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“Return to Pemba Paradise”
Review of Gecko Nature Lodge

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Gecko Nature Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Xcalak, Mexico
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Return to Pemba Paradise”
Reviewed 5 May 2013

I returned to this little paradise gem, because the 2 previous trips in years past were such
consistently excellent experiences. I came mainly to Dive the spectacular walls and canyons loaded with marine life. I love the rustic natural feel of the place with thatched roof bungalows and the proximity to the ocean with constant breezes. I am still amazed to get a glass of really nice cabernet in a remote location. The food is fresh and filling with lots of seafood entrees. The atmosphere is casual and meeting and chatting with staff and new people is contagious. Kind of like going to the neighborhood pub. The owners' Raf and Cisca are both wonderful hosts and mingle freely with guests for interesting conversation. Once again I was delighted to spend a week at this paradise.

  • Stayed March 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank Miguel81a
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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194 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (26)
Date | Rating
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  • English first
  • French first
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  • Turkish first
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English first
Wales
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 May 2013

I returned to pemba this year with expectations of experiencing the unique and quite pristine underwater world and was not disappointed. The dive staff and equipment were excellent and the impressive fast rib dropped us at the various dive sites with minimal fuss. Three dives a day with lunch on a deserted coral island became a daily routine, after a few cold beers in the evening you feel like you have had a complete and fulfilling day.

The cottages are of a good standard with roof fans and of a good size. Evening meals were superb - a different three course choice each evening and the staff helpfully prepared non rice dishes for me - which is quite difficult to do where rice is the main staple.

The hotel attracts an ecletic mix of intersting travellers providing good conversation at the bar of an evening, i particularly enjoyed a large gin and tonic on the deck area and watching the sun go down before the evening meal.

On balance i would highly recommend the hotel, great facilities, superb food, well stocked selection of cold beer and very welcoming staff and management. The resident instructor Sam was great leading the dives and organising the kit, Dion the manager was always available to help and went the extra mile organising my travel arrangements to this remote and beautiful part of Tanzania.

Room Tip: If you are in a group or travelling alone and willing to share - there is dorm room which is very re...
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  • Stayed February 2013, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank mondayclub
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Mtwara, Tanzania
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 May 2013

I visited Kervan Seray with non-diving friends with a toddler and was a bit worried about how they’d find it. I needn't have been, the staff were friendly and helpful and we planned a day out to the Ngezi forest and the beach. We were dropped off by Cisca, one of the owners, who introduced us to the local guides and offered to collect us when we were ready to come back.

After a walk in the forest, we visited Vumawimbi beach - beautiful white sands stretching into the distance - where we met some of the hotel’s askaris who offered to take us on a walk to their village and then back to Kervan Seray on their way to work. (Where our late return had been noted and they were wondering whether to send out a search party!)

The hotel is a great combination of a sociable bar area with sofas and something to read, and relaxing hideaways overlooking the beach where you can enjoy the sunset with a cold beer.

The rooms were large and airy (we stayed in the dormitory) with their own seating areas outside, and the restaurant served good food and plenty of it. My friends moved on after a couple of days and I stayed to go diving.

The reef in Pemba is stunning with deep drop offs and lots of coral and fish. The dives were relaxed and unhurried with plenty of time to take in the marine life, which included octopus, crocodilefish, nudibranches, morays, leaf scorpionfish and lots of colourful reef fish. Of course I had to be the one that missed seeing the devil rays but ...

I will be going back.

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank Cryptomania
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 April 2013

We came to Pemba for a couple of days to relax as we were volunteering in Zanzibar. The resort is in the far north of the island and we decided to try and make our own way there from the ferry-port. This was not a good idea and we got as far as Chake-Chake before calling a taxi. Arrange for a taxi when you are booking unless you are the hardiest of travellers. We stayed in the dorm-room for the first night, which to be honest wasn’t great; there is a resident rat who enjoyed some biscuits from my hand-bag when we were out for the day. The private rooms are much nicer with huge beds. In both rooms there were holes in the mosquito nets and in the private room the over-head ceiling fan did not work.

The main reason for coming to Kervan Seray was because Swahili Divers had been recommended to us by a number of people. The friend I was travelling with is a keen scuba diver and I am happy to do some snorkelling. The snorkelling was good, no other tourists around (unlike Zanzibar) and I was the only person snorkelling so I had the guide to myself. I cannot comment on the scuba diving but have been told that it is very good. The instructors (two English guys) were good and friendly. They also offer other activities such as Kayaking in the mangroves which I did and really enjoyed. There is a pool but it is basically just a hole in the ground filled with water.

