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Anne and Jean (right, with their children, both of whom were raised on Chole) simply wanted to create the kind of place they would have been happy to discover. Click below for Jean’s amusing account on how it happened.
With only seven treehouses, carefully placed and designed, privacy is assured. Open to the elements, with the king-size bed the throne-like centerpiece, each thatched platform is reached via sandy paths that lead through the natural vegetation. All have views of the sea; some are close enough to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the tide trickling back through the mangrove roots. Most treehouses have a second level to accommodate children.
Built high up in the canopy of a huge and ancient baobab (that apparently thinks it’s a mangrove, growing as it does with its roots in the sea), treehouse number one is popular because of the views of the sea out to Kinasi Pass – over the mangroves, enchanted by fireflies at night – and the spacious deck that wraps around the tree. Sometimes guests have other inhabitants, such as nesting Fish Eagles or Kites, sharing the baobab. It is the only treehouse built on a single level, with only the one king-sized bed.
The shower, built in a bamboo thicket, is a personal favorite.
The downside of Moja, if there is one, is the toilet. It is one of three that were built by my predecessor and, although they function well, these early toilets are all too small for my liking and (horror of horrors!) the light inside is insufficient to read by.
Built in a fabulous location, Mbili was my first treehouse and is (along with number seven) the biggest, most ambitious construct. The engineering problems it posed delayed completion for almost a year and scared the crap out of me, which served to inhibit my grandiose delusions… until number 7. Mbili has two double beds on two spacious and separate floors, all under one roof. The views (especially from upstairs) are spectacular. Mbili’s baobab is the granddaddy of them all and has its own spirit and personality (or so I’m told by more sensitive souls than me). One of our former guests still writes emails to the tree. The tree has yet to answer.
Tatu, also known as ‘the house on the rocks’, is reached by passing through a foliage tunnel. It is firefly city, and is the house most in touch with the ocean, with both really close up and distant sea views, crabs and mudskippers running around meters below the house, and even schools of fish under the house sometimes. Built on two separate levels, under two separate roofs, almost like two separate houses joined by a staircase, the main house is on rocks under a Tamarind tree, close to the ground, and the stairs go down from there into the second house that is over the beach in amongst the mangroves. During Spring tides the water comes right up under the lower house and even, twice a year (March and February) wets the floor of the lower house. A few years ago I chose to spend the night of my 50th birthday in Tatu (the house of first choice, with the woman of my choice…Anne).
Nne is another of the most popular tree houses, and for good reasons. It was the first of three houses with the upstairs ‘tea house’ design: the ‘tea house’, a 19th-century Stone Town innovation, is essentially an elevated room that is open to the breezes, allowing for 360-degree views; the sunsets are spectacular from here. Quite similar to seven, but Nne has a baobab and views to the open ocean.
The second of the ‘tea house’ treehouses, Tano is set in the midst of the fig-entwined ruins of what was once a large house built during the 19th-century heyday of Chole, when the bustling trading entrepot flourished by trading between the Shirazi Sultanate of Kilwa, on the Tanzanian coast, and the Omani Sultanate of Zanzibar. The tea house has sweeping views of Chole Bay and delicious breezes. When the figs are ripe the tree at Tano becomes a favourite haunt of the beautiful ‘flying foxes’ that live on Chole Mjini Lodge. Tano has ‘too much Nature’, according to a former Miss Universe who stayed here but hey, I thought she had too much silicone, but that too is not everyone’s point of view.
We built Sita, the ‘ground house’, to cater for families with small children and/or for anyone afraid of a tree house or anyone absolutely requiring a flushing toilet. Sita is very large, with multi-levels to create separate spaces: the throne-like built-in king-size bed is on the highest level, two Zanzibari beds on the next level (a few steps down), and a day bed on the porch, yet another few steps lower. It has a sunken, mosaic bath (micro swimming pool for the kids), shower and the only en-suite flushing w.c. on Chole. Sita is wide open to large gardens on either side, leading to the mangroves and their resident fireflies at night. Although it is the closest house to the bar and restaurant, Sita is still totally private thanks to the strategically planted hedges and the floor to roof curtains. We spent three month in Sita while our own house was being extended, and we were very reluctant to move out when the time came. We love Sita. It is just perfect for a young family.
Saba, built around a flamboyant tree and surrounded by ruins, has been the most popular tree house with our agents and our guests from the day it was finished, for reasons I’m unsure of. Don’t get me wrong, Saba is gorgeous but no more so than Nne, Mbili, Moja and my favourites Tatu and Sita and, well, I do like Tano a lot too. I sometimes think that the preference for seven is a religious or superstitious thing (is that saying the same thing twice?).
To summarize, the pros of Saba are: It is one of the biggest, easily sleeping two adults and two children. The tea house has fabulous sunset views over the beach and delicious breezes, and it has a large sun deck over the beach. It has a light-filled and airy loo and shower.
Kearsley (T) Ltd.
16, Zanaki Street, P. O. Box 801,
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
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Tel: +255 22 2137713