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“over priced”
Review of Pemba Magic Lodge

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Pemba Magic Lodge
Rome, Italy
Level Contributor
46 reviews
26 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“over priced”
Reviewed 18 August 2013

Friendly place and decent food (good breakfast) but like many places Pemba it is over-priced. The owner/managers are helpful but that's it. The cottages are in disrepair and dirty and showers do not work. I travelled in Mozambique for about a month and this was by far the worst value of money place I stayed at.

  • Stayed July 2013, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Marco K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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41 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (4)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Pretoria, South Africa
Level Contributor
168 reviews
55 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 110 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 July 2013

Russels Place has a few nice chalets / cottages as accommodation for 2 people. It also has camping and dormitory facilities for back packers. The chalet room was equipped with HD TV (satellite TV was not connected yet), coffee / tea / kettle, fridge and hot/cold shower.
It has a huge restaurant which are popular for travelling and local guests alike. The restaurant serves good food and the buffet breakfast is also nice. There is a shaded swimming pool for the hot months (most of the year). Ask to use Wi-Fi in the restaurant area.
The facility is not on the beach front but one street away from the long stretch of Pemba beach, but good enough for relaxation on the premises. It is not inside the city center which makes it a bit safer and away from the bustle. Service from the staff was good. VISA card paying capability implemented in June 2013.

Room Tip: Ask for availability of a chalet for accommodation. Breakfast is not automatically included in the p...
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  • Stayed June 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
Thank Christien H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Madison, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
28 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 April 2013

I'm going to preface the following by saying that the owners/ managers, when they were around, were really helpful with answering questions. The restaurant/ bar was a decent place and seemed to be a really popular hangout. Aside from that, it's all bad.

Pemba Magic Lodge, aka Russell's Place, advertises itself as having a dorm, which in my mind means it caters to backpackers/budget travellers. When we showed up after a long uncomfortable bus ride from Mocimboa Da Praia, tired from the trip and carrying our packs, the staff looked at us like we were aliens. When we asked about the dorm, several of the staff members debated in Portuguese for a few minutes before confirming that, yes, there was a dorm. When we asked how much, no one had any idea. After a couple of phone calls, we were told that the dorm would be 500 Mts/night, each (about 17 USD). While this seemed unusually expensive for dorm beds, we didn't really have much of a choice, so we agreed.

We were taken to a open air grass roof hut, which appeared to be built on some type of large generator housing. (No electrical outlets) Whatever, we made our peace with it. We were tired, had been travelling for a few days straight, and just wanted to use the wifi to send a couple of emails before we crashed for the night. Unfortunately for us, none of the 10 or so staff members working in the bar/restaurant area knew the wifi password, and were apparently unable to retrieve it until the following day. So instead, we decided to head for bed, where we now noticed a strange smell filling the open air dorm. The overwhelming stink of garbage remained throughout the night, and only the next morning did we realize that it was from a pickup truck parked directly behind the dorm filled with trash. This was where the staff members dumped all of the garbage, apparently for several days at a time.

After that, we went down to get some breakfast. At 17 dollars/night, it seemed reasonable that breakfast would be included, as it is in most backpacker joints/hostels, but just to be sure we asked. Yes, we were told, it's a buffet, go help yourself. Which we did, at this point thinking that breakfast (which was quite good) might be the one redeeming quality of our stay. It was only later, when we went to check out, that we were told that when we had asked if it was included in the price of the dorm, and were told yes, they had meant that they could add it to our bill at the time of check out. And then we found out that breakfast was 350 Mts (about 12 dollars). We've been travelling through Asia, India, the Middle East and Africa for 7 months, and never had to pay near that much for a meal. To their credit, after putting up quite a stink about it, they decided not to charge us for breakfast.

Regardless, at 17/night for one of the most sub-par dorms I've ever stayed in, and only one breakfast option for 12 dollars, this is most certainly not a place for backpackers or budget travellers. I don't know if there are better options in or around Pemba, but I would have to imagine that there aren't worse.

  • Stayed March 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank adhaglin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Garden Route, South Africa
Level Contributor
427 reviews
90 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 142 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 March 2013

Pemba Magic Lodge or Russell's Place is the place to stay in Pemba. You will meet locals and travellers alike here in this very laid back (like its owner) lodge/bar/restaurant. There are some amazing wood carvings if you just sit and look around the bar area, on the table legs, on the stairs etc. I had some fresh tuna while I was there, but there was also fresh crayfish and crab on the menu at excellent prices.

