Matemwe Retreat, Zanzibar

Zanzibar. The name alone conjures up a mystical, far-off land with exotic charm. This island off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean has such a rich history of sultans and slave traders and spices markets. It’s all a bit surreal.

I am sweaty and a bit weary after the flight over from the mainland, then a one-hour drive to the northeast coast of Zanzibar, to Matemwe Beach where I will relax and unwind for two days after doing a safari in the Serengeti. Happy as always to be handed a fresh fruit drink and a refreshing cool towel upon arrival, I leave the regular world behind and enter Matemwe Retreat. Once escorted to my secluded “villa” my jaw drops. What I thought was a public outdoor lounge area is actually mine, all mine.

My secluded home, “Safina,” is one of four on the property, as well as a lodge of 12 stand-alone rooms, and one private beach house. The open-air villa has shuttered doors all around leading out to a gorgeous, wooden veranda complete with thatched roof, hammock, several couches and seating areas, and an outdoor bar made from what looks like the dhow (traditional Swahili wooden boat) that ply the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean below, which I can see from my deck. Local craftsman built all the villas and most of the furniture was made from locally produced coconut wood.

It’s not a tent by any means, but the open air and exposure to all the humidity, heat, (and yes bugs—wasps and bees as big as hummingbirds) can make it feel like camping, if camping was living in a massive wooden and terra cotta-washed concrete domain.

The bedroom and bathrooms are huge and the entire villa is adorned with local touches including gorgeous Arabian-style glass and metal lanterns. Just up a spiral wooden staircase reveals another jaw-dropping surprise—an amazing rooftop terrace with plunge pool, lounge chairs, a large sectional couch and room for a party with 30 of my closest Tanzanian friends, if I had any.

“Anything you need, you just call me,” says Zuberi my dedicated butler during my stay. He’s from Pemba (another island nearby) and has worked for Asilia, the company that owns Matemwe Retreat for several years. He says he loves his job and has the ability to transfer to other properties they have on mainland Tanzania or Kenya for a change of pace.

At dinnertime, Zuberi arrives to escort me to the central, open-air dining room restaurant for a special twice-weekly BBQ night. There’s an outdoor bar with comfy sofa seating areas and lanterns all around. It’s a luxurious place, but with a quiet, laid-back vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously. For all my other meals, I just stay at “home.” I’m thrilled with the idea of just doing nothing…and mostly enjoying my “villa” life for my short visit here.

For my in-house dining, Zuberi brings my meals right to me to eat on my veranda. I’m spoiled with wonderful French-press coffee, fresh, local fruit, eggs-my way, and anything I want for breakfast. Just watch out for the local crows! These big birds are crafty and the one time I step away from my table to grab my camera, they swoop down and nab my rolls. Zuberi says they’ll eat anything and, he’s right as I later see one dipping his beak into my coffee. Lunch varies, but I enjoy a delicious quiche served on top of some of the tastiest roasted vegetables I’ve ever had. At dinner, I opt for soup, seafood and cous cous and vegetables. And of course, there’s a mini-bar stocked with all the beer and wine I could ever want.

I have trouble leaving my oasis for the two days, but if I wanted to there are also snorkeling trips, a reef walk, sailing, kayaking, fishing trips, and kite surfing. Beach access is just a short stroll down two different paths on the property. Locals are out every day fishing and looking for octopus and other seafood in the shallow waters.

I spend much of my time upstairs lounging by the pool. It’s bliss and an amazing romantic getaway, as honeymooners often come here. Next time I’ll just have to not come alone!

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Extreme Outdoors

Sitting on a beach. Walking tours. Visiting Museums.

Did simply reading that first line nearly put you to sleep? I nearly feel asleep writing it. Let’s try this again.

Helicopter rides. White water rafting. Off-roading.

If reading that line spiked your heart rate, I’d reckon you’re longing for a good old fashioned outdoor adventure. But not just any romp in the wilderness, you fancy something a little more extreme. Well my thrill-seeking friend, you are far from alone.

In fact, more travelers than ever before are ditching their Mai Tais, walking shoes and audio guides for water bottles, hiking boots and helmets as they seek out the thrills of adventure travel. This thirst for heart-pounding activities has turned adventure travel into a $263 billion a year industry (that doesn’t include the $82 billion spent on related adventure gear, apparel and accessories) and the fastest growing segment of the leisure travel industry according to a 2013 study conducted by George Washington University.

While extreme outdoor adventure can, in some cases, be found near traditional hotels, why would you just dip your toe into the great outdoors when you could jump all the way in? Why drive into nature for only a few hours when you could stay, eat, sleep, and play in nature 24-hours a day?

