Thursday, December 16, 2010


We are really lucky at Ras Mbisi, the two monsoon winds cool us for most of the year due to our being on a peninsular (Ras) which faces north.

June to mid-November – Kusi, this is the south easterly monsoon breeze, this time of year is sunny, clear but not too hot

Mid-November to early December – short rains, these are generally short showers often at night rather than in the daytime.

Early December to March – Kaskasi, this is the north easterly monsoon wind, although this period can be very hot and humid the effect of the kaskasi at Ras Mbisi is very cooling.

End of March to early June, the long (masika) rains include heavy downpours, at times for up to 48 hours at a time. We are closed during this period.

Please note, we are in the tropics, it can rain at any time, from August to late October it is very unlikely to do so but not unheard of, however rain outside of the long (masika) rainy season tends to be short heavy showers followed by bright sunshine.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Charge for credit card bookings

The on-line booking system is up and running with all the 'bugs' ironed out, we have taken on the high charges imposed by the banks rather than passing them on to the client. The best things about it are that no longer do customers have to do a bank transfer with all the associated costs and they have a greater protection regarding their payments.

Other excitements include Christmas of course, I came back from the World Travel Market laden with bags containing presents for the girls, the older two can barely contain themselves, Georgy at 22 months is obviously still oblivious but I am sure will love unwrapping everything on the day! Balancing the family christmas together with putting guests needs first can be a challenge, but the girls are old enough now to understand and join in with the work knowing that they will get their time once things calm down. We're looking forward to the busiest Christmas and New Year so far, scary but so satisfying as most have come via word of mouth recommendation. We do still have a couple of rooms over New Year thanks to a last minute cancellation from a Tour Operator!

So Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to all, looking forward to 2011 and welcoming many more future friends to our remote island paradise,

with love
Ras Mbisi Lodge
Mafia Island

Monday, November 29, 2010

Honeymoons (& Weddings)

Leave the world behind....
If your fiancé is welded to his laptop and his mobile, Ras Mbisi is your ideal honeymoon retreat.

It simply doesn’t get more romantic than this. Your own desert island paradise. Just you, him and eight kilometres of pure white sand. No rowdy night life, no glitzy shops, no crowded beaches or frenetic bar-hopping. Better still, there’s no TV, no phone signal, no Internet. In other words, nothing to distract you from each other.
If your fiancé is the kind of man who is welded to his mobile or laptop, this truly is your honeymoon heaven.
Ras Mbisi is a small remote ‘beach meets bush’ lodge on the ‘secret’ island of Mafia, just off the southern coast of Tanzania. Ras Mbisi offers simple, elegant, barefoot luxury. With white sandy beaches, dazzling aquamarine waters and refreshingly few tourists, Mafia is the way Zanzibar was 30 years ago, the cool laid-back eco-alternative.
Imagine your own simple yet sophisticated open-tented thatched banda sitting a few metres from the beach, looking out over the white sand and pristine water. Your four poster bed is swathed in white gauze and you can sit on your veranda watching the sun come up or, more likely, the sun set (and enjoy bickering over which is the more beautiful).
The restaurant and sundowner bar also overlook both the beach and swimming pool: sit sipping a cocktail while a gentle sea breeze dances on your sunkissed skin.
The food is all local and strictly seasonal – fresh locally sourced fish & seafood, vegetables & fruit, cooked simply but with flair, using a combination of traditional Swahili recipes with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours. We could say it’s the food of love but that would be corny...
You can swim with the whale sharks or watch the Humpbacks make their way past during their biannual migration. You can scuba or snorkel, sail or kayak. If that sounds far too energetic bliss out on a sunset cruise or combine a whale shark trip with a fish bbq for two on deserted Shungu Mbili island.

You can get married at Ras Mbisi, we will need the following original documentation:
An application letter in English (signed by both partners) indicating that they want to marry in Tanzania with the intended date of marriage
A signed written statement from each partner, stating that they are single (if you have been married before, a copy of the divorce papers)
A 21-day notice before the actual date of the service will have to be put up at the notice board of the municipality in town. If you already have this from your own country and town, please send it as it will help enormously.
If you send all the above papers to us at least two months before the marriage date we will be able to carry out the whole bureaucratic process for you. We will also make sure that the Priest or responsible Government official who conducts civil weddings in Tanzania will be at Ras Mbisi in order to conduct the official ceremony

Seriously, leave your shoes behind, you don’t need them.

(with thanks to Jane Alexander for her expert help)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The magic of Mafia (Island)

Total treat for you today, a guest post from Catherine Woods and Olly Patterson who were guests in September 2010 - I think they had a good time! Catherine and Olly actually came to Ras Mbisi on the recommendation of other previous guests Luke and Kadriye Sherrington who stayed in March 2010 - love that the word is spreading.

We’re standing on a beach of white sand, so fine and powdery that it squeaks
when you walk across it, stretching in either direction as far as you can
see. Apart from the two of us, the only other visitors to the beach this
morning are the ghost crabs scurrying between the surf and their shoreline
burrows and a trio of black monkeys chattering in the trees. In front of us
is an endless expanse of pale turquoise, the horizon interrupted only by a
scattering of picture-perfect coral islets, and just behind, nestled between
the gently swaying coconut palms, is our home for the next 10 days: Ras
Mbisi. Which, roughly translated from the Swahili, means: “oh my god, this
place is *amazing*”*.

