Robinson Crusoe Chic: Chumbe Island

BY Electra Gillies TIMESeptember 16, 2014 PRINT

Zanzibar is the spectacular spice island has a rich and intricately interwoven past, sparkling azure beaches and a myriad of markets to explore. Stone Town is the capital, full of wonderful antiques and attractions, which was famous for the spice trade and infamous for the slave trade in the 19th Century. Architecturally it is stunning with Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European styles combined and complimented. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

It is a fabulous place to spend a few days exploring. However for the ultimate eco getaway, there’s no better place to visit than Chumbe Island, a pristine eco reserve teeming with marine life, just twelve kilometers off the Zanzibar coastline.

Zanzibar (
Zanzibar (

Chumbe is a marine and forest reserve housing seven rustically elegant eco bungalows reflecting the natural environment. A majestic lighthouse built in 1904 by the Sultan of Zanzibar is the only sign that this was not always an environmentally-dedicated sanctuary.

For travellers searching for a truly sustainable paradise island retreat, Chumbe is probably it. The reef houses 260 types of coral and 400 species of fish, meaning that 90% of the species found in the region alone can be found on this reef. Another distinctive feature is the accessibility of the reef. It lies between 1-3 metres and is therefore can be clearly observed by snorkelling. So delicate is this ecosystem that scuba diving is not permitted unless it is for research activities in order to limit damage to the coral.

However, for me, the main pleasure of Chumbe is the privacy and how relaxed the atmosphere is. The simple eco-bungalows are beautifully designed, and as there are only seven on the whole island, it adds to the desert island secluded feeling. The open plan living areas downstairs overlooks the most amazing azure waters–just lay back in a hammock and soak up the tranquillity; this is the epitome of Robinson Crusoe chic.

Visitor center Craig Zende (
Visitor center Craig Zende (

The ethos combined with the sense of a pristine environment means that Chumbe comes a little closer to the ultimate eco-utopia than some other locations. Lazy days are plunged into nights with spectacular sunsets and fabulous home cooked dinners. Sleeping to the sound of the sea without the sounds of modern life or walls, with the breeze slipping over you, is one of the most seductively sonorous experiences in the world.

This is one of the most beautiful islands in the world with a truly inspiring attitude towards conservation and education in the community, and a full description of my experience here will appear in the Winter edition of Eluxe magazine. Meantime, here are some more images to entice and inspire!

Copyright © 2014 by Eluxe Magazine. This article was written by Electra Gillies and originally published on

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