  • Stayed March 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
Thank m0zchick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Alexandria, Kentucky
Level Contributor
93 reviews
40 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 78 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 March 2013

A hotel owner we really liked in Tanzania recommended this place to us. She knew our budget (having stayed at her simple rooms) and said this place was really comfortable. Perhaps the chalets ARE wonderful- but they were out of our budget and we planned on staying in the dorms. Unfortunately- the "dorm" felt more like a barn loft that was for staff to crash, not for travelers to stay. It had an open roof with no outlets or even a fan and no real privacy as the staff could easily look into the dorm from where they hung out below in back. I'm a no frills kinda girl - but I was appalled when after we showered and came back to tuck our mosquito nets under, a smell of garbage wafted through the "room" and continued to do so throughout the night.

Between the smell of garbage, no fan, and the feeling of bugs crawling over me (not sure if it was bedbugs or mosquitos), I did not sleep well- and this was one night we had to sleep in between 3AM bus departures. Charging over $16 is criminal for this kind of arrangement. I've never paid so much to get so little in seven months of backpacking through Asia- The Middle East- and more recently, Africa.

When we woke up, we were asked if we wanted breakfast. We asked if it was included with our room. We were told it was, so we enjoyed a lovely buffet style breakfast that somewhat made up for the terrible night of sleep. That is, until, another staff member informed us that it was NOT included. We held our ground- insisting had we known it wasn't included, we would have ordered a la carte- so we didn't end up paying for the breakfast, but be warned- if you're so sleep deprived and decide you'll just suffer through a night in the dorm, don't get tricked into the breakfast in the morning.

We were able to leave our bags for the day and hang out at night in the restaurant area (granted, we ordered food/drinks while we waited) until we left for our next bus. Two staff managerial members were helpful when we had questions about leaving... But this was after a really uncomfortable exchange with their recommended taxi driver over our 2AM transport to the bus station. If this fee is the going rate, fine, but some help or even a printed out price list recommended by the lodge would have helped. We ended up getting a free ride to the bus station (five hours early) which was nice, but it was all very stressful and I felt as though we were a burden on the lodge staff and no one really wanted to help us!

I have to say this was the worst dorm experience I've ever had and it really made me a bit bitter having paid so much! Perhaps the Lodge or Russel's Place or whatever you call it is GREAT to those staying in chalets - but as a backpacker passing through, I felt ignored and looked down on. (Only ONE of the waitstaff (Seguido) was friendly to us.)

If you're not going to cater to the needs- or at least be nice to those who are backpacking, then don't offer a pitiful excuse of a "dormitory" to budget travelers. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone- especially a backpacker looking for a reasonably priced place to stay. Not after the staff was clueless about prices or what was available when we walked in, the smell of garbage, a terrible nights sleep, having to get my own menu to order dinner, the ordeal of how we were going to get to the bus station... It was all terrible.

Room Tip: Don't under any circumstances sleep in the "dorm." The bus station (at least the four...
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank thiskentuckygirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pemba, Mozambique
Level Contributor
26 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 31 January 2013

Pemba Magic Lodge is very foreign to me. I have been a regular to it for many years and still call it "Russel's" (named after the owner) or "Black Foot Bar" or "Campismo" (Camp Site). If you are looking for directions and the person looks uncertain, try these names. It is truly the social center of Pemba. Here you will find locals and traveler from all walks of life.The pizza is always good and do go and see the chef for recommendations. The pool is a welcome escape from the heat. The beach is a short walk if the tide is in. Russel is a legend and is always very helpful, when he is on walkabout ask for Raphael. Movie nights is not be missed. It is the only campsite in town apart from Pemba Dive and Bush Camp which is slightly out of the city. Very backpacker friendly and chalets for those who prefer more privacy.

  • Stayed January 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
Thank Gustav F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 22 January 2013

we spend about 4 night in pemba magic lodge in one of their chalets with air-conditioning. The chllets are great as well as the service. The owner Russel is a really helpful and friendly owner. Hitch a ride to wimbe beach because it is about 2 miles down the road, but is a great place to stay!

  • Stayed December 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Wicherlepoole
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Pemba Magic Lodge

Property: Pemba Magic Lodge
Address: Avenida Marginal | Nanhimbe, Pemba, Mozambique
Region: Mozambique > Cabo Delgado Province > Pemba
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Parking Restaurant Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Speciality Lodging in Pemba
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The contruction of Pemba Magic Lodge began in 1998. It started out as a campsite with a few tents and a dormitory for backpackers. Soon “The Blackfoot Bar” became a local institution and favourite hang out place for locals and tourists alike. In time the construction of the bungalows began, all individually designed by Russel, and all using as much local products as possible. Today the place has several bungalows, a large restaurant and bar. Pemba Magic Lodge was long known as “Russel’s Place or simply “The Campsite”, but since 2008 the place started using it’s original name “Pemba Magic Lodge” . ... more   less 
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