The owners of Kervan Seray were nowhere to be seen and apparently spend much of their time travelling. A manager who they apparently had never even met face-to-face was in-charge and although he was very good and welcoming I found this very strange.

There are 3 meals a day provided and the quality is very good, although I had just spent 2 weeks living on freeze-dried packet noodles. There is free tea and coffee available all day and you can buy drinks at the bar. When I was there the bar stock was severely depleted and you could struggle to get a coca-cola some days, but you must remember that this is a VERY remote island. No cocktails available.

The owners have 3/4 (can’t remember) dogs which they leave at the resort to be looked after by the staff and there is a kitchen cat that is lovely. I am an animal lover and having animals around makes a place better for me but if you are not into this then maybe don’t stay there. The deck looking out over the sea is the best part of the resort and watching the sun-setting from there is truly magical.

All-in-all I would say that if you are looking for a place to stay and to do lots of diving and nothing else then this place is for you but if you like to do other things then maybe go somewhere else. I think Kervan Seray could be a truly great place with some TLC and consistent management but as it is it looks a bit worn-around the edges and I don’t think that currently it is worth the money that they are charging.

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Rachael L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Zanzibar
Level 4 Contributor
42 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 April 2013

Kervan Saray provides comfortable accommodation, good food and cold beers. It is the resort for Swahili Divers, an accomplished dive centre operating in Pemba Island since 1999. I really enjoyed my stay, not just because I passed my PADI Open Water certificate, but because the place was relaxing, and staff and other guests were friendly and fun to be with.

The rooms are spacious with high thatched roofs, and the windows have lattice wooden screens but no glass; both features keeping the room naturally cool and airy. (I didn’t need the fans provided.) The “bed” would be fit for a palace! It was a solid plinth about 3x3m with a comfortable king-size mattress in the middle and mats around. A mosquito net hung from high above, down to the floor, completing the palatial feel. I liked that the room had historic photographs on the wall, and books on the shelves - even a bedside reading lamp. Most of the rooms have their bathrooms outdoors, which I think is preferable in the day although I would be worried at night about mosquitoes.

The main restaurant bar area has fresh coffee throughout the day. Breakfast is a buffet. Lunch and dinner are imaginatively prepared, three-course, set meals. Another lounge area – overlooking the sea – is great for lazy afternoons and sundowners.

As a newcomer to diving – discussions about best dive sites and dive gear was all new to me. However, I knew on my first night I was in with the right crowd as one of the guests was celebrating his 200th dive with Swahili Divers! The diver tuition was excellent. Our instructor was clear and confident and thankfully patient as we got our heads around DIN connectors and dive tables. The practical sessions were carefully explained in advance and then performed at a gentle pace in the water; clear, steady, and confidence building. It didn’t seem long before the tests became exams, and the technical skills became second nature. Dive Equipment and boats were well maintained. The open water dives ran smoothly – access to most sites within 20 minutes – and the surface interval breaks were great – usually with coffee, pancakes, and fresh fruit on a tropical beach.

For anyone not diving there are a few interesting excursions to make nearby. One afternoon I went kayaking through the mangrove forest which was brilliant, and another day I walked to the village just to see how the local people live. Other guests made visits to the lighthouse, neighbouring beaches, and Ngezi forest.

For me, one of the delights of my stay was the feeling that I had “got away from it all”. It is a long way from main roads and mains electricity. The local staff come from the neighbouring villages. Food supplies are fresh and seasonal. Special orders from town can take a while to arrive. (So if chocolate is your thing – bring a supply or at least lots of patience). And yet, despite these challenging logistics and reliance on local infrastructure I was impressed (and relieved) to find that things ran so smoothly. There was always enough beer in the fridge and fuel for the boats.

Room Tip: ask for an outside bathroom and KNOW you are in Africa
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled solo
    • Location
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Helpful?
Thank pwezapweza
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Level 3 Contributor
22 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 April 2013

Myself and two friends headed to Pemba and the Kervan Saray for 5 days- our main objective was relaxation, and to snorkel the waters around Pemba. Owner Francisca Jah was helpful in allowing us to stay near the end of the season and to basically reassuring us when could get on the dive boats for snorkeling. KS is far into the bush, so we were glad we had arranged for transport from the hotel. We met the staff, Dion, Craig and Sam and Cisca and felt quite welcomed from the start, and were able to secure our own rooms instead sharing. Rooms are big, without screens and the bathroom is open to the wild, so one should expect all types of insects and such to come into the room. On the website the rooms show up lighter than they really are, so come prepared with a head lamp to read at night. Rooms are in need of refurbishing, such as ceiling fans that don't work, and mattresses that need replacing; new mos nets, and new makuti for the roof of each house. Restaurant and food served was average and at times not enough for the amount of people there. Good provisions were made for my friend that is a vegetarian.
Needs to be afternoon snacks, particularly for divers that often do 2-3 dives a day, and due to dinners that were served very late at night. Not sure whether the lack of supplies was due to it being the end of the season or organization. Francisca is very knowledgeable about Pemba, the people and the areas for diving. As well Craig and Sam are keen to do their best for customers and appreciate talking at any time and both have a relaxed manner without being unprofessional.