It started with a fish. A Kingfish, to be exact. Straight off the grill,
served on a palm leaf with crispy fries and flavour-packed salads fresh from
the vegetable patch, washed down with an ice-cold Kilimanjaro beer. We had
been at Jon and Michelle’s lodge for just half an hour and after the
revelation of that spectacular beach we were experiencing Ras Mbisi’s next
knockout punch: the food. Just-caught rock lobster, red cabbage with peanuts
tossed in a zingy dressing, spicy fishcakes, creamy linguine piled high with
fresh prawns, chocolate mousse, fruit salad with sugar-dusted donuts,
meltingly tender Tanzanian steak, watermelon and papaya with warm carrot
muffins for breakfast... And so much of it, far, far more than we could eat
after a hard day sunbathing, snorkelling and dozing in the sunshine – which
is pretty much how we spent our stay at Ras Mbisi.

There are far too many wonderful memories to list here, but, in summary,
here’s our advice: take the dhow trip to snorkel the reef and play Robinson
Crusoe for a day on your own deserted island (although it’s unlikely RC ever
got barbecued lobster and chilled white wine for lunch), learn how to play
Bao, kayak to the starfish sandbank, have a sunset gin and tonic on the
balcony of your banda, ask Rama [sp?] to teach you how to fold a linen
napkin into the shape of a dinosaur and get really, *really* good at
Frisbee. Or just sit and stare at one of the best beach views in the world.

This is not the place if you want nightclubs, jet-skis and internet access
on your holiday. If you like a door and windows (the bandas are open on
three sides, though still feel remarkably private) then you should probably
check into a hotel. But if you are looking for a place that ticks every
single desert island fantasy box, if you fancy falling asleep every night to
the sound of the waves and the breeze ruffling the coconut palms, then you
really can’t do better than Ras Mbisi. We can’t wait to go back.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Mafia Island to Dar es Salaam to London

Well the last few days have been a whirlwind, work, travel, socialising, travel etc. There was a nail biting, hair raising will it, won't it be ready on the film front. Thankfully all is fine and it looks AMAZING. Can't wait to get it in front of people. The new brochure is also FANTASTIC, so excited. Ulric, Tim, Stefania and Hannes are so bloody talented it makes me cry.

So, Dar, well getting there was a mission, with the elections just finished traffic in Dar was at an all time high, had a lovely evening with friends at Osaka in Oyster Bay, Teppenyaki and sashimi. A fun night with great friends.

Action cricket wasn't really my thing (I had zero idea as to what was happening), but the Poohs won which apparently was the important thing!

I had the most amazing view of Kilimanjaro from my window seat, a pic for you to enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twitter visitor

Our first visitor from Twitter arrives today! A warm welcome to @ElizabethNBO she runs a PR company in Nairobi that is branching out into Tanzania and Uganda. She and her husband @DamianCook were two of @RasMbisi first followers. Elizabeth and I first met in real life in July this year and bonded over good South African white wine and lots of chat. I fully expect more of the same this weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A guest post on Eco-tourism

This is a guest post kindly supplied by Helen Cross of

The Importance of being eco

I recently featured Ras Mbisi in a blog I wrote for Simonseeks about ecotourism. To me ecotourism is more than just a trend: it’s a necessary evolution of the travel industry. As stated in my blog; the effects of badly managed tourism are far wider reaching than the simple, yet horrific, degradation of a beautiful place: environmental damage leads to the loss of livelihoods, damages economies and can lead to the extinction of species; in fact a recent conservation study warned that one fifth of animal and plant species are under the risk of extinction. In its broadest sense, eco-tourism should protect humans, animals and plants alike. There appear to be limitless eco-tourism companies at the moment but there is a danger, as with any trend, that some disingenuous companies may be using the warm and fuzzy connotations that come with the ‘eco’ tag, without putting in the hard work to make sure their experiences truly are sustainable. This phenomenon has become so widespread that a term has even been coined to describe it: ‘greenwashing’, meaning the marketing of a company as environmentally friendly purely to increase sales or improve customer perception, and without any basis in reality.
The International Ecotourism Society has defined a set of principles that an organisation must meet to truly call themselves ‘eco’:
• Creates an international network of individuals, institutions and the tourism industry;
• Educates tourists and tourism professionals; and
• Influences the tourism industry, public institutions and donors to integrate the principles of ecotourism into their operations and policies.

Horror stories of ‘fake’ ecotourism abound: the company outed by Survival International for banning Kalahari Bushmen from their ancestral land and water supplies, whilst simultaneously offering ‘nature walks’ with the very same Bushmen, or the elephant trekking companies in South East Asia that seem to consist of a few malnourished animals forced to carry the weight of tourists through steep jungle paths. As our natural environment is continually damaged by tourism, one can only hope that eco-tourism becomes the norm rather than the exception, and that ‘green-washing’ becomes a thing of the past. As it stands, take a real look at the ethics of the companies you entrust with your holiday, it will benefit far more than just your conscience.
This is a guest post written by Helen Cross, a keen traveller and eco-enthusiast who works for new travel site Simonseeks

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whale Shark season is here!

Well it’s official, the Whale Sharks are back! First sighting of a single adult just over a week ago, two more at the start of the week and then six spotted yesterday. Now that they are appearing in greater numbers the chances of seeing them obviously increase. Between now and early April we should be seeing more and more of these beautiful, gentle giants. They are attracted here by the plankton that starts to appear in the Mafia Channel from September onwards. We have actually seen them here year round, especially when there are young as the channel appears to act as a nursing ground – but the odds increase during the Kaskasi (north-east monsoon season)

From Wikipedia

This species, despite its size, does not pose significant danger to humans. Whale sharks are actually quite gentle and can play with divers. Divers and snorkelers can swim with this giant fish without risk, apart from unintentional blows from the shark’s large tail fin.’