That’s where glamping comes in. With glamping, you can experience the comforts of a hotel, all while being within the epicenter of the outdoor adventures you’re seeking. And the sounds of crickets, babbling brooks and crackling campfires, those won’t be coming from a sound machine.

So to get you thinking about your wild escape, here are just a few epic outdoor activities and a sampling of properties that’ll let you release your inner adrenaline junky like never before.

Helicopter Adventures

PHOTO 1 Image Credit “Nimmo Bay Website”

For the ultimate in helicopter adventures, look no further than Nimmo Bay, a tiny, family-owned wilderness resort located in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Here, you can heli fly fish, heli kayak, heli stand up paddle board, heli hike or just heli picnic. What exactly does that mean? It means you and your provided gear will be picked up by a chopper and flown to remote and pristine locations to fly fish, kayak, paddle board, hike or dine. Now that’s extreme!


PHOTO 2 Image Credit “The Resort at Paws Up Website”

Picture this: you’re standing on the edge of a 170 foot cliff, the Blackfoot River tumbles by below and beyond that, a picture perfect Montana valley-scape. This is the scene for your rappelling adventure at The Resort at Paws Up. With harness and ropes secure, you turn around, back facing the 170 drop below, and take your first step off and down the cliff. A few leaps and bounds later, you’ll be at the bottom smiling from ear to ear ready to do it again.

Hot Air Ballooning

PHOTO 3 Image Credit “Mahali Mzuri Website”

The views on the ground at Sir Richard Branson’s safari camp, Mahali Mzuri, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve are legendary (from the comfort of your tent’s balcony you’ll see giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and more). But gently and quietly float hundreds of feet above the ground in a hot air balloon at sunrise, and this landscape, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring, will truly get your heart racing like never before.


PHOTO 4 Image Credit “ Brush Creek Ranch Website”

If your idea of a extreme outdoor adventure calls for a little more firepower, then hunting at Wyoming’s The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is for you. Amidst massages and fine dining, you can head out into the 30,000 acre property with expert guides to hunt for ducks, deer, antelope, elk and more. The trill of the hunt never felt this good.

River & Ocean Kayaking

PHOTO 5 Image Credit:Credit “Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Website”

While Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located on west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has it all (from heli adventures, to rock climbing, to fishing and horseback riding), don’t pass up the opportunity to hone your kayaking skills under the supervision of expert guides. Whether you want to learn to navigate small rapids or paddle in search of bears, whales and eagles, you’ll end your day feeling even more confident for tomorrow’s extreme adventures.

Main Image Credit:“ Brush Creek Ranch Website”

Day 2 at Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Day 2 at Jean-Michel Cousteau resort started with waking up to the sounds of morning rain against the thatched roof of our bure.

The room was still cozy so I made some local Fijian coffee with the coffee maker in the room and read for a bit before heading over to the main bure for breakfast.

The staff is so personable here, they make sure you never go more than a few minutes without being asked if you need anything. I ordered a Flat White (my favorite Australian morning beverage) and the spicy omelette which was one of the featured specials.

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The rain continued intermittently throughout the morning, but that did not stop much activity. Guests were enjoying swimming in the pool and many of the other activities the resort has going on each day.

My husband and I chatted with Bart, the hotel’s operations director who told us that the rain was supposed to let up in the late morning and clear up by lunch. He suggested we take a trip to the resort’s private island during the afternoon.

After a light (and delicious) lunch of lamb and soup, Gabby from the activities center loaded us up on one of the resort’s boats for the 5 minute ride to the island.

The boat ride was beautiful and fun and few hours spent on the private island were an unforgettable highlight of the trip.

The island has a kayak for two, bathroom facilities, a beach hut with a table, and two chairs located at the exact point where high tide hits. Gabby left us with a color full of Fiji Gold Beer and water, an emergency medical kit, and a two-way radio so we could contact him if we wanted to be picked up earlier than the designated time we set a few hours later.

My only regret was forgetting to bring my snorkel gear– the island is surrounded by crystal clear water and would have been an excellent place to snorkel.

It was fun to frolic on a truly private beach, and when the sun got too strong to cool off in the beach hut with a cold Fiji Gold.

When we left the island I understood why guests like to book it for a special picnic lunch or a romantic dinner.

My afternoon on the private island is one I’ll never forget.

Once Gabby returned and got us back to the resort, it was time to drink a young green coconut. We had light snacks in the bar before heading back to our bure for the night.