chumbe island: royal angelfish, coconut crabs and quiet

The next morning, a driver picked us up and drove us to the Mbweni Ruins Hotel, where we jumped on a small boat with a German couple and a Swedish couple and rode 45 minutes to Chumbe Island, a nature preserve and reef sanctuary.

We arrived mid-morning — greeted by a smiley guy who opened his arms and said to call him “Obama.” We sat on couches and drank delicious juice (we agreed it was the best juice we had on the trip).

the main greeting area at the lodge

Then they showed us our eco-lodge. The island has seven of them — and they allow only 14 adults on the island at a time.

Each banda has a roof that catches run-off rainwater and runs on solar power. Water was in bottles on a table — they use a complex filtration system so you can drink the water from the island. On the shelf, there was a natural lemon salve that fends off mosquitos. And soil sits next to the compost toilet.

At 11:30, we went on a guided walk through the forest. For lunch, we had fresh grilled tuna with tartar sauce and vegetables. And then, at 3 p.m., we went snorkeling in the aqua, clear, warm water. Our guides gave us thin wet suits, masks and flippers and took us out in a boat. There were two orange inner tubes so we could rest when we got tired.

We saw royal angelfish with bright orange and blue stripes, a hawksbill turtle gracefully gliding through the water and the outlines of sting rays under the sand. We saw schools of white and yellow fish circling around each other, lit by the sun.

After snorkeling, we got ready for dinner. I put on my black dress. We raced up more than 100 steps in the lighthouse to see the sunset, but just barely missed it. Below us, the ocean looked serene.

Back at the lodge, we drank a beer on a two-person wooden swing. Then we made our way downstairs for a candlelight dinner overlooking the ocean. We ate three kinds of curry — vegetable, beef and chicken — drank wine and watched boat lights flicker on the water.

After dinner, a guide took us on a short walk to see coconut crabs — which are about the size of a large turtle. They were hiding. “Guuuys,” our guide said with a whine, flashing his light left and right as we walked. “Where are they? They must be having a party somewhere.” We did find two — a baby and an adult. We also saw hermit crabs walking around, dragging behind them incredible shells.

I wasn’t tired after our walk, so A. and I wandered down to a narrow beach with cushioned chaises. We lay and looked at the stars and the Milky Way. It was comfortably warm and deliciously quiet. We talked about the universe and why the sky is blue (no, really, we did) before retiring to our open-air loft.

It was one of my favorite days and nights of the entire trip. I was sad to say goodbye in the morning. Maybe someday we’ll go back.


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