‘The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest living fish species. The largest confirmed individual was 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) in length. The heaviest weighed more than 36 tonnes (79,000 lb), but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks. This distinctively-marked fish is the only member of its genus Rhincodon and its family, Rhincodontidae (called Rhinodontes before 1984), which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. The shark is found in tropical and warm oceans, lives in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years. The species originated about 60 million years ago. Although whale sharks have very large mouths, they feed mainly, though not exclusively, on plankton, microscopic plants and animals, although the BBC program Planet Earth filmed a whale shark feeding on a school of small fish.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introduction to the reefs close to Ras Mbisi


The mid-west coast of Mafia Island is characterised by small patch reefs surrounded by large expanses of sand and mud, occasionally dominated by seagrass in the shallower areas. The whole area is relatively shallow, generally being less than 30m deep. As guests are most likely to be interested in seeing coral and the associated wildlife, it is the patch reefs that are of the most value and therefore covered below.

Eleven reefs are highlighted, having previously been identified as possibly dive / snorkel sites within reach of Ras Mbisi.

The closest reef is Kasilani at approximately 4km NNE from Ras Mbisi. The furthest is Al Hadjiri to the WSW at 17km, just outside the Mafia Island Marine Park border. GPS coordinates and distance from Ras Mbisi of all sites are given in the table below.

Reef GPS coordinates Distance from Ras Mbisi
Kasilani S07°47.15 E039°41.73 4km
Ras Murundo patch reef S07°47.51 E039°44.87 4km
Halfway reef S07°45.65 E039°42.59 6km
Mbakale ya mwamba S07°47.91 E039°39.35 7km
Mwamba Mkuu S07°45.05 E039°44.72 8km
Mbakale ya fungu S07°45.39 E039°39.38 9km
Tirene reef S07°52.08 E039°39.23 9km*
Barakuni island S07°43.52 E039°45.60 11km
Shungu-Mbili S07°42.32 E039°40.84 14km
Sefo S07°49.95 E039°34.25 16km
Al Hadjiri S07°53.11 E039°34.81 17km*
* These reefs cannot be reached in a straight line, add approximately 2km for actual distance.

Reef Details

Kasilani Reef - This patch reef is approximately 300m by 200m in size. The reef flat is 2 to 5m deep depending on the tide. On the periphery, the reef slopes down to approximately 7 to 9m, forming a small but still noticeable wall. Beyond this is sand that gradually becomes deeper. This latter area is fairly devoid with only the occasional coral lump. Visibility is generally good but can be reduced in stormy weather or at mid tide. Hard coral cover on this reef is generally very high and fairly diverse but it does lack the complex topography (i.e. ruggedness with caves, nooks and crannies) that is often present on reefs. Subsequently, the fish present tend to be small with fewer large fish such as groupers. Having said this, many different reef fish species are found here including unicorn fish. Hawksbill turtles are occasionally seen here. Given its shallow reef flat, high diversity of hard corals, general good visibility and range of fish life, this is an ideal reef for all levels of snorkellers at low or high tide. The best area is the north east part of the reef flat (S07°47.115, E039°41.789). In terms of diving potential, it is most suitable for relatively inexperienced divers at high tide due to its limited depth. Experienced divers may find it a bit shallow. The best area is on the small walls in either the east (S07°47.167, E039°41.787) or north west (S07°47.099, E039°41.701).

Ras Murundo Patch Reef - Exploratory dives have been unable to locate any reef, the area appears to be predominantly seagrass, despite how it appears on the chart. It is therefore not recommended for either snorkelling or diving.

Halfway Reef - This is a fairly large reef with a distinct and steeply sloping wall in some areas. This wall, however, mainly consists of a sand and rubble bank. The reef flat has a fair amount of hard coral in some areas but in general, the entire reef seems to have a low diversity of coral species. In addition, this reef regularly suffers from very poor visibility and because of this, it is not ideal for either snorkelling or diving.

Mbakale ya mwamba - This reef varies greatly in quality. The reef flat is largely rubble, with some small patches of coral bommies. The north eastern wall (S07°48.091, E039°39.233 to S07°47.877, E039°39.419) drops to a maximum of 16 to 18m and consists of large patches of coral interspersed with fairly devoid patches of sand and rubble. Where present on the wall, the coral is dominated by large submassive forms which attract a high diversity of fish life including angelfish, butterflyfish, groupers, spadefish and large shoals of sweetlips. Other wildlife resident on this section of reef includes many bluespotted rays, nudibraches, octopus and occasionally turtles and dolphins. Visibility tends to be ok but can occasionally be reduced due to tide or weather. Because of the relatively barren reef flat, this reef is not suitable for snorkelling, however the north eastern wall makes for a good and interesting dive.

Mwamba Mkuu - Despite appearing as an undulating fringing reef on the chart, much of this reef is in fact seagrass. Small patches of good coral reef do exist (e.g. S07°44.990, E039°44.413) so the potential is there for both snorkelling and diving, but further exploration is needed to find the best areas. Visibility can be reduced here at times.

