A (Zen)zibar Miracle

As a parent whose job is to intimately know Africa like the back of my hand, I travel throughout the continent, exploring each of our destinations by experiencing the wildlife, communities, reserves and lodges with a keen and experienced eye for the details that matter – like a passionately ruthless commitment to conservationcommunity enrichmentquality of accommodationguiding expertise and accessibility – so our clients can know they’ll be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!

Whilst I do spend time away from my family, I’m also blessed with being able to include them in experiencing what I believe to be the most magical of continents – like when I took my son to Kenya for a horizon-expanding ‘rite of passage’ journey for his tenth birthday, surrounded by the roars of lions, majestic herds of zebra and awe-igniting Maasai warriors!

When my daughter’s tenth birthday beckoned, I knew that an island eco-escape to Zanzibar would be just her thing. Ruby’s heart for wildlife conservation was another journey-designing clue I used in creating a trip that focused on Mnemba Island’s profound turtle conservation efforts!

Aerial view of Mnemba Island in Zanzibar
Flying in over the picture-perfect paradise of Mnemba Island

Literally straight after we arrived in Stonetown, we boated off to Prison Island where she was introduced to the island’s ancient giants – a sanctuary of turtles ‘bigger than my imagination’, she said, gently going from one turtle to another, making sure each one was fed their fill before we moved on to wading out into the warm turquoise sea up to our knees, an enterprising local teaching us about the vibrant sea-life around us – carefully helping Ruby handle lilac urchins, sparkling starfish, sea worms — and, to my horror, a sea spider. Talk about taking ‘hands-on experience’ to a whole new level!


From there, we sailed in a traditional dhow to what must be the most bliss-infused tropical island off Africa: Mnemba Island – run to perfection on every level by &Beyond’s stewards who ensured our stay with them was even more incredible than we imagined it could be. (Needless to say, the tranquility was so sublime that we ditched selfies in lieu of the below!)

Many photos of our feet and the endless turquoise views beyond are testament to why I've given this island a new name: (Zen)zibar!
Many photos of our feet and the endless turquoise views beyond are testament to why I’ve given this island a new name: (Zen)zibar!

Dashing around the island in a dhow, the saltwater splashing in our faces, I think this has to be the hugest smile I have ever seen on my daughter’s face!

AndBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge

Just a (spectacular) glimpse of where we stayed!


At Southern Destinations, conservation travel is becoming a key focus for us – and we were utterly WOW-ed by &Beyond’s turtle conservation project which is one of only two protected nesting sites in Zanzibar for the endangered green sea turtle.

Endangered green sea turtle in the sanctuary seas around Mnemba Island in Zanzibar


  • These precious old-soul creatures are only 2” (5cm) in length at birth – but can grow up to 5’ (1.5m) in length, weighing in at over 700lb (300kg).
  • The &Beyond Mnemba team has diligently been recording data since 1998, noting that over 60 000 green turtles have been born on the island in the last 20 years.
  • An average of 38 nests are laid on the island, with more than 100 hatchlings born per nest. One record-breaking nest bid a hopeful adieu to an astounding 149 hatchlings!
  • Because turtles are prone to laying their eggs below the high-tide mark and risk losing their entire brood to the incoming tide, the vigilant &Beyond Mnemba team carefully relocate these particular nests to higher, safer ground.
  • Within 50 to 60 days of being laid, the tender little hatchlings fight their way out from the sandy nest with amazing determination but, if left unassisted, 25 to 30% of the hatchlings fatally become prey to the beach’s predators – like hungry crabs, lizards and scavenging birds – before they even reach the safety of the waves beyond!
  • Only 1% of those hatchlings that do make it safely to sea will attain adulthood.
A vulnerable turtle hatchling given the best chances of survival by the conservation team at Mnemba Island in Zanzibar


… turtles are still in danger due to human activity. In some countries, turtles and their eggs are hunted for food. Pollution indirectly harms turtles at both population and individual scales, as well as light pollution. Many turtles die after being caught in fishing nets. Also, real estate development often causes habitat loss by eliminating nesting beaches.


Thankfully, humans can also help to reverse this endangerment – like the &Beyond Mnemba team. As the hatchlings feistily paddle and push their way out from the protection of the nest, staff and guests rush over, in hushed awe, to provide secure passage for the hatchlings between nest and sea, ensuring each turtle arrives safely beyond the waves. This helps improve the potential for reaching adulthood.

Awe can’t be scheduled

Unlike plotting out a human’s travel plans to coincide with flights, clocks and mealtimes, this truly magical natural phenomenon obeys no such rules and cannot be planned as a form of ‘seaside entertainment’. Instead, it is almost as if one is chosen to witness this sacred event, as guardians. This is exactly how Ruby and I experienced the brave journey of ‘our’ little tribe of turtles… Ruby’s intense awe could never be matched by any human gift or experience. (Birthday mission accomplished!)

Ruby on the beach watching carefully over a little turtle hatchling as it makes its way to the ocean over the beach
Ruby watching carefully over the tiniest turtle hatchling making its way bravely across the soft sand of the beach to the ocean.

Whilst the endangered green turtle continues to straddle the brink of extinction, it is imperative that eco-tourism initiatives like &Beyond Mnemba and their involved guests persist in their compassionate conservation vigilance.

If you’ve always dreamed of traveling in way which supports the earth, I’d love to help you design a life-changing, earthkind journey. Get in touch with me to design a bespoke trip for you – or head over to continue exploring our: