I am sipping on a large, freshly harvested coconut. It is filled to the brim with coconut water that it sploshes onto my bikini. But I don’t care: I am taking my coconut for a walk straight into the gorgeous, turquoise blue sea that surrounds Tanzania's Fanjove Island.
Fanjove Island is tiny: it takes just 30 minutes to walk around it. My beach ‘banda’ is one of only six, positioned perfectly to benefit from sunrise and sunset views. The rustic wood and thatch a-frame has a four-poster bed and upper viewing deck from which guests can enjoy the million-dollar sea views. Thoughtful amenities include kikoy towels (brightly coloured, pure cotton beach wraps), woven grass beach hats and pure coconut oil, to be applied to sun-kissed skin.
The quality of the food is simply off the charts. Head chef Issa serves up delicious Swahili island-style fusion sea-fare delivered daily by local fishermen: shellfish, calamari, snapper and grouper - but more on the grouper later.
Local knowledge is everything! The fisherman tells me he has just seen dolphin, so we commandeer the resort's speedboat to find them. It is not long before we are in the middle of two large pods of spinner dolphins. I can hear them inhaling loudly as they breach the surface. Some do those classic dolphin spins, for which they are named. It is an awesome sighting and I am overcome by emotion.
I know just how lucky I am right now: to be in the Indian Ocean during the last week of January 2021 with much of the world in lockdown, surrounded by the sheer majesty of this big blue, in the company of these beautiful, playful mammals.
The 11 kilometres of pristine coral reef that envelopes Fanjove Island is a nursery for black tip reef shark and I make sure to snorkel very close to Abdallah, the water sports instructor. Within minutes of wading into the warm sea (28 degrees) I am floating above vivid orange and purple corals. There is up to 30 metres of visibility, shards of sunlight piercing the water and illuminating the pretty, pelagic fish. We clock lion, clown, butterfly, damsel, angle fish and a turtle. It is easy to lose yourself for hours in this underwater, marine dreamscape.
The island is also a haven for migratory birds and the Songo Songo archipelago is an important nesting area for hawksbill and green sea turtles. The island team have been trained to protect nests and record hatchling data. Fanjove Island and The Selous Safari Company partner with local communities in the Songo Songo archipelago, playing an active role in the conservation of the reef and with a percentage of revenue from guests paying for social development projects.
This remote, palm-fringed tropical island is just off the country's southern coast, in the Songo Songo archipelago. Travelling here is an adventure in itself: a 45-minute flight from Dar Es Salaam, down the Tanzania coast, with a quick stop-over on Mafia Island then hopping across to Songo Songo Island, followed by a short tuk-tuk ride to the pier and finally a transfer in a traditional dhow sailing boat.
There is no timetable on this ‘barefoot freedom’ island. You can do as much or as little, and at your own pace. So back to the grouper: toes in the sand, I tuck into simply THE BEST fish burger ever, flavoured with lime, cumin and coriander and served with a side of sweet chili slaw.