Mbakale ya fungu - This reef is approximately 600m long by 400m wide and there is a small sandbar at the southern end which dries at mid to low tide. The reef flat is approximately 2 to 5m deep, and consists of a wide diversity of hard and soft corals. The eastern wall (S07°45.400, E039°39.470) is the deeper of the two walls, extending down to around 20m in places and is quite varied in the quality of coral present. There is evidence here of previous destructive fishing practices. The western wall is shallower (10-15m) but has a much healthier coral cover especially towards the northern tip (S07°45.309, E039°39.368) On the western wall there is a high diversity of fish life, often with large shoals of parrotfish and moorish idols. Turtles (both green and hawksbill) are regularly seen here. Other wildlife of note sighted at this reef from the boat include dolphins and humpback whales at certain times of the year. The reef flat and the shallower sections of the reef wall make for very good snorkelling and both walls are good for diving especially the shallower western wall.

Tirene Reef - Despite it’s appearance on the chart Tirene mainly consists of a shallow sand and rubble bank, with a few large coral bommies (e.g. S07°52.068, E039°39.283) Depth here varies between 3 and 10m. Large sections that were previously reef have been reduced to rubble, presumably by destructive fishing practices. Wildlife tends to be concentrated on and around the bommies and can appear to be completely absent elsewhere. Near this reef is where many whale shark sightings tend to occur at certain times of the year. Snorkelling at this reef is very hit and miss, depending on the number of bommies encountered. At low tide in good visibility the bommies can be seen from a boat and are easy to find. Similarly diving is very variable here but because of the lack of depth, this reef is probably more suitable for snorkelling.

Barakuni Island - The main reef is found on the eastern side of the island and extends a fair distance offshore. While much of the reef close to the island is shallow, further out the coral extends down to a depth of 12-15m (e.g. S07°42.669, E039°45.539). The reef here consists of a diverse range of both hard and soft corals and is home to many species. Giant grouper and hawksbill turtles have been seen on this reef along with unicorn fish, batfish and large parrotfish. Visibility is variable but generally good. This reef can be considered good for both snorkelling and diving.

Shungu-mbili Island - Limited trips to this area have suggested that the main reef can be found on the north east side of the island but is fairly shallow. High coral cover and diversity, along with a good range of fish and invertebrate species make for good snorkelling, but the reef is probably too shallow for divers. While better dive sites on the reef may exist, they have yet to be found.

Sefo Reef - One of the two reefs just north of the Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) border, Sefo is a very large reef with sand bars that dry out at low tide. The reef itself ranges in depth from the surface to around 10-15m and is punctuated by coral sand gullies. A typical area can be found at S07°49.919, E039°34.212. Very high and diverse coral cover provides habitats for a very large number of fish and invertebrates including angelfish, butterflyfish, large parrotfish, along with many other species. Green and hawksbill turtles are also regularly seen here and visibility is consistently good. The reef provides an excellent site for both snorkelling and diving and is arguably the best dive site on the mid west coast of Mafia Island.

Al Hadjiri Reef - The second of two reefs just north of the MIMP border, Al Hadjiri has generally high coral cover and consequently a high diversity of fish and invertebrate life. Shallow but distinct walls can be found in places that drop from a few metres to around 8m, whilst in other areas the coral consists of large coral bommie fields down to approximately 10m. Due to high wildlife diversity, good visibility and a range of depths, this reef offers good potential for both snorkelling and diving.

Good environmental practice

 Anchors and anchor lines dragging over the reef can damage large areas of coral which may take years to recover. Always drop anchor on a sandy area well away from any coral.

 Many coral species are fragile and easily damaged. Snorkellers and divers should always avoid touching, standing or resting on the reef and should never remove any ‘souvenirs’, living or dead.

 No litter, especially plastics, should be thrown in the water from a boat ever, as it persists in the environment and can kill birds and turtles that swallow items mistaking them for food.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trip Advisor Reviews

It’s interesting reading Trip Advisor reviews, mostly you need to read between the lines, most highly rated places will have a few really bad reviews in amongst the 4 and 5 star ones, did those people visit completely different places, or was it that they had either mis-conceptions about the hotel/resort or had they been mis-sold by the operator? Most operators dealing with small scale lodges in Africa claim to have visited every one on their books, this is rarely true! Africa, and Tanzania in particular get either glowing reviews or ranting ones, some people think they are coming to Disney World and expect perfection in everything, others appreciate that it is a third world/developing country and come with an open mind – saying that, if you are going to a five star resort it should be perfect, they are completely insulated from the outside world, just know that your money does not contribute to the local economy but to the economy of the country the owners reside in (or an off-shore tax haven). Happily on Mafia (with a few notable exceptions) the lodges are owner managed and the money stays in Tanzania, with the lodges running and contributing to projects on the island – and recruiting their staff locally!

I read one truly awful review about a lodge on Zanzibar this week (one that I know to be a really fantastic place), it was one long whinge about everything. One comment really stood out, ‘if you come to Zanzibar and XXXXX in particular expecting to swim in the sea you will be disappointed, the tide goes out at 11am and is out for pretty much the rest of the day’ – REALLY? Is it not the case that you spent 2 nights there and at that time the tide cycle was that, but that as the tides change with the moon cycle (no I don’t understand the science) that each day the high and low tides WILL CHANGE! The east African coast is tidal, there will always be a period during the day when the tide is out, it’s why most places have a pool!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Have to laugh - quote from Charlie Brooker (I know, I know but anyway)

"The Conservative party
The Conservative party is an eternally irritating force for wrong that appeals exclusively to bigots, toffs, money-minded machine men, faded entertainers and selfish, grasping simpletons who were born with some essential part of their soul missing. None of history's truly historical figures has been a Tory, apart from the ones that were, and they only did it by mistake. To reach a more advanced stage of intellectual evolution, humankind must first eradicate the "Tory instinct" from the brain - which is why mother nature is gradually making them less sexy with each passing generation. The final Tory is doomed to spend his or her life masturbating alone on a hillside, which, let's face it, is the way things were supposed to be all along"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

More of my beautiful girls

A while back I posted a photo of Maddie, here now are her younger sisters, Scarlet and Georgia. Some might question why I post photos of my daughters on the 'lodge blog' but the girls live here, they are a part of the daily life of what is very much a family business, not an impersonal hotel.

