Ras Mbisi Lodge

Northern Mafia, Mafia islands, Tanzania Book from

A sybaritic Indian Ocean hideaway, perfect for lotus-eaters, beachcombers and honeymooners
A deserted beach of purest white coral sand, a line of thatched bandas beneath swaying palms and the Indian Ocean just yards from your deck: there can be few places to stay so droolingly picture-perfect. Your idyll begins with a light aircraft hop from Dar to Mafia Island's tiny airport, followed by a bumpy jeep ride through coconut groves and rice paddies. The long, sandy track eventually ends at Ras Mbisi's high pole-and-thatch lodge, crafted entirely from coconut wood, with white cotton curtains billowing in the sea breeze.

This is a place for really kicking back, one where the pleasure lies in doing very little. The airy main lodge has an intimate vibe with cushion-strewn chill out areas and a sundowner bar hoisted above the dining area: you quickly get on intimate terms with other guests. The craftsmanship of the lodge is faultless, the food fabulous and the beachside bandas as beautiful as any we've come across.


  • An Eden-esque setting on a remote, virgin, 5-mile beach
  • The architecture of the main lodge and the guest bandas has been beautifully conceived and crafted
  • Great food and easy, good-natured service from Ras Mbisi's staff
  • Beachfront massages and on-site non-motorised watersports
  • A top eco-brief


  • Some folk might get itchy feet after a few days
  • When we visited, overcast weather meant that hot water was sporadic, but in the tropical heat this was hardly a problem
  • If you're coming for Mafia's world-class diving, bear in mind it's an hour's drive to the Marine Park and dive schools
  • Getting there is quite an adventure
  • In windy weather, the pool water can get a bit murky

Best time to go

Any time between mid-June and September is a perfect time to visit: you know the weather will be warm and dry and the island is looking at its lushest after the spring rains. From December through to February winds pick up and you can expect to see quite a bit of seaweed on that otherwise pristine sweep of white sand, but it's still very pleasant and whale shark season is October to March.

Our top tips

We stayed for 2 nights and left wishing we could slot in 2 more. You could find few better places for an blissful, do-very-little holiday and a week here would conducive to a rejuvenating big chill.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 9
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Kayaks
  • Snorkelling equipment


The design of the ocean-side bandas was, we thought, simply perfect. Staggered in amongst tall coconut palms, each is linked to the main lodge by a narrow path of the purest white sand which cuts in from the beach. Like the main lodge, the polished decks, low walls and furnishings have been crafted entirely of coconut wood from the surrounding groves. Roofs of makuti thatch drop down low on either side: your intimacy is all your own even though each banda is open on 3 sides to the ocean breezes. At night the bandas are closed up by dropping down screens of white cotton: you can choose to leave them open to the ocean and the night sky.

A big deck with Planter-style chairs and deck chairs leads through to your sleeping space. This has a kingsize four-poster bed, bench seat with silk cushions, writing desk and chair, a big lockable trunk and a simple A-frame hanging rack for clothes. At the back of the banda is an airy bathroom with a rain shower, white ceramic sinks, a big mirror and plenty of surface space for spreading your toiletries around. Soap is made from virgin coconut oil and is on sale at the lodge: we returned home with masses of it for friends and family.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


In keeping with the guiding eco-ethic of Ras Mbisi, a great deal of what graces your table is grown in situ or will have been locally sourced. Private dining on the beach can be arranged, too, just ask.

Breakfast gets going early: you naturally tend to slip into an 'early to bed, early rise' routine. Expect a lavish spread of fresh juice and fruit salad, homemade Greek-style yoghurt and freshly baked bread and Danish pastries, pancakes with maple syrup and cereals, as well as a full cooked breakfast. Eggs come fresh from the lodge's own hens.

After such a huge breakfast, lunches follow a light formula: some kind of seafood salad or a light pasta or noodle dish followed by fruit salad and homemade cake.

Both the dinners we had were simply excellent. You'll probably first gravitate to the sundowner bar where snacks and a range of exotic cocktails are on offer. Our first meal began with really scrummy crab samosas which were followed by mchuzi, a Swahili fish stew made with coconut and tomato. The following night our starter was a homemade liver paté and our main course an excellent seafood lasagne. Deserts were memorable, too: an Eton Mess variant made with passion fruit, and a wicked chocolate pudding cake which was served with a mango coulis. There’s a smallish, really generously priced wine menu, too.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Go snorkelling straight from the beach or explore the dive sites of nearby Chole Bay through the hotel's watersports centre - the island's Marine Park has some of the best dive sites in the world
  • Borrow the hotel's fishing equipment and cast off from the beach or take a deep-sea fishing trip in Ras Mbisi's dhow. This is also a popular place to fly fish for bone fish, but you'll need to bring your own equipment
  • Take a jeep trip up to the north of the island and a visit a remote lighthouse, a remarkable twisted palm tree, the German ruins and another fabulous beach at Kanga
  • Kayak in the sea and watch the local women catch and carry home their clams
  • Find time to visit Kilondoni's colourful market and perhaps have lunch at one of its ocean-facing restaurants
  • In springtime take a trip in the dhow - it has an outboard as well as sails - to watch for humpback whales or swim with whale sharks
  • Sign up for an overnight camping trip to watch turtles hatching
  • Sit and watch the sun set, with a cocktail in-hand

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife


The lodge has been created as a place for families to feel utterly at home. The big bench seats in the bandas can be made up as single beds, and there's a family banda, too.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors are available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The chef is happy to whip up child-friendly meals on request

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Mafia Island Marine Park
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling from the beach
  • Kayaking

Kid Friendly:

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