Fundu Lagoon is the only beach lodge in East Africa with tents, so staying feels like an extension of a safari, but you’re by the sea…
Fundu Lagoon is Robinson Crusoe, barefoot luxury but with a distinctly African vibe. The idea was born in the Groucho Club in London. Alex and I are twins with a property development background and we were having drinks with fashion designer Ellis Flyte, whose partner back then was Brian Henson of The Muppets fame. We just thought, between us we’ve got building, catering and design skills with Brian’s funding – why don’t we build a resort? Ellis had just been on a trip to Zanzibar and had fallen in love with the archipelago, so we sketched the idea out on the back of an envelope and without any experience in the hotel industry, we flew to Pemba.
As luck would have it, while sailing around the island we got stuck in a storm and our catamaran was thrown onto shore. We emerged in the morning to watch the sun come up on this incredible white-sand paradise and said: “This is the beach.” Then, some of the locals emerged from the forest – this was back in 1998 and they’d never seen foreign visitors before. I ended up moving to the village and living in a mud hut for a year and a half while we built the resort. We employed 500 local people and did everything by hand, there was no electricity, everything was hand-cut and drilled – it was biblical. The rocks would arrive at high tide and women would carry them out of the ocean on their heads, like they were building the pyramids.
The brief was to create a hotel that we wanted to stay at, a homely place run by African people. To get there, you fly onto the island and take a 20-minute drive to the port, passing cloves drying on the side of the road and flying foxes in the trees. A private speed boat will deliver you to our jetty and when you step onto the sand, you’ll be greeted with a cold welcome drink. The resort blends seamlessly into the trees and our famous guests love the privacy. You can slip off your shoes, put your phone away (we only have Wi-Fi in the office) and totally unplug.
Fundu Lagoon is the only beach lodge in East Africa with tents, so staying feels like an extension of a safari, but you’re by the sea. There are less than 20 rooms and each room sits on a wooden platform under a Makuti roof. When you’re lying in bed, you can hear the crickets and bush babies. All the other resort areas – the pool, spa, restaurants and bars – are open-plan African style, with handmade furniture. Fundu is designed to have a minimal impact on the environment, complete with solar power and built with natural materials. If we were to leave camp, the forest would completely claim the area back in just a few years.
The people of Pemba are central to Fundu Lagoon. The first thing we did was build the villagers a mosque followed by water wells and a school. We also bought a piece of land that we gave to the women, who now grow vegetables that we buy back to use in the resort. It’s the first time they’ve been able to earn an income for their households. We support small businesses related to the hotel, so there’s a Coca Cola guy, a water man, someone who brings our fish and a local family who run the boat transfers. We also have a charitable fund which guests can use to donate to the village.
Our staff are like family to us. We encourage them to chat with guests, play games and have football matches. They’ll take you on village walks and canoe trips through the mangroves. Sometimes, we’ll have beach barbecues and the villagers will come and do their voodoo dancing around the fire. Many guests make deep connections with the staff and after a few days here, you see them relax and get sucked into this totally new world. I’ve had people crying at the jetty when they have to say goodbye to their new friends. When guests leave, they haven’t just had a holiday, they’ve had a real cultural experience.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Gemma, who's travelled extensively in Tanzania. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it on their own. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife, the village chiefs who'll give you a genuine insight into local life and the camp managers who can recommend the very best spot to enjoy your sundowner.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656