat, a turtle! It was so lovely to see one of the most awesome marine creatures and was able to swim behind him for a while. YAY!

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Maziwe Island

Super snorkelling spot

We continued over a healthy selection of corals and plenty of animals, including my favourite fish the Moorish Idols, puffer fish and the huge spiny eyebrows of a hidden lobster. There was always something interesting to see and the waters were so lovely and warm and visibility was superb, making the trip extra awesome. After a good hour of sea safari we took a break on the island. Ali made us a shaded shelter area, where we relaxed as if the whole place was ours, which it was really, except for the island’s marine guards and birds.

A little extra afternoon snorkel was really cool as Ali did another exceptional job and found sea cucumbers, a stingray and sea snakes! I was lost in my own world, relaxing in the warm sea, swimming about, purely concentrating on the underwater delights. Aquatic adventures like these are particularly therapeutic, no distractions, focusing completely on the wonderful world of colourful corals and creatures below, only accompanied by the natural sounds of the waves. I try to explore with a sense of curiosity; it helps to rekindle feelings of wonder and enhances every experience.

Aerial view of Tides lodge and the beach

Yes, it is that amazing.

There was enough time to have a little post snorkel snooze, and the afternoon breeze lulled us to sleep. We were woken by the arrival of our mutual friend who had sailed up in a race to nearby Tanga and then came down to meet us in Pangani, which was nice. After catching up and swapping stories we got ready for the next treat, a gourmet dinner party. Luckily the shower was really refreshing, super warm and set at the optimum pressure. I did find it hard to get out! All clean and dressed for a special evening, we were driven just a few hundred metres down the back road to the other part of the lodge’s business, a private villa.

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Stunning swimming pool at the villa

Going to dive right in!

Wow, what a location! The house was simply stunning, beautifully decorated in a modern Swahili coast style. Each room’s theme related to a local animal and they all had a view out to the private strip of white sand out front. It comfortably sleeps twelve guests and thankfully also comes fully staffed with a personal chef and a butler! There are special offers where food and house drinks are included, which makes this an ideal spot for a hassle free special occasions. I definitely fell in love with the house, the whole package was right up my street, along with the proximity of the almost ‘exclusive’ Maziwe island.  A treat of a retreat!

We found a shaded space just outside the patio, with lots of floor cushions and appreciated the chill out zone. A team of waiters were poised to keep us fed and watered all night, and first out came a tropical welcome cocktail drink, a salubrious pina colada style potion. Incoming next was a ‘flying buffet’, a great way to showcase the villa’s menu using small samples of the chef’s capabilities. We had pasta with freshly made walnut pesto, awesome aubergine pizzas, tastetastic beef kebabs, and an innovative kingfish ceviche in passion fruit juice. Unfortunately, there was a surplus of seriously sexy chocolate mousse and I had to help out with reducing the excess. A terrible job but someone had to do it, 😉

Picture of a gorgeous plate of food at the Tides Lodge

Scrummy!

We headed back after a little midnight swim around the pool. It had been a fun filled day and we were looking forward to a good sleep. How lovely to be able to nod off to the sound of the ocean.

The next morning I was so relaxed after such a beautiful evening and fantastic slumber that it was hard to get up for breakfast. I was tempted to take one of the resort’s kayaks out for a little aquatic scoot up the coast but a lazy Sunday vibe took over and I exercised my brain with a game of Scrabble instead.

Soon it was time to return to leave this piece of paradise behind and head home. I was sad to leave but also looking forward in anticipation of the en route safari. We were certainly not expecting anything, considering that on our way up there was very little to see. I really wanted to take in every single second of safari. The extra assertive scanning of every bush, the smells of soil and dust, bouncing and bumping along in the heat and enjoying the game of spotting game.

We were pleasantly surprised with sightings of warthog, buffalo, waterbuck, reedbuck, baboon and giraffes. It was such a wonderful way to wander, with wildlife as the wallpaper, wind in the hair and wobbling about. We pretty much stuck to the main road through the park again and I did start thinking maybe we should have camped overnight on our way back. If you are really really lucky then you can catch sight of lions or elephants on the beach there.  I’m guilty of tarnishing experiences with the ‘fear of missing out’ rather than appreciating the present. I’m still learning to feel satisfied with my lot and that although camping would be great fun it wasn’t a viable option.

I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion up the coast and respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The brilliant snorkeling, fabulous villa with a gourmet extravaganza and bonus safari viewing en route made the mini break totally exceptional.

This post was not sponsored and is an independent review, however, the photos were kindly provided by Tides Lodge.

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in Tanzania, including Amani Forest Camp, Lake Natron, and Dar es Salaam.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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