Room Tip: Basically all the rooms are the same, but I would suggest choosing one that has an enclosed bathroom...
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank julesntanza
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
turkishraf, Owner at Gecko Nature Lodge, responded to this review, 13 April 2013
Dear Julesntanza,

This is Francisca writing, as we can only access Trip Advisor through one account. I felt that I should respond to your review. Thank you for saying such nice things about me personally in your review, I love Pemba and I always try and share my knowledge and affection of the Island with everyone. You are one of the first people to mention this and I would like to thank you.

I am a little surprised at your comments about our food. At the time of your stay we had the following people:
1 Vegetarian
1 Vegan
1 guest with Gluten Alergy
1 Long term guest with strict personal preferences
1 Jewish Guest who observed certain combinations
4-7 guests with "standard dietary requirements"- not taking into account that some wanted spices, and some did not. Some wanted local food and some did not.

So considering that my Kitchen runs on 3 charcoal stoves (The gas supply is errant at best) and that we are at the northern tip of the the poorest island in one of the poorest nations on earth- and the fact that we recieved compliments from most of our guests- I do find this surprising.

What is even more surprising is that you said to me "If you can please my friend K***** with your food, the you are a rock star".

K***** came to me at the end of every meal and asked me for the recipe, which I still need to email to her. So I really don't know where you current food posts come from?

With reference to your room, we upgraded you from a twin room to a single room, your ceiling fan did not work, and due to the fact that our repair man comes from 36 miles away I immediately gave you a standing fan. You are right, we are at the end of the season. We renovate the entire hotel/buy mattresses every year in the rainy season. Which is now.

I am so glad you enjoyed the rest of your stay, and I enjoyed your company.

Yours Francisca

Francisca Jah
Owner
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Porto Santo Island, Portugal
Level 3 Contributor
18 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 March 2013

This was my 13th visit in as many years to Swahili Divers/Kervan Saray Beach Resort, this time to complete my 1,100th dive as well as my 200th dive with Swahili Divers. When you come to this beautiful, albeit remote part of the far off Island Pemba, you come for the excellent diving, this time extremely well organized by the two very experienced instructors Craig and Sam and their informative dive briefings. As my wife and I know most of the dive sites quite well ourselves, we can assure you that there was no empty waffling.
The food was very good and plentiful and sea food at least every orher day and vegetarian dishes or fruit desserts for the "non-sweet-toothies" like me are always served with a firedly smile.
Deaon, the new manager, is efficient and helpful and when the. drinks are not very cold when you come back from the 2 to 3 daily dives it is due to the fact you can't run a generator all day long to keep a few beers cool..
The palm frond thatched "bandas" are large and comfortable but one has to like the hot climate - which one would expect in the tropics anyway.
These small shortcomings are fully compenstaed by the wonderful sunsets on the deck right by the sea, listening to the waves, the cicadas and bush babies, the latter ones hard to see.
Cisca and Raf, the owners, alway find a reason to celebrate "legend" dives, birthdays, aniverseries or fare-wells for firnds with drinks by the bonfire and candellight dinners.
And I mande a new friend, "Tony Trumpet" who approaches diver at the "Aquarium" to use them as camouflage for his stalking and hunting...

Room Tip: I have no preference, all are more or less the same.
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Yellofin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Gecko Nature Lodge

Property: Gecko Nature Lodge
Address: Plot 29 | Pemba North, Tanzania (Formerly Kervan Saray Beach Lodge)
Region: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Pemba Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Speciality Lodging in Pemba Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Gecko Nature Lodge 2.5*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Kervan Saray Beach Lodge is now the newly upgraded Gecko Nature Lodge a series of large airy bungalows beside the sea. Started as simple accommodation for divers , the Gecko Nature Lodge has evolved into a comfortable lodge for scuba divers, birders, sea kayakers, adventurous souls, as well as yoga retreat and a place to relax and unwind. A upgraded bar, pool, restaurant and expanded deck, allow our guests to really relax. new secret hideaways with Hammocks and DayBeds ahve been created providing privacy and serenity for our guestsThe Hotel is also home to Swahili Divers, Pemba’s first PADI 5 star dive centre and recently the first RAID center, The Gecko Nature Lodge is owner managed 100% of the time ... more   less 
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