Friday, October 8, 2010

'Chic Shack Awards 2010' Elle UK Magazine

Well it’s official, we are a ‘Chic Shack’ as nominated by Elle Magazine. Quite an honour. Despite being a Red Magazine ‘secret hotspot’, Harpers Magazines ‘Robinson Crusoe option’ and being the ‘Mafia connection’ in South Africa’s Ski Boat Magazine. We still get VERY excited about our 'baby' being in print.

Thank you very much!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exciting times

So much happening it's hard to know where to start! We've got Wedding's booked; so lovely, the person booking came here last year for her birthday loved Ras Mbisi and has decided she wants to get married here, so that's a full house at the end of February for 4 nights. She wants a simple elegant theme with drift wood, and only off-white, pale green and chocolate brown for her colour theme.

Lots of other stuff too, editorials in major UK magazines, one due out early next month. I'm doing a couple of guest blogs elsewhere (will post details here once they are up) and a couple of bloggers writing about us on their blogs (again will post details once they are up). Add to that some fab tripadvisor reviews and I'm having a pretty good month.

Looking forward; World Travel Market (WTM) at ExCel in early November, will be good to catch up with the operators that do so much to encourage people to visit Mafia, I have some amazing material for them this year, including 'the film' which I will be handing out on DVD. Looking forward to catching up with friends and family too, not to mention my new 'friends' who thus far I have only 'met' virtually - yes @exmoorjane i'm talking to you!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Early start

Roused even earlier than normal this morning, and not by a little voice calling 'mama' ever more urgently. This morning it was our regular fisherman with a massive haul of tuna, kingfish, snapper and grouper. So, sashimi for bar snacks tonight, and I think some spicy tuni maki rolls as well. We are so lucky with all the fresh produce here, our own eggs - which have the most orangey yolks I have ever seen, people coming from safari or even just other lodges are always amazed as the typical egg served here in Tanzania has a yolk so pale it is barely distinguishable from the white! Vegetables straight from the garden, not all admittedly as many things simply will not grow and after more than 4 years experimenting I now go with what I know will grow, we do bring in a small amount from Dar es Salaam but we certainly haven't gone the route I have heard others boasting about and flown them in from Kenya! Tanzania grows amazing vegetables why not eat them! All this freshness means our menus are full to bursting with new ideas every day, I have never managed to do the rotation menu here, every morning we design the days menus with whatever is good and fresh that day - it can be a bit 'fly by the seat of your pants' at times!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Support us?!

It's hard work keeping up an internet presence, someone commented to me the other day, she wanted to know how I found the time. The truth is, at the moment I barely do. The business has only been up and running for just over 2 years and we are still at the point where we do pretty much everything. We do need to change this as we are both being stretched too thin and new projects are also on the boil. But we do appreciate all the support we're getting from friends, family and our lovely, lovely guests, it's what keeps us going, especially when we've just completed another 20 hour day and the baby will be awake in under 3 hours!

Want to support us? Ras Mbisi is active in the following places as @RasMbisi so do follow, on so please join, on do view, new photos being added. Those of you that have visited can show support by placing a review on

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Imitation the most sincere form of flattery? Or the last acts of desperation………..

Something I/we have been pondering for a while now, there is an element on Mafia that appears to follow our every move, butting in on our conversations on social media sites, telling tour operators all sorts of bizarre nonsense about us, poaching our staff, posting misleading information on travel forums and other websites. This has stepped up since the publication of the latest Rough Guide to Tanzania which gave us a very good review. Perhaps there’s jealousy creeping in?

But here’s the thing; there is more than enough room on this Island for every one of the small number of Lodges/camps. Each offers something different, aimed at different types of client, ranging from extreme sport types to beachcombers and lovers! There’s also a range of prices to cover all types of traveller and holidaymaker. So why the need for any dirty underhand dealings? It may be that we are naïve in our approach to business. However, these activities don’t seem to achieve much and could be damaging to the reputation of the islands tourism industry. The biggest losers would be the islanders themselves, not the likes of us and the owners of most of the other lodges who always have choices if the going gets bad.

We’re all concerned with survival during these difficult economic times but surely it’s better to concentrate on providing the best experience for tourists and promoting this wonderful island in a positive manner?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Disasters & good news

Oh disasters how we love you! This time of year the weather is predictable in its unpredictableness – it is the rainy season, and the time of year the winds change from the north east monsoon to the south east monsoon. The south easterly is known in Kiswahili as the ‘kusi’, this wind is strong, so strong that it caused severe damage to our water tower and yep you guessed it came crashing down, note; a five thousand litre poly tank full of water does not bounce, it smashes into many pieces (see picture)

So, good news is there any? For us yes, busy full house this weekend, we aren’t really open until mid-June, but happy to do so for a reasonable amount of people, weather has improved and has been lovely and sunny, the sea is calm and clear so why not!

Congratulations to Giulia for winning the 10th Anniversary Dar es Salaam Charities Goat Races Members Enclosure ticket raffle – a break for two Full Board at Ras Mbisi, we look forward to welcoming you to Mafia very soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Slower pace of life - really? when?

