Since words cannot do justice to the surreal experience of staying at the underwater room and ticking this exquisite adventure off our bucket list, we are going to attempt at making you imagine the incredible experience in itself.
Those of you who have read our blog post on Pemba may have a slight hint of what we are referring to. Either way, let’s get your imagination running!
So here’s the scene.… You’re in the middle of the expansive ocean, trying to stand still on a floating wooden platform which is loosely anchored to the sea bed. Instead, you’re rocking in synchrony with the currents of the ocean and you see the familiar resort at a distance with villas akin to the size of dates. All you can see in your vicinity is the infinite blue of the sea and azure skies 360 degrees around you. The only sounds are of the waves, loud and clear, crashing onto your villa and making your feet wet when you balance yourself near the edges. You feel relaxed, calm and at peace, away from fellow strangers who you find no matter where you go. You’re marveling at your solitude and trying to take in the magnanimous beauty of nature all at once. There is a realization of what a small speck you are in the entire world. Deep down, you have a slight hint of fear – the fear of helplessness and loneliness finding yourself over powered by mother nature. Yet, the surreal picture draws you to the present; you soak in the sun, bathe in the shades of blue and let go off all your fears, worries and anxieties.
Time to interrupt the glorious scene, folks! It’s dangerous for us to be dreaming again so soon after returning from Pemba!
So let’s tell you more about this exotic, once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience!
The Floating Villa
The Manta Resort in Pemba, Tanzania offers the experience of staying at their one and only floating villa with their USP being, you get to spend a night in an underwater bedroom! Reading this was tempting enough to make us book our stay at Manta for our first anniversary celebrations. Afterall, special occasions call for special indulgences. =)
We chose to stay in an ocean view villa at the resort for 6 nights and spent one night at the underwater room in the floating villa. On the big day, we were transported to the floating villa by a small boat from the shore at 3 pm. The staff showed us around and quickly stocked the mini fridge with all food and beverage essentials as per our requirements. We then bid adios to the team and started to enjoy our companionship in this newly found solitude. It was as if we were suddenly transported to a parallel universe away from the hustle and bustle that clutter city life. Once we settled down and swallowed the realization of finally being there, we began touring the villa…
The Living area
At the sea level, there is a simple and elegant ‘living area’ set up for you to enjoy all your meals while gazing at the ocean. The living area is open, allowing you to jump into the sea for a lovely snorkel or just to feel the water around. The washroom, shower, seating area and the mini fridge are all located in and around the living area. Being loosely anchored, the villa floats with the currents of the ocean and can sometimes make it appear as if two drunk individuals are fighting for balance!
Dinner is served at the living area at your pre-chosen time when a boat arrives and brings piping hot meals for you. You’re then left to eat at your will with the ocean for company. The same arrangement works for breakfast the next morning after which you are transported back to the resort.
Having explored the base, we then moved around to find a staircase leading upwards…and another tiny one leading downwards…
We took the staircase upwards and found a lovely terrace perfect for diving into the sea during the daylight and for stargazing in the evenings. We happily lounged ourselves on the double bed and watched a breathtaking golden sunset while sipping on some wine and celebrating one year of wedded bliss. It was amusing to find a realistic looking crow perched at one corner to scare away other birds from making themselves comfortable at the terrace!
After touring the much anticipated underwater bedroom, we quickly returned to the terrace once again to stare at the charcoal black sky, secretly hoping to catch shooting stars and wish on them. Though Pushkaraj and I have poor planetary knowledge, we loved watching gazillions of sparkles light up our universe that night. Needless to say, this place is a haven for all you stargazers out there.
The Underwater Bedroom
We finally took that tiny staircase and headed down one by one to see the room we were longing to explore – the underwater bedroom. Complete with a cozy double bed, an air conditioning unit and books to help us recognize all the fishes, this bedroom is the definition of luxury in the middle of the ocean. We marveled at how much mankind has achieved and how we have been able to enter a realm which is not primarily ours to be in.
All the four walls of the room have thick glass windows offering unobstructed views of the incredible marine life that thrives under water. As soon as we got into the room, we ceased to have conversation and instead, each of us was glued to different windows to spot fish and try and recognize which species we saw. We kept calling out to each other in excitement proudly exclaiming what we were seeing. The aquatic species, small and big, made rounds around our room, oblivious to two stranger species who were watching them with adoration and amazement.
