Accessible only by boat, and with a daily rhythm determined by the tides, this beach resort founded by British fashion and film designer Ellis Flyte sits on the southwest of Pemba Island, a 30-minute flight from Unguja, the main, more touristy island of the Zanzibar archipelago. Thatched-roofed, canvas-walled rooms and suites are either set directly on a white-sand beach backed by dense mangrove forest, on a hill with panoramic Indian Ocean views, on a cliff above a reef, or in the surrounding jungle. A wooden jetty extends over a long, shallow drop-off, enabling guests to swim in front of the hotel at low tide. But the best beaches and snorkeling are 15 minutes away by speedboat off Misali Island, a conservation zone with more than 300 fish species, giant sponges, sea fans, and fields of old-growth cabbage corals. More sites reached by boat offer a variety of reefs and drop-offs for experienced divers. Other activities include sunset dhow cruises, kayak trips through the mangroves to the ruins of an Omani fort, windsurfing, water skiing, wake- and knee-boarding, dolphin watching, and deep sea fishing. The resort’s informal vibe encourages guests to go barefoot even at the dinner table; but bring wading shoes to protect your feet against sharp coral and sea urchins.
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Unlike the tourism-dependent main island, Pemba’s conservative Muslim population still relies on farming and fishing with little exposure to tourism. The resort has provided three nearby villages with their first well, school, and pharmacy, and guests are encouraged to visit the community for an authentic look into island life; fishing with villagers on traditional trimarans can be arranged. Tides often deposit seaweed on the beach in front of the resort, so expect a wild look rather than postcard-perfect views.
Need to Know
Rooms: 18 rooms and suites; from $375 per person. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: There are private tables in the lodge common lounge and dining area, at the jetty bar, or on the beach. The cuisine features fish, fruit, and organically grown vegetables sourced locally and many Swahili dishes with Arabic, Indian, and European influences such as the tuna carpaccio with lime, ginger, and caper dressing. Room service is available only in suites. Spa and gym: Fusion Spa incorporates local spices into its treatments. The resort has a large infinity pool and a PADI dive center on-site. Divers must take a malaria preventative other than Lariam, take out scuba-specific travel insurance, and bring proof of PADI certification.
Who’s it for: Fundu Lagoon attracts affluent bohemians, honeymooners relaxing after a mainland wildlife safari, and experienced divers who appreciate the reefs of verdant Pemba Island. Our favorite rooms: The largest suites have private plunge pools; all rooms have ocean views, private decks, and sun loungers. Plan ahead: The best weather is from December through March and July through September; in August and September divers may see large shoals of yellowfin tuna, while migrating humpback whales pass through the area from August through December. As many activities and the most attractive beaches are reachable only by dhow or motorboat, expect surcharges. Save the excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stone Town, on Zanzibar’s main island, for the beginning or end of your stay.