Well the Lodge might be closed for the annual 'long' rains, but life here goes on. We are busy renovating, updating and renewing everything ready for the new season in June. So much to do, so little time. The boat being built is actually to become our new buffet table - trust me it'll look ace............I hope!

We've managed a short break in Dar, lots of running around getting 'things' for the lodge that are not available on Mafia (that'll be everything then), celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Having real family time back on the Island has been lovely.

We are looking forward to the new season, welcoming back past guests, and greeting new ones, it looks like being a busy time for which we are thankful although I bet I'll be moaning by September!

Exciting times in the Kitchen, Daudi is back from his training in one of Dar es Salaams top 5 star hotel kitchens, he's full of enthusiasm which is fab. He's one of our real success stories, having started 2 years ago as a general labourer, he moved on to be kitchen assistant and dishwasher. He is now my right hand in the kitchen. We also may be having a Michelin Chef staying this season, he has offered private cooking lessons which Daudi and Masiku are VERY excited about. Those of you who have stayed with us will remember Rashidi, as our bar man he knew before you did that you were ready for your next drink! He is now stepping up to become our Guest Relations and Events Manager.

Off now to start working on the new seasons menus, we have lots of new taste sensations in store for you all!

Friday, April 23, 2010

We like nice reviews!

It has been a particularly nice week for reviews, one on TripAdvisor which was glowing and then on in the new Rough Guide to Tanzania which I re-produce below for you. I've always been a fan of the Rough Guide series, and now my love knows no bounds!!!

Ras Mbisi Lodge16km northeast of Kilindoni T 0754/663739 or 0734/284397, W No question about it: this British owned lodge, an hours drive from Chole Bay, is one of the best along any stretch of Tanzanian coastline. Situated in a remote location on an ever-so-sweet beach, complete with swaying palm trees, this sustainably built place has an intimate vibe, friendly staff and a swimming pool, so it’s great for families as well as smoochy couples. The accommodation isn’t half bad either: the nine beachside bandas are all made from coconut wood, coconut poles and thatch. The food is fabulous, and its ethics are more than just words, with bio-gas powered electricity, extensive use of coconut wood, solar heated water and good local relations. Activities (at an extra cost) include snorkelling, diving, sunset cruises, canoeing and various land excursions. Rates include transfers. Closed April and May. FB

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Menu 13 March

Lunch -
Tomato salsa and garlic, sundried tomato and pine nut bread
Thai crab cakes, rice salad, asian salad, mango and parsley salad,
Mini donuts with mango sauce

Afternoon Tea -
Chocolate cake

Bar Snacks -

Dinner -
Coconut and coriander battered calamari with salad and tartar sauce
Lobster Newbourg with tagliatelle, mange tout, green beans,
Passion fruit and caramelised banana frangipane tartelettes

Monday, March 8, 2010

Menu 9th of March

Haven't posted one of these for a while, we've had a lot of people with food intolerances and the menus have not been (to my mind) very inspiring.

Crab with Lemongrass noodles
Chili Squid
Mango & flat leaf parsley
Green beans with toasted coconut
Fruit salad with cinnamon treacle biscuits

Afternoon Tea
Scones with Lemon curd
Hummingbird cupcakes


Watermelon gazpacho
Kingfish Steak, Lemon rice, Leeks & spring onions in red pepper sauce, Broccoli
Pinapple tarte tatin with cream

Sunday, March 7, 2010

End of season

The end of the tourist season on Mafia brings many things; much needed rain, we are getting daily downpours now, eagerly received as they cool the air, the humidity has been incredibly oppressive. Respite from the hordes, by this point you start to be 'a bit over people', their demands reasonable or otherwise taking precedence over your own. The chance in a few weeks to slob out occasionally in front of the box, have a lie in, read a book.

We've had some mixed feelings about this season, I would say around 98% of the guests have been lovely, or at least they have enjoyed themselves which is reward enough for us. Just a few have been awful, one particular group threatening to write up bad reviews on Trip Advisor if we didn't heavily discount or give them things for free, another recent group nicking everything that wasn't nailed down in their rooms, the theft of all our snorkeling equipment I could go on but frankly it's too depressing.............

One interesting bit of news was that the Ministry of Tourism and the Tanzanian Tourism Authority have decided that they need to come up with a new classification for Lodges such as ours. i.e lodges that are trying to run on sustainable grounds either environmentally or conservationally or with strong provable community links (or all of these). We have been asked to come up with suggestions for the classification system. Whether or not in the final analysis they will actually take anything we say into account remains to be seen - the more cynical might think 'ah ha so we would have been a 2 star under the existing system (no a/c, no tv, no business centre),therefore our licence fee was low, now they will bring in the 'eco' classification and suddenly we are a 5 star with a six figure licence fee to match' - i couldn't possibly comment, watch this space!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time management

I have been very bad at keeping up to date on this, in my defense we have been busy and I simply haven't had the energy. There's a lot going on behind the scenes that I can't talk about yet, but if things all fall into place I will be shouting about it here!

