Small Private Island, Big Impact: Thanda Island Combines Barefoot Luxury with Conservation of Marine Reserve and Neighboring Communities in the Indian Ocean

Facilitating “wildness” and the practice of “rewilding” emerges as a preferred method for making altered landscapes wild again. An essential action is the restoration of natural processes, which can lead to increased self-sustainability of an ecosystem. The 20 acres Thanda Island shows that even a tiny private island can significantly impact the conservation of sea life and communities of the Indian Ocean.

Located 16 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Tanzania and surrounded by the underwater wonders of the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve, Thanda Island has always had a strong focus on conservation. Indeed, Christin and Dan Olofsson, the philanthropic Swedish entrepreneurs who began welcoming guests to their magnificent private beach residence in 2016, have been involved in preservation and community projects for years, the better to improve the Marine Reserve and the lives of inhabitants of neighboring Mafia Island.

Their efforts impressed the government of Tanzania, which agreed to leave Thanda Island in the Olofsson’s hands, opening the door for them to transform it into a luxury five-star private hotel.

The conservation begins right on property. Conceptualized with light-on-earth structures, Thanda Island is powered solely by solar energy, and water is naturally purified through a desalination plant. The island employs a full-time marine biologist, whose role includes keeping an inventory of marine species and overseeing a coral nursery, where young coral grows until it’s ready to be “rewilded” back into the reef.

Guests interested in learning about marine conservation can join private diving sessions where some of the diving gear is recycled – rash vests are made from recycled plastic bottles. Snorkeling or diving, Thanda Island guests are also encouraged to take part in the Whale Shark Citizen Science Program, which asks to help with the process of collecting identification data on whale sharks via images to identify their movements.

Guided by their philanthropic owners, the Thanda Island hosts are educated and well-trained at marine conservation and restoration. Staff, most of who are local, work to raise awareness of conservation in their communities while Thanda Island supports the efforts of Sea Sense, a local NGO, to educate inhabitants of Mafia on marine conservation and environmental concerns and of the Marine Park Rangers who work to stop illegal fishing. Meanwhile, Thanda also provides sponsorships for community initiatives on Mafia, such as the purchase of medical supplies for a local hospital and schools.

With all of the above as their private home and island, Thanda invites guests on an immersive journey through the rich culture, nature, and kindness of East Africa. Epicures will savor on-island dining, not least a Swahili feast that can only be described as decadent, including curries with hand-squeezed coconut milk, fresh lobster, and oysters created with local ingredients and prepared in traditional fashion by the island’s chef. The warm staff is practiced at catering to the desires of every guest and can arrange bespoke itineraries accordingly. Popular options include an exploration of nearby Zanzibar via private helicopter or the 82-foot yacht M/Y Sea Leopard.

Thanda Island can host up to 10 guests in a lavish beach villa inspired by the Olofsson’s visit to the Kennedy Family’s Hyannis Port compound, with five suites, a variety of dining areas, infinity pool, and air-conditioned gym. Eight more people can reside in the two bandas, a glamorous take on the traditional Tanzania beach homes. Guests enjoy spa treatments, access the extensive boathouse, the yoga pavilion, tennis and volleyball courts, as well as use of the M/Y Sea Leopard and private helicopter for overnight excursions at no extra cost.

Exclusive use of Thanda Island is offered at US$45,000 per night, all-inclusive for a minimum of five nights. The rate includes the dedicated island host team, all meals, and drinks, including a handpicked selection of wines and champagnes, diving, unlimited spa treatments, swimming with whale sharks (October-March), snorkeling, sailing, and deep-sea fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, SUPs and a wide selection of boathouse toys, a floodlit tennis court, yoga (on request), high-speed WIFI, sandbank picnics, sunset cruises on the Yacht as well as roundtrip helicopter flights from Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport.  Upon landing, whether flying privately or commercially, the Thanda Island team will either meet the guests on the tarmac or at international arrivals and escort them to a luxury SUV that will transport them to the helicopter for their 35-minute connection to Thanda Island. Alternatively, a chartered plane for a larger group can fly to Kilindoni on Mafia Island, where they can either be ferried across to Thanda Island by helicopter, which is about 10 mins either way, or by fast boat, which takes 30 to 45 mins to reach the Island.

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