After landing in Pemba that afternoon, we finally arrived at Manta just before sunset that first night, and it was official: we were honeymooning at the Manta Resort. Do I over use the word enchanting when I describe places? Probably so, but there is no better word for this place. It was enchanting. I knew I’d miss our tent and all the wild animals, but I was excited to finally be at the beach– and the bush babies made up for the lack of giraffes.
We were immediately greeted by Sele, a good looking young man whose smile makes you smile. He gave us a quick tour of the main lounge area, a thatch roofed pavilion full of clusters of couches, warm lighting and driftwood furniture. Seashell wind chimes lined the perimeter. We walked past a full bar, with a smiling bartender, out to the veranda for an unobstructed view of the sun slipping into the Indian Ocean. We’d made it just in time.
“I could live here forever,” I whispered.
They showed us to our room. Seafront Villa number 4 will forever hold a special place in my heart. The day bed on the balcony, the flowers on the bed, the white-washed walls, the thatched roof, the monkey neighbors, the flooding shower… okay come on… nothing is perfect! But this place came pretty darn close. And yes, the water really is that blue.
The Manta Resort is made for relaxing, so we made that our full time job while there. I had my camera and my computer in my suitcase and decided just to leave them there. There was internet available in the main lounge, but I didn’t connect once. I took most of my pictures on my phone or the go-pro and only pulled the real camera out a couple of evenings. I didn’t write. I didn’t blog. I didn’t send emails or messages. For the first time in our lives together, we just relaxed.
Every morning we would wake up and usually went for a pre-breakfast scuba diving excursion. Breakfasts were generally served on the veranda, but one morning our service fundi set us up in the beach lounge, which is far and away my favorite place at Manta.
After breakfast we’d meander out to the beach lounge, sway in hammocks, and read on the beach. If the tide was out, we’d take long walks on vast empty beaches, where we were sure to run into only a handful of locals collecting seaweed, if we ran into anyone at all. (Anyone know what they do with the seaweed? I’d be interested to find out).
Daily spa treatments are included in the price of your stay at the Manta Resort, so before lunch we would usually make our way to the Kipepo Spa for a massage.
Most lunches are served on the veranda. Talk about lunch with a view!
There are always two choices for meals: a fresh catch (you could actually see the fishermen out there catching your meals) and a non-seafood option. It felt like we were constantly eating at Manta– and we weren’t complaining. We drank wine with lunch almost every day because… why the heck not?
We spent the afternoons poolside or beachside and even allowed ourselves to take naps if we so desired. Every corner of the lounge displays a collection of books, available to exchange, and I pulled everything I could find in English. I can’t remember the last time I spent hours reading for pleasure, and I felt insatiable. We spent every afternoon reading while sipping on gin and sodas, with fresh limes that they hand picked for us after they ran out at the bar. I read 3.5 books, cover to cover.
We’d catch the sunsets on the beach or in the beach lounge, then head to the bungalow to get showered for dinner. Sunsets are magical at Manta. There is no other way to describe them.
It became our nightly routine to set up a game of chess or scrabble facing the coffee station, with the camera ready. Our service fundi would bring us glasses of wine and we’d play while we watched the bush babies sneakily steal sugar packets from the coffee bar.
We made friends with two other couples during our stay at Manta. Amanda and Alan were our first friends and our diving companions. Amanda takes a mean underwater picture, so hopefully I will be sharing some of those shortly. They were a delightful couple from Johannesburg, and we have every intention of going on a diving holiday with them again someday. They were there before we arrived and stayed for another day after we left, so we enjoyed their company for our entire stay. I have my fingers crossed that they will make it to Okinawa before we leave as well!
Our second new friends were David and Kate, the cutest British couple you can imagine. I adored them and have been saying ‘Oh, Daahling,” to Dane a lot since meeting them. I imagine I sound as cute as Kate when I say it, he assures me that I don’t. David and Kate were on their honeymoon as well, so I called them our honey buddies behind their backs. One afternoon after several Kili’s (we got cool enough to shorten the beer name from Kilimanjaro to Kili after a couple of weeks in Africa) I shared my pet name with them. Pretty sure it cemented our friendship.
We fell in love with the Manta Resort and everyone at it. We loved David the dive master. We adored Sele, but more on him in a post coming soon.
One night we took a private sunset cruise charter. I don’t know what I expected, but when our Captain showed up with a motor bike and told us to follow him to his village where his boat was waiting, I realized it wasn’t going to be anything like I’d imagined. He’d made his sail boat out of a giant mango tree, and– It. Was. Awesome. If you are expecting bling bling: you will be disappointed, I reminded myself as a crab scurried across my bare feet and skittered away down the narrow cut of the tree. But if you’re up for an adventure you will remember all your life: you are in the right place.
One night I brought my camera with me to dinner. Amanda and Alan were staying in the underwater room, so I wanted to take a couple pictures of it glowing from afar for them. I didn’t have a tripod so I used the cannon. The cannon for my Canon. (Oh the puns!)
We’d been marveling over how many stars there were, so I decided to set a long exposure and turn my camera skyward. I clicked the shutter and walked away. When I looked at the image a minute later, we were shocked to see what looked like a scratch across the lcd screen of my brand new camera. I scrolled through the photos but the scratch was only apparent on this one picture of the night sky. Turns out my first attempt had captured a shooting star. The subsequent 20 shots were not so lucky. But you better believe I’ve been making wishes on this one ever since.
So while I could easily go on and on for another 1,000 words about Manta… Tonight I’ll just sign off with a shooting star. A piece of Manta magic I get to keep forever.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.
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