A barefoot paradise in the Indian Ocean. 

Accessible only by boat on the southwestern part of Pemba Island, Fundu Lagoon is the epitome of a true island adventure done in an effortlessly chic fashion. Arriving at this privately-owned resort by speedboat, you’re welcomed into this hidden oasis with wooden walkways that lead to 1 of 18 jungle- or ocean-view villas and monkey neighbors that visit every morning.

Location

Pemba Island is about a 30-minute flight from Unguja, or the main island of Zanzibar. With only a handful of resorts on the island, Pemba is still very much in development and has an untouched island feel but with all the modern amenities of a modern resort.

Being next to three villages, the resort shares the waters and beach with fishermen and local women walking back and forth every day.

The Resort

I’m always amazed when island resorts can pull off an incredible experience while practicing responsible tourism that benefit local communities and avoid disturbing the surrounding environment.

When Fundu Lagoon was first built over 20 years ago, they employed local artisans, built the villas around the natural landscape, used wood from nearby mangroves and installed solar panels for power. Even today, they’ve only added to their sustainability practices by using paper straws and community initiatives which give guests the opportunity to visit a nearby village or donate to fund schools or water supplies.

One of the co-owners, Ellis Flyte, a fashion designer from London, first envisioned this barefoot escape during a visit to the islands. She knew there was something special about Pemba and decided to come back after a few visits to make the project a reality along with business partners and an architect. Meanwhile, she traveled around East Africa, India and London looking for all the furnishings, paint and equipment that would give the resort a local yet modern feel.

Walking around, there’s a clear indication of local influences in the design. From the African art and sculptures to the chairs made from old local dhow boats and fabrics, the design feels authentic to the Swahili culture and surrounding environment.

Rooms and Suites

There are 18 makuti thatched rooms at Fundu Lagoon, all with views of the Indian Ocean, either hillside or ocean side. I stayed in an ocean side superior suite which included a main tented bedroom with private bathroom, plunge pool, outdoor shower and spacious outside deck area (see photo below). My stairs led directly to the beach, which included my own sun loungers on the sand in addition to the deck area.

Each room includes a room fridge, safe and amazing room service. I had arrived in the afternoon and just wanted to enjoy my private deck. Having a tasty salad with fresh fish delivered to my bungalow was exactly what I needed after a morning of travel.

One of my favorite parts about this suite was the pandan fruit tree out front. Every morning I would hear rustling in the trees and knew the monkeys were coming to say good morning and hang out on my porch. The first time was a bit startling, but after awhile I realized they were harmless and didn’t really care for me unless I had snacks lying around, which I was very careful about.  I met some friends staying in the hillside rooms and they said they loved the privacy of being surrounded by lush mangroves and tropical trees. The rooms each have a deck that includes chairs and loungers; perfect for enjoying panoramic views of the ocean during sunset. 

Activities

The beauty of Fundu Lagoon is that you can relax, adventure and have cultural experiences all in one day.

An example of my perfect day at Fundu Lagoon looked something like this:

Morning: Wake up to the sound of the waves outside my suite. Say hello to the monkeys eating fruit on my porch. Go for a quick swim before getting breakfast from the restaurant overlooking the lagoon.

Late morning: After breakfast, go scuba diving near Misali Island, about a 15 minute boat ride from the resort. With limited visitors, the environment is very pristine and has some of the most colorful coral.

Afternoon: After diving, hang out and eat a picnic lunch on Misali Island’s stunning beach before going back for a massage. Their masseuse is from Bali and uses local oils and products.

Night: Seafood BBQ on the beach with the brightest stars overhead.

Two other activities I really enjoyed was the sunrise dolphin safari which involved watching over 100 dolphins flip and jump around in the ocean as well as visiting the local village. One of the staff brought us around his village which was within walking distance and we were able to experience a different side of Pemba.

Other activities include diving, fishing, snorkelling, wake-boarding, water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing and swimming in the ocean or infinity pool.

How to get there

To get to Fundu Lagoon, you will need to get a 30-minute flight from Zanzibar Airport to Pemba Airport near Chake Chake. Then about a 45-minute road transfer to the dock, where you’ll take a 15-minute speedboat ride to paradise.

Tripindigo is a flight search engine that services the main airlines (ZanAir, Coastal Aviation, Auric Air and As Salaam Air). I took ZanAir, which is a company that has small propeller planes that fit around 12 people and As Salaam Air, which was a larger plane and seemed to cater more for locals. Keep in mind there’s a local and tourist price for the tickets.

Fundu Lagoon
Pemba Island, Zanzibar
fundulagoon.com

Thank you Fundu Lagoon for sharing your unspoilt barefoot paradise with me. All opinions and photos are my own.