One of the highlights of many guests’ stays at Chole Mjini Lodge is a wander through Chole village. Even though the island is only 500m by 800m there is plenty of opportunity to get lost in the island’s many winding paths so we always recommend to get one of our English speaking guides and they can also acquaint you with Swahili life, and more likely than not introduce you to their mother, show you their house and meet their friends on the way – this also ensures there’s a cultural engagement; an exchange of ideas which both the guide and guests enjoy.
The best time to amble through the village is in the morning, before it gets too hot and while there’s plenty of community activity. There’s so much to see a tour can take anything from an hour to four! Not only are guests able to visit 2000 roosting fruit bats at Popo Park, a bat sanctuary developed by the villagers to protect this endangered animal, but also hear about the history of the island and walk through the ruins from the days of the Mashatiri Arabs as well as visit the boat yard, where they build bespoke dhows with no power tools or even measuring tapes – its fascinating to watch this age-old tradition and talk to the fundis. There is also the wonderful work achieved by the Chole Mjini Trust Fund – the Primary School, Chole Hospital, Adult Learning Centre and my favourite project the Kindergarten. When you arrive at the Kindergarten you are welcomed with open arms…in fact 60 open arms…wonderful happy faces smile up at you, and you are able to see the real benefit of the project – allowing these children not only to receive one nutritious meal a day and checked for childhood diseases but also learn that education can be fun and teaching the Montessori principles from such a young age ensures when they get to Primary School they are ready to learn. As a Chole Women’s Society project the initiative was also designed to allow the women on Chole some much needed time off from motherhood and even develop their own sources of revenue.
As well as the good work done by the Chole Mjini Trust Fund, all Chole Mjini Lodge guests pay $10 per person per night which is donated to the village, in 2011 that was just under $12,000. Guests frequently hear of the charitable work done on Chole before they arrive and kindly bring pencils, pens, colouring books, educational aids and toys for the village – which is received with great appreciation. And here is a photo of such a guest – Lygery with her new Chole friends, the photo was taken by Yiannis Orfandis. We cannot thank guests enough for this kindness and especially considering the 15kg weight limit on aircraft in Tanzania it means even more. Lygery & Yiannis also took the opportunity to send me photos of their stay, I print these photos out and give them to the people – Choleans love having their photo taken – so I encourage as many guests as possible to do this.
Chole is a wonderful community which offers a fascinating insight into Swahili life – we had a guest stay recently who we called “Nick The Lost” because every day he would wander into the village and inevitably get lost but everyday he made another new friend who helped him find his way back to the Lodge – I think that says it all!
(Photos by: Yiannis Orfandis)