Travelling from UK, it only required three flights, a short ‘tuk tuk’ ride (motorised open trailer) and a 25 minute speedboat transfer to reach my remote destination, but the effort was more than worthwhile. Less than 24 hours from leaving home, I was now standing on a sandbank about 200 metres offshore, looking back at the stunningly white and wonderfully empty beaches of Fanjove Private Island off the southern coast of Tanzania. Palm trees were swaying in the background and coral cliffs protruding darkly from the far end of the sand. It’s an amazing place, I thought, as I sat down and cooled off in a foot of perfectly clear warm water and pondered the only issue at hand – am I allowed to feel like I am on holiday when technically working?
Having walked and waded over soft sand to reach the end of the sandbank, I was aware of the incoming tide and made my way back, now choosing to swim sections where levels had risen significantly. On the beach I was greeted by the grinning face of Mark, the manager. ‘I was going to send a boat for you’ he said, ‘the tides are about the only thing in a hurry around here’. The island did have a very laid-back feel, a few days of this and office work would feel a world away. ‘Are you ready for snorkelling?’ Mark asked as he gave me a bottle of cold water. I nodded and he suggested a boat tour of the island with sundowner drinks afterwards. ‘Sounds perfect’ I agreed, enjoying the fact that somebody was actually thinking for me.
The snorkelling was good and we saw a many species including batfish, grouper, porcupine fish, trumpet fish and crocodile fish. The island is fairly small, about 1000m long by 300m wide, and the boat trip around took a pleasant hour. On the south-east corner is a rocky outcrop known as Bird Island and here an array of herons and egrets gather and roost. Gulls flew low across the water in the evening light. As we followed the northern coast of the island back to base, cold drinks in hand, the last of the sun’s rays cast an orange glow across the sky and then quickly disappeared, as it does in the tropics, like a red fireball into the sea. It was a fitting end to a remarkable day.
The next morning I took a stroll along the ‘wild side’ of the island where waves crash over the offshore reef and hundreds of gulls gather along the beach in the morning light. I took a dip in the ocean before returning to the place where I had seen a rare (and huge) coconut crab the evening before tussling with several hermit crabs over his coconut prize. ‘Fanjove is not quite a true ‘safari’, I thought, but alongside the many bird species found on the island and the ocean wildlife (dolphins and humpback whales in season) viewed whilst scuba diving or snorkelling, there is enough to keep nature lovers interested.
As I sat in the shade having breakfast, watching traditional fishing dhows sail past and the beautiful sandbanks emerging again as the tide dropped, I vowed to return for a longer visit in the future – a true holiday perhaps!