Biggest news for us is, we're getting on a plane this afternoon to head for the fleshpots of Dar. We haven't had a break/day off since June and being on duty 24/7 wears you out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'I'm up a tree'

Picture the scene, the phone rings, 'Hello, Ras Mbisi?' , 'Yes, this is Ras Mbisi Lodge, how can I help you?' 'I'm up a tree' - 'Umm, OK, where?', 'I'm up a tree near Ras Mbisi, please come and help'. 'OK, I need a bit more information, for one thing this is a Coconut Plantation and there are over 2000 trees so if you could narrow it down a bit it would help, and secondly who are you and WHY are you up a tree?' 'I am from the TRA (Tax man basically)I have come to collect the 'beach games & whaleshark fees', I had to climb a tree because the Ras Mbisi dogs were chasing my motorbike'. By this time Jon who was taking the call was practically on the floor crying with suppressed laughter.

The picture was taken last year on Ras Mbisi beach, please note, I was 8 months pregnant at the time!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Menu 23 Jan

Lunch - Garlic flatbread, Tomato Salsa
Crab Tart, Rocket Salad, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad, Three Bean Salad
Passion fruit curd shortbread
Afternoon Tea - Mafia Ginger Cake with Lime icing
Bar Snack - Karanga, Sambusa with Tamarind sauce
Dinner - Swahili Buffet
Fish Masala
Octopus Curry
Coconut Rice
Spinach with nuts
Aubergine stew
Potato Curry
Okra with tomato
Beans cooked with coconut milk
Roasted cinnamon pumpkin
Firni - a kind of rice pudding,made with rice flour and coconut, flavoured with cinnamon and cardamon
Kalimati - fried dough balls (a kind of cross between profiteroles and donuts) with local wild honey

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Menu 20 Jan

Rosemary flatbread, Tomato Salsa

Lunch - Crab Linguine & Rocket Salad

Fruit Salad & Cinnamon Biscuits

Afternoon Tea - Carrot Cake

Bar Snack - Chilli Popcorn, Kingfish goujons with tartare sauce

Dinner - Calamari & king prawn salad
Slow cooked Lamb with fruit & nut couscous and roasted vegetables
Coconut creme caramel

Monday, January 18, 2010


Ras Mbisi is set right in the middle of a working coconut plantation, guests love to watch the croppers collecting the nuts. Climbing a 100 foot tree that bends every which way in the wind is my idea of terrifying, all in a days work to the croppers who are self employed but heavily subsidised by our Landlords.

We use coconuts heavily here, the young 'madafu' (green or drinking coconut) awaits guests on arrival, very refreshing after the journey. Coconut milk in cooking and cocktails - coconut milk is not the juice of the young coconut, in order to produce it the flesh must be grated and then mixed with water, squeezed and strained. Coconut oil in the soap provided in the rooms, our roof is made of 'makuti' which is the leaves. The rooms and furniture are made from coconut wood, the fibres of the mature nuts are used to make rope and also mulch for the garden - i don't think there's a bit we don't use!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu 18 Jan

Lunch - Tomato salsa and garlic, sundried tomato and pine nut bread
Thai fish cakes,chilli squid, mango & flat leaf parsley salad, Green bean, Sugar snap pea & Red pepper salad with lime, chili & toasted coconut dressing
Fruit salad & Coconut shortbread

Afternoon tea - Hummingbird cake

Bar snack - Cashew nuts, Vegetable tempura & dipping sauce

Dinner - Crab & coconut soup
Octopus curry, rice, Steamed fresh vegetables, chapati
Mousse shots with Langue du chat (3 shot glasses with mousse, 1 dark chocolate, 1 passion fruit, 1 lime & mango)

Menu 17 Jan

Lunch- Tomato salsa and walnut bread
Lamb kofta,courgette & feta fritters, carrot & coriander fritters,tabbloheh, hoummous,baba ganoush,red cabbage and karanga salad,rocket and parmesan salad
Lemon curd Shortbread

Afternoon Tea - Chocolate & Beetroot Cake

Bar Snacks - Karanga, Parmesan Wafers

Dinner - Smoked Sailfish with Tanga Halloumi & Potato Rosti with Horseradish dressing
Lime sour beef fillet with coriander & mint, cassava chips, swahili spinach with sesame
Coconut custard pots with pineapple accompanied by cashew biscotti

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A bit of History

Myself, husband (Jon) & our 2 daughters (Maddie, born 99, Scarlet born 02)moved here (Mafia Island, Tanzania) in August 2006 from Ramsgate in Kent where we had lived since 2002, prior to that we had lived in Sydenham, South East London for 7 years (we married in 1998). Since we became a couple we had been restoring properties (in addition to our careers in the Civil Service, and then in my case becoming a full time Mum), the fruits of our labours have been poured into building a Lodge here on Mafia. Currently Ras Mbisi Lodge has been open for just over 2 years.

Since being here we have had to; dig our own bore hole (and learn how to use the various pumps required), build a solar system for the house (no mains power here), restore the house we now live in, start a vegetable garden, employ over 40 people (for building the lodge then staffing it etc) thereby feeding over 250 mouths a month, set up a development programme for the local village – currently raising money for the school and clinic, set up a satellite internet connection and home school our daughters. Build a biomass gasifier to power the Lodge. Plus deal with both central government and local government paperwork. Learn how to live in isolation, in my case remember my long forgotten Swahili, in Jon’s case learn it from scratch. Not to mention learn ‘the swahili way’ – nowhere near understanding that yet!
When we moved to Mafia we spent 3 months living in an insect infested guest house (infested to us after the UK) whilst this house was renovated from a subsiding bat, rat and hornet infested pit into a semi-inhabitable hovel. We have been in this house for 3 years and two months during which time it has; poured in water during cyclones and the rainy season due to inadequate capping to the new roof, run out of water due to bad remedial work on the plumbing and the final straw, the NEW shelves in the kitchen fell down bringing all my herbs, spices, cereal etc with them. Why the final straw? Cereal has to be stored in glass jars, to keep the dreaded white ant out of them, Cheerios cost £6.92 for 750g, yes you read that right £6.92!!!!!! And i can’t feed my children cereal sweep off the floor with glass in can i? Olive oil costs £15.84 a litre, hmm can i mop it up and squeeze it into a bottle?!! WHY did that shelf come down? It was held up with ONE screw per bracket (3 in all) and NO BLOODY RAWLPLUGS which we bought and paid for and are nowhere to be found! Lesson in Tanzania, don’t believe that just because a team of builders from Dar has worked for Embassies and High Commissions that they know what they are doing, or rather they know what they are doing but cannot be trusted to get on with it for even as long as it takes you to drive to town for whatever they insist they need!