We felt a sense of mini accomplishment on finally ticking this off our bucket list. After all, getting to Pemba after three flights and a few hiccups on the way, was all worthwhile with this sight. We have to admit though, as cozy and comfortable as the room was, we still couldn’t sleep the entire night as we didn’t want to close our eyes for the fear of missing a glimpse of some unique species of fish! In fact, we didn’t want to even blink for too long! We were so engrossed in just staring through those windows that we slowly became oblivious to each other’s presence as well.
As the sun went down and the sea became darker, we ceased to see any fish around the villa. To overcome this, the resort has thoughtfully fixed some lights near the villa which constantly attract fish and enable you to see the marine life around. Though the quantity and variety of fish we saw in the day was far better than what we saw at night.
The extraordinary experience
We can still vividly remember every moment spent at the floating villa during our stay at the Manta Resort in Pemba. So beautiful and so unique. We were always spoilt for choice as we wanted to stare into the ocean and the sky from the terrace and at the same time we didn’t want to miss any moment of spending time in the precious underwater bedroom. The entire experience is well worth the pricey amount that you pay and is a must at least once in your lifetime.
Even though you’re far from civilization, there is nothing that you won’t have or will miss the presence of. The stay is extremely comfortable and luxurious. Meals are served on demand and you are given a mobile phone to contact the resort in case of any emergency or need.
We loved the fact that though this concept makes one step outside the domain of the human world and into a territory that does not belong to us, care was taken by the staff to conserve and protect all marine species. We were so glad that the management was strict on rules such as you are not allowed to use shampoo, toothpaste or any other chemical that might interfere with the peaceful existence of marine life. All toilet waste is separately collected in a tank and cleared regularly with no residue being released into the ocean. Special soap is provided to use when needed which is not harmful to the aquatic life.
All in all, we cannot recommend this experience enough! The only disclaimer being, it might not be best suited to those who are prone to get sea sick as the villa can get rocky depending on the currents of the ocean.
The Manta Resort beyond the underwater room
We stayed at the Manta resort for six nights apart from the night spent at the floating villa and Manta was the perfect getaway in Pemba. The blissful resort is characterized by a massive stretch of beach with chalk white sands, delicious freshly prepared food complete with exceptional service from all staff members. The diving is excellent and it is the perfect place for couples and families looking for a relaxed retreat.
The entire island boasts of no-plastic and environment friendly policies with wi-fi connections available only in the common area. The idea is to revel in your surroundings and cut yourself away from the digital world for the time that you’re there. We were particularly delighted to learn that a few of the staff members were taking keen efforts in teaching English to the local children in the villages of Pemba in between their duties at the resort. During our stay, we visited the spice farm, took a rainforest tour, a ride on the nglawa (small local boat) and visited the local school. We watched beautiful sunsets, learnt a little Swahili and played traditional games. Our last night at Manta was made extra special by the staff who arranged a private candle lit dinner by the beach exclusively for us.
Tips and money saving tricks
Though a stay at the Manta Resort can be heavy on the pocket but the experience will surely be well worth it. Here are a few pointers which might help you save a penny or two:
- Being comparatively cheaper, we took our chances and booked our stay during the off-season period which generally runs from March – June during the rainy season. We were lucky as it poured only on one day in the entire duration of our seven days stay. Besides, we love the rains! If you’re willing to take a chance, off season is a good time to save costs on the stay as well as other activities. Off-season rates saved us approximately 20% on accommodation costs and 30% – 50% on excursions and diving!
- Contact the hotel reservations directly for pricing – they are warm and very willing to help. They frequently run attractive offers like ‘stay for 7 nights and pay for 5’ which we were happy to avail.
- During your stay at the Manta, you can choose to book the beach view villas as well as the ocean view villas. In the off season, since there are fewer guests, you may want to take the chance of booking the comparatively cheaper beach villa with hopes of being upgraded to a ocean view villa! If you don’t feel lucky enough (like us!), go ahead and splurge a little extra for the ocean view villas. They are well worth it!
Finally, note that the resort has only one floating villa and hence needs to be booked well in advance (we’d advise three months at least) to ensure that it is not already booked on your dates.
Note: All opinions expressed in this post are our own and were not influenced or sponsored in any way.
Have you had a unique experience at any resort? Have you visited Pemba? Share some travel inspiration with us!