ISLAND OF PEMBA
Constance Aiyana Resort
I do not like flying in small planes. The ones that are full with just 12 passengers. My mind is of the opinion that there is just not enough between me and a couple of thousand metre painful drop to the earth. Yet, despite my trepidation, I climbed the short flight of stairs on-board an Auric Aircraft at Zanzibar International Airport to Pemba Island.
When my rolling stomach and panicked mind allowed me moments to open my eyes during the last 15 minutes of the 40-minute flight, the view of Pemba did make me temporarily forget my nerves. Pemba was spread out below in dark green shades of jungle, with just a few spots of civilisation among the wild growth.
Touching down, the harrowing journey was not over just yet. My destination was Constance Aiyana Resort, so I still had a one and a half hour drive to go. I got into the 4×4 sent from the resort, and my driver happily informed me that during the last 30 minutes of the journey I would get an “African massage” due to the condition of the road.
After the bustling streets of the main town, we entered Ngezi Forest, home to small farming communities, a diving centre, and the five-star Constance Aiyana resort.
Friendly faces, cold towels, and a refreshing drink welcomed me to the resort. Fam-ished, I decided my first order of business was to experience the restaurant – I did this thoroughly by ordering a starter, main, and dessert. In the open air restaurant, with white pillars towering to the high ceiling framing the view of the Indian Ocean just a few metres away, and a shisha corner with comfy cushions, diners can explore traditional cuisine, or can opt for more international fare.
After marinated vegetables, the catch of the day, and local fruits, the only thing I wanted to do was relax. And the ideal spot was just next to me.
Between the restaurant and bar, the infinity pool was lined with loungers, and over-looked the postcard-perfect azure ocean. The fright of the earlier flight was com-pletely forgotten, as I revelled in the warmth of the sun, and sipped on a cocktail while the sound of the ocean intermingled with the laid-back music coming from the bar.
To really get relaxing down to an art, there is Maji Spa. Maji means “water” in Swahili, and is aptly named because of the cascading water of the water feature just next door, as well as the calming ambiance that the spa exudes to those who visit. Upon arrival, the feet of the guests are washed with flower-infused warm water, be-fore beginning their chosen treatment. In my opinion, there is nothing better than a massage after a long bout of travelling.
Laying down with just the sounds of the gentle water feature outside the open win-dow and the smell of the flowers beneath my face coaxed me into a state of utter calmness. Happiness, my masseur, liberally spread coconut oil infused with ylang-ylang over my back, and proceeded to knead away the knots I had been developing hunched over my laptop. After an hour of soothing pampering, leaving me in a state of utter relaxation, I ventured to my villa to continue my day of pampering and relaxa-tion.
Space and elegance. Those are the two words that I would use to describe my Con-stance Aiyana villa. Scattered over the pathway leading to the traditional wooden Zanzibari front door of my villa were purple petals from the overhanging bougainvil-lea tree. I entered the lounge, and while the simplistic décor with traditional pops was intriguing, my gaze immediately went to the glass doors on the other side of the room. Through them, the outdoor sala had two loungers, perfectly positioned to look out to the ocean. The bright bathroom looked out to a small, private garden through a glass wall, where there was also an outdoor shower. Inside, the free-standing tub
looked out to the greenery, and wooden steps atop grey stones led to the indoor shower. All amenities – soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash – are or-ganic and locally sourced.
After watching the sunset dip below the horizon from my sala, I made my way to the restaurant for dinner. Plant life and sculptures lined the way, an ode to the resort owner, Ashok Sungkur’s love for art. He is a sculptor himself, and many of the wood pieces found around the resort were created by him. His son, Max Sungkur, too, is an artist, and the onsite gallery and the villas house his vibrant paintings.
Artistry is not only seen in the artworks, but also during the three-course dinners. The dinner menu changes daily, but always has a traditional Swahili dish option. I opted for the local cassava stew of local spices and deep fried coconut-breaded fish. The clay pot was brought to the table, and as the waiter peeled off the pastry top, fragrant stream billowed. Mouth salivating, I heaped a generous portion on my plate, along with aromatic rice and traditional salad sides. With a glass of Leopards Leap Shiraz from the well-stocked wine cellar of international brands, I ate heartily, knowing that tomorrow I could walk it off.
Constance Aiyana offers guests the chance to tour the local villages neighbouring the resort via bicycle. Due to my lack of skill on two wheels, I opted to walk instead. My guide, Abedi, led me around the village, speaking about local customs and cul-ture of the farming community. Our stop was the over a century old lighthouse, from which the views of the island and ocean stretch. As we made our way back to the resort, we stopped while one of Abedi’s friends climbed a palm tree for coconuts, then proceeded to deftly tear away the outer shells and puncture them so that Abedi and I could drink coconut milk straight from the shells.
Constance Aiyana is a destination all on its own. The luscious plant life, interesting artworks, gracious staff, and immaculate accommodation intertwines with the local land to create a distinctive destination. I would happily hop on tens of small aircrafts just for another night at Constance Aiyana.
For more information, visit www.constancehotels.com.