In addition to all that we run the lodge, I deal with food, bookings, invoicing, marketing, the kitchen & dining room, housekeeping, buying/ordering updating, Government permits etc. Jon deals with all things accounting, mechanical, building,electrical, plumbing, front of house, the grounds etc etc. Oh, and we had another baby 9 months ago, so we keep busy – if we couldn’t multi-task before, we can now.

At some point in the next few days I'll fill you in on how/why we ended up here, even if you aren't interested LOL :-)

Rambling thoughts

Much of what graces the plates at Ras Mbisi is obtained here, fish, seafood, fruit, we grow what vegetables we can(although the humidity and wadudu (insects) limit us somewhat). Everything else must be brought in, some by ship, some on the small aircraft of Coastal Aviation. The ship was due over a week ago, it's unlikely to arrive before the middle of next week now. Obviously this affects our supplies, but has a real effect on the southern part of the island as said ship brings the fuel for the Power Station, currently the main town and the main tourist area of Utende (i use these terms loosely as the town consists of a few dukas and the main tourist area 5 small Lodges)have no electricity, mimicking the problem on Zanzibar. Thankfully we are self sufficient in that regard as we are not on the grid and given our distance from the Power Station we are never likely to be.

It often surprises guests that Mafia is so undeveloped (and therefore unspoilt), there is no ATM, no phone lines, patchy mobile reception, no shops. This is changing slowly but like they say 'no hurry in Africa'!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Menu 16 Jan

Lunch- Sundried Tomato & Pinenut Bread, Tomato Salsa
Lemon Chicken, Crab Soba Noodle Salad, Cucumber & Mint Salad, Lime & Coconut Bean Salad, Avocado Salad.
Fruit Salad & Shortbread
Afternoon Tea - Banana Muffins
Bar Snacks - Chilli Popcorn, Spinach,Feta & Black Olive Pizza
Dinner - Roasted Butternut Soup with Toasted Seeds and Chilli Oil
Pan Fried Kingfish with Caramelised Watermelon, Lemon Rice & Steamed Vegetables
Crepes with Mango and Chocolate Sauce

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Early morning trips

Kaskasi (northern trade monsoon)finally dropped slightly today, the sea looks like a mill pond this morning. Wageni (guests) off first thing to swim with whale sharks, armed with Bacon rolls, homemade pastries and strong coffee. Ibra our Dhow skipper spent 3 years working with a marine research programme and therefore has an extremely strong code of conduct regarding the Whale sharks, all guests get a lecture before he will allow them in the water. He and Johnson then swim with the guests watching out for the weaker swimmers whilst Bakari looks after the boat and gets the coffee and snacks ready for everyone when they get out. Hot coffee is always welcome after snorkeling even in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

My day today will consist of time in the kitchen as always, as well as home school for the older two and playtime with the baby, not to mention marketing, invoicing, answering emails and trying to avoid the last three with timewasting on Twitter :-)

Menu 15 Jan

Lunch - Tomato salsa and garlic flat bread
Coconut &coriander battered prawns,rice salad,Loatian Larb salad,red cabbage,lime & karanga salad, tamarind sauce
Donuts with mango sauce

Afternoon Tea - Lemon Drizzle Cake

Bar Snacks - Salted, caramelised nuts, Guacamole with potato wedges

Dinner - Calamari Caesar salad
Pork Saltimbocca, Sauteed potatoes, broccoli, Green beans & Roasted red and yellow peppers
Passion fruit curd tart

Menu 14 Jan 2010

Lunch - Vietnamese pork meatball & noodle soup
Fruit Salad with condensed milk ice cream
Afternoon Tea - Scones with cream and jam, Mafia Ginger Cake with Lime Icing
Bar Snacks - Karanga (fried groundnut with coconut)
Dog Tooth Tuna Sashimi with Wasabi, Soy & Homemade Pickled Ginger
Dinner - Roasted Tomato Soup with Fennel Seed Rolls
Whole Karambesi (Giant Trevally)cooked with Coconut,Chillies & Coriander, Matchstick Potatoes, Roasted Butternut Squash & Mangetout
Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Chantilly Cream

Playing catch up

Having set up the new blog months ago (old blog at - note a lot of posts lost during travelblogs server failure) we have been so busy I have not had a chance to actually write anything!

Christmas and New Year were full and frantic, the sheer amount of food brought in and consumed was scary, the less said about alcohol consumption (yes Helen's Party that's you!)the better.

Whale sharks are now constantly being seen in the channel, these gentle giants are so amazing they actually follow the boat, no need to search for them at the moment. Combining a whale shark trip together with a fish bbq on deserted Shungu Mbili Island is a big favorite especially with honeymooners.
The photo has our dhow Kukulachi in the background and a local fisherman in the foreground.