*As seen in The Logbook. Issue 4.
Remote and amazingly beautiful, Lupita Island Resort is a luxurious, mostly private accommodation offering guests the opportunity to relax and enjoy the sublime views of one of the world’s oldest lakes and the Tanzanian mountains. While it offers the kind of activities that one would expect at a five-star luxury resort such as spa treatments, day activities and fine dining; it is the location and the wonderful ambiance of Lupita Island that makes this a truly unique and special destination.
We spoke with Belinda Lithgow, one of the directors who saw the creation of the Lupita Island Resort. She relates how prior to the resort Lupita Island was remote, deserted and unused. One of a cluster of islands in Lake Tanganyika and one of the only ones that had not been settled upon or used for fishing.
“We approached the local government regarding building our resort here,” she explains, “And they were excited about the prospect. It took four years to construct and we have gone to great lengths to retain the natural beauty that attracted us to the island in the first place.”
Lupita Island is 110 acres in size and is located on Lake Tanganyika in Western Tanzania which is the longest lake in the world, the second oldest and the second deepest. It is a stopping point for many migratory birds and this is where its name Lupita comes from, which means “a place to rest on the way to somewhere else.”
Ten lavishly decorated thatched-roof living spaces and two family cottages are now the main buildings on the island and blend in wonderfully with the natural vegetation. All of the villas have been carefully arranged to offer uninterrupted views of the lake and the mountains of which Tanzania is famous for, while providing privacy for the occupants.
WHAT TO EXPECT.
Belinda explains that luckily, Tanzania doesn’t really have a winter period, instead it has dry and wet seasons. So, the weather is warm all year round, “Our busiest times are June, July, August and December into January and February,” she says, “As those do coincide with many holiday times.”
Getting to the island is as enjoyable an experience as staying there. The journey is really an extension of the sort of luxury that is making Lupita Island one of the top destinations for executives. Guests normally fly in from Arusha/Serengeti and land at their private airstrip in Kipili where they are met by Lupita Island Staff. Then it’s a 10-minute drive to their mainland jetty and then only 10 minutes by speedboat to get to the island.
Belinda reveals that they have managed to designate the bay between Lupita and its nearest neighbor as protected. She hopes this will encourage fish populations to grow. Already, snorkeling is a very popular activity where you get the chance to explore the rocks around the island and view the cichlids in the water. There is also kayaking, opportunities to handline fish with the locals from their wooden boat and a chance to explore the surrounding area. There is a lot of historic value in the location, such as the abandoned monastery about 10 minutes from the jetty on the mainland. Swimming is naturally very popular as are the sundowner cruises with cocktails and canapes to end off a busy day. Or maybe you would prefer a fully catered buffet on a deserted beach on one of the other islands?
Belinda says that they have a lot of families and groups of friends who come to the island, but they don’t encourage children of seven or under, unless circumstances are discussed beforehand.
“Many of the activities are for older groups and may not be suitable for very small children,” she explains, “Lupita Island is a great place to come and recharge, reconnect and enjoy your time. It has been designed for people wanting to escape the cities and the offices to have some real downtime.”
The remoteness and the difficulty in transportation of materials and supplies were a challenge when they first began construction for Lupita Island Resort. While construction teams were dealing with that, Belinda was dealing with another challenge. A more community focused one.
“It was important to educate the villages and fishermen as to what tourism is all about. How we can work together and learning how to conserve the area while still keeping a good relationship,” she says.
“I personally spoke to the villagers and fishermen and the local government officials,” she says, “We have a positive relationship and in time I think it will go a long way in understanding each other’s needs. This is their home and as such they need to feel respected and heard.”
THE BUSINESS DRIVING BUSINESS TO LUPITA ISLAND.
Firelight safaris is a tour operation that books safari itineraries for the discerning traveler. And is the business running Lupita Island Resort’s booking and activities. They specialize in finding “out of the way” places, in areas that are not overrun by tourists. The sort of properties that do not pop up first on a Google search.
“Hidden and amazing destinations,” Belinda says, “We customize each itinerary working closely with our clients to put together a unique package suited to all their needs. We make sure everything is covered and no request is left unanswered.”
The business has been in operation since 1989. Originally starting with a mobile camp exploring the Northern circuit including Serengeti, where they camped in the Ngorongoro crater and other amazing parks. At that time there were very few tourists and seeing a lion kill was a very private affair. These were the days when the north of Tanzania was a wild, beautiful destination that was tourist free.
“Over the years we set up a semi-permanent camp in Serengeti and in Katavi National Park,” Belinda says, “But as the Serengeti and the North became more popular and “safari trips” became more commercialized we decided to close our Serengeti camp as we were not able to sell that unique destination we were promising. This gave us the chance to look for other destinations to sell to our clients.”
TRAINING AND RELATIONSHIPS.
All the staff at Lupita Island Lodge are trained locally onsite. Covering all aspects of the hospitality industry this education gives many opportunities to the locals. Especially the young people from surrounding fishing villages who have never worked before or done any type of life skills training except at school.
Belinda explains that their commitment to this sort of endeavour helps them build up lasting relationships not only with their staff but with the community. It’s these sorts of relationships that generate the real value that Belinda treasures.
“Officials who have come to visit us over the years have become friends,” she says, “Guides who trained with us are now people who I am in contact with in their every day lives. Staff who we trained many years ago and worked for us have gone on to open their own successful businesses. I can go to most places in Tanzania and I will meet people who know me or who have had some good impact on their lives through Firelight Safaris. It is a very good feeling.”
ADDRESS: Lupita Island, Kipili, Lake Tanganyika
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +255784278639