East African sailing trip – log 43

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October 2, 2004

chole lodge from the anchorage
chole lodge from the anchorage

Denise and Rhett go ashore on Chole Island first – we drop them off at the beach and as soon as we arrive back onboard, we are visited by Marine Conservation Officers who come onboard to claim an entrance fee of $10 for the yacht and $10 per person per day for the crew. We are astounded as we were hoping to stay for at least 4 days. The US$30 per day seemed rather excessive – fortunately we are still being super friendly, offering refreshments and chatting congenially when Rhett and Denise radio us to fetch them.

Together we are able to smooth talk them into accepting US$50 per boat for our entire stay. One never receives a receipt and the prices fluctuate drastically as you can see by this incident so be aware before falling for the first amount requested. They hand over a few brochures and the regulations notice, governing the marine reserve and leave us with smiles as wide as Cheshire Cats; assuring us of their assistance if ever we need it.

Roots growing against the ruins
Chole Lodge entrance through the ruins

It is our turn to explore the lodge, which is the only one on the island. The owners have cleverly and creatively incorporated the ruins (dating back to the 15th century from the first Arab settlers) into the boutique hotel so that when one approaches you have to go through the ruins which are overgrown, walls covered with thick vines and tree roots; it somehow makes one feel as if you are entering an enchanted, magical place (which is exactly what it is) 

The décor is rustic yet chic with an extravagant, extraordinary attention to detail while keeping it within the confines of this charming, amazing setting. The common area is a huge open air building under a thatch roof. It stands out in my memory as one of the places I was most captured with and one I would envision replicating in a beach cottage of my own.

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chole lodge - bandas
chole lodge – bandas

The rooms are private; separate and away from the common area ensuring intimacy and romance which this environment evokes. They are simply but beautifully designed. Some offer the option of a room on stilts, or built on a platform between palm-tree trunk supports, most overlook the water.  

The ancient old village is close by and we walk past some huts with vendors selling the renowned Misuala – a woven flat grass prayer-mat used by Muslims throughout Tanzania. The ones woven here are cherished and coveted for their detailed design and colour.

The women use thin strips of palm-fronds that are dyed in bright bold colours. I buy one which I have to this day – it has faded somewhat but still as fascinating and captivating as ever. One can really experience the friendly culture of the Swahili people here in Cholė.

Chole Lodge
Chole Lodge

We pass ruins of the old prison where slaves were held while the awaited their new masters – these were brought from all around Tanzania and held in designated area like this. We met some foreigners who are here to gather stories from the village elders, as passed down from generation to generation. Since there was no written record they are hoping to compile them in order to preserve this valuable history. We heard from them that the local people were paid a handsome sum of money for their children and they sold them willingly here in Cholė.

Cholė Island is home to a large colony of ‘Comoros Flying Foxes’ or fruit bats found mainly in Mafia and the Comoro Islands (although they do appear in the Seychelles Archipelago and Mauritius) we see them flying overhead in the early mornings off to their feeding rounds and back again in late afternoon. Fruit eating bats eat flower nectar and fruit juice. They only eat the juice of the fruit and they do this by squashing the fruit and spitting out the pulp. They are often killed and eaten throughout the Indian Ocean Islands

After lunch we move the boat to a nearby island called Juani, at last a quiet calm anchorage despite the consistent SE wind. We enjoy our sundowners and a mouth-watering prawn curry on manatee wallowing the in splendour of our new location.

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