The ultimate in barefoot luxury …
Unique is not a word that I generally just throw around, but it does have its place. A good example would be the blend of luxury and barefoot simplicity that exists at Manda Bay Lodge, a small boutique lodge on Manda Island in the Lamu Archipelago in northern Kenya.
This family owned and run resort is set apart from other east African beach destinations in a number of ways. The large, airy cottages, built from local materials, blend into the tropical island vegetation as though they were always meant to be there. Each has its own private veranda overlooking the white beaches and sparkling blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
Hanging from the rafters on thick hemp rope on each veranda are day beds, with colourful covers and cushions made from east African Kikoi fabric. These comfortable beds are the perfect place to lie up in the heat of the day, catching the ocean breeze and allowing one to lazily take in the scenery of the island.
The lodge is far away from any other settlements or resorts and a stay there is a truly private and exclusive experience. The island itself is well maintained and kept neat and tidy, emphasizing the feeling of being in a remote and unspoiled paradise. Nobody bothers you if you take a long, leisurely walk and you are free to wander anywhere you please. Staff are low key, but always helpful and pleasant.
The food at Manda Bay is nothing short of fantastic. Meals consist of fresh food, prepared with skill and love. A lot of seafood is offered on the menu, and these are incomparable with regards to freshness, abundance and some of the most delicious flavours that one can imagine. Guests that visit the lodge leave with a new appreciation for the delicacies of the east African coast.
There are many activities on offer at Manda Bay, including: Fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, laser sailing, waterskiing and inflatable tube rides. There are miles of private beaches to walk on and collect shells. The lodge also offers Dhow sailing excursions, which are peaceful and pleasant, taking one back to the days of traders sailing along that coastline. An evening trip to the thousand-year-old Manda ruins, built from coral stone and situated amongst some ancient baobab trees, is also a well worthwhile experience.
For me though, the fishing is the most important activity on offer, and it is spectacular. Every type of fishing from estuary, to inshore fishing can be done here as well as big game excursions offshore for giant marlin and tuna. The variety of habitats for fish is incredible, with plenty of inshore reef, a massive mangrove lined estuary system and miles of tropical ocean with no other fishing boats in sight.
The range of species on offer at Manda bay is mind blowing. We caught Oxeye tarpon, river snapper, and a variety of trevally species in the mangrove channels, both on fly and light lures. The inshore fishing produced more trevally, including some monster GT’s and king mackerel, barracuda etc. This was where we had a lot of fun with medium and heavier spinning tackle. The fly guys also had an absolute ball fishing the massive rock ledge drop offs at the estuary mouth. The offshore blue water fishing is simply incredible, with very few boats operating on that part of the coast, fish stocks are in excellent condition. The opportunity is there to catch black, blue and striped marlin as well as sailfish, broadbill swordfish and giant yellowfin tuna. I spent a night out targeting broadbill swordfish on the lodge’s sportfisher, and thought that I had hooked a world record broadbill, but it turned out to be a massive, foul hooked, manta ray!
Manda Bay Lodge is one of those resorts that easily doubles up as a romantic getaway and an amazing fishing and watersports destination. Each time that I have visited there it has been for fishing and I have rued the fact that my wife was not with me to share the beauty, comfort and luxury of this special lodge.