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Thanda Island - The Award-Winning Private Island in the Indian Ocean

By Katia Damborsky   Last Updated: 14 April 2023

Occupying a slice of the Indian Ocean roughly 30km adrift from Tanzania’s mainland, Thanda Island is a private island haven with exclusive access to a superyacht.

Since its opening in 2016, Thanda has been carving itself out as the best-kept secret in the Indian Ocean among those in the know. In spite of being crowned with numerous luxury travel awards, the island’s isolated situation has kept it reasonably under the radar.

Now though, the promise of an entire island to oneself coupled with access to a superyacht has meant this destination is not only up-and-coming amongst the jet-set elite; it’s also expected to pull in an increased number of superyachts.

The editorial team at YachtCharterFleet were lucky enough to be hosted on Thanda Island to get a taste for what visitors can expect when they visit the private island-marine reserve hybrid.

thanda private island and marine reserve aerial view
infinity pool on thanda island with sun loungers lined up next to it and sea in background
man swims next to whale shark off the coast of Thanda Island

The Olofsson's Vision

Ten years in the making, Thanda Island is the brainchild of experienced travel tycoons Dan and Christin Olofsson. The uber-entrepreneurial Swedish couple were on the lookout for their next venture that could double as an idyllic vacation spot primed for whiling away precious moments with friends and family.

The pair spotted the teardrop-shaped land mass, which measures just over one square kilometre, when they were flying over in a helicopter. Icing-sugar sand beaches swathed the entire perimeter, and a verdant coral ecosystem around the shores conjured up images of their grandchildren exploring an underwater world for hours on end. Additionally, the huge stretch of coral reefs meant that the island would be enclosed by calm waters and sheltered from the wrath of any large waves. 

After some investigation and negotiations with the Tanzanian government, the island was theirs, providing they complied with regulations to preserve and protect the coral reefs.

The State-of-the-art Villa

pool in front of villa accommodation on thanda island
glass-rimmed infinity pool with villa in background on thanda island
sun loungers next to pool on thanda islandglass-rimmed infinity pool on thanda island with indian ocean in background

The island’s principle guests areas are carved from one single building, wrapped around a spacious terrace overlooking the beach. A glass-rimmed infinity pool and alfresco dining sit at the centre, backed by an indoor area that functions as a family room, with wide French windows to allow light and air to flood in.

Embodying a delicate balance of comfort and elegance, this space feels convivial and warm.

family room on thanda island, with lounge seating and aquarium

Embodying a delicate balance of comfort and elegance, this space feels convivial and warm; sumptuous sofas are evidently meant to be reclined upon, and a Steinway piano and assortment of other instruments are meant to be played. Adding a unique touch to the room, an aquarium stretches out across one of the walls. Interior dining is offered here, alongside a fully-equipped bar and wine selection.

detailed interior shot of table in villas on thanda island
dining table on thanda island

This room sits the heart of the guest quarters, with a kitchen, large gym and a path to another portion of the island branching off it. Guests looking to enjoy movie nights while on the island can head upstairs to the entertainment room, which is complete with books, games a large television screen and a balcony facing the terrace. In the mornings, yoga sessions can be held on this balcony, looking out over a panorama of the glittering ocean.

entertainment room on villas of thanda island, with balcony overlooking the sea and sofa in foreground

Sofas are evidently meant to be reclined upon, and a Steinway piano and assortment of other instruments are meant to be played.

alfresco seating and dining area on terrace outside villas on thanda island

The villa accommodation comprises five suites, including one master suite which is separate from the other four, and benefits from its own dressing room and private coffee terrace.

The individual suites are a haven of pared-back neutrals, lofty ceilings and Cape Cod-esque accents. Tall windows bathe the space in light, and the bright whites make the rooms feel fresh and airy. 

A door leads to a private outdoor area, which volunteers a seating area and outdoor bath and shower; the height of decadence, considering the spacious shower inside.

villa suite on thanda island, with doors to the terrace open and massage table set up
en suite on luxury yacht thanda island
outdoor bath adjoining suites on thanda island
private terrace adjoining villa accommodation on thanda island

The family-focussed layout means that the other four suites are inter-connecting, and additional beds can be provided for a more flexible configuration.

Each area of the island is well-connected, with a raised boardwalk snaking from the guest accommodation to the other side of the island. The beach is peppered with relaxation areas, from fringed cabanas where guests can recline in the shade, to sun loungers primed for basking in the sun.

relaxing area on thanda private island

On the far side of the island, guests will find the staff accommodation, the solar farm and Helipad.

Luxury Bandas

traditional bandas on thanda island

Swahili-style bandas are located on a more secluded part of the island, and are composed of salvaged wood from the remains of local Arabian dhows – a traditional type of fishing boat native to these waters. Guests who wish to stay in the bandas will benefit from an authentic, Robinson Crusoe-style experience, balanced by modern amenities.

The structure of the buildings creates a fluid, open-plan layout that allows guests to feel at one with their surrounds. The downstairs serves as a living area while the upstairs houses a large bed and well-equipped en suite, with his and hers sinks and a dressing screen.

living area of bandas on thanda island
sinks in bandas on thanda island
accommodation in bandas on thanda island

Guests can choose between the villa accommodation and the bandas; both of which are luxurious options furnished with everything guests could possibly need. Wi-fi is available around all the living areas of the island, and is remarkably fast thanks to a sophisticated telecommunications system.

Multiple Dining Areas & Theme Nights

people dining in tent on the beach on thanda island

Before guests arrive, they are asked to fill out preference sheets detailing their culinary likes, dislikes and any necessary dietary requirements. The island's resident chef is then able to create a bespoke menu for each day of their stay, specifically tailored to their personal tastes.

Most meals are enjoyed on the villa's central terrace; however, Thanda Island offers various dining set-ups for guests to take advantage of. 

dining on the beach on thanda private island
alfresco dining area on thanda islandpizza on open hearth on thanda island

Guests can choose to dine at the rustic alfresco dining set-up on the far side of the island, which boasts an open hearth to allow guests to watch pizzas being prepared before their eyes. The area is illuminated by candlelight, and has a relaxed and convivial ambience that makes it perfect for larger groups.

For those looking for something more intimate, a romantic dining experience can be enjoyed in the shallows of the sea. Guests can expect to sample mouthwatering seafood while listening to the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore.

Those who wish to try traditional Tanzanian cuisine won't be disappointed, as the chefs can prepare a feast of curry dishes for guests to enjoy in a silky Bedouin tent on the beach. The menu is infused with fresh spices from Zanzibar, and the authentic setting is sure to make this dining experience one of the highlights of a Thanda Island vacation.

Tennis & Volleyball Court

people play tennis on sports court on thanda island

The floodlit sports court provides the perfect opportunity to get together with friends and family and have some fun playing tennis or volleyball. Guests can enjoy a light game before breakfast or at the end of the day, when the sun isn't uncomfortably hot. 

Thanda's staff are more than happy to get stuck in if guests need an opposing team, and those who wish to observe, rather than participate, will find shaded spectator seating flanking the court. 

Water Sport Activities

people riding jet-skis in the water around thanda island
people sailing in boats around thanda island
thanda's guests using kayaks in the sea around the island

When guests decide to take a dip in the sea, they can make the most out of a treasure trove of water toys and accessories. Stored in the boathouse by the beach, Thanda's staff are more than happy to assist guests to help them find what they are looking for. 

Thrill-seekers can take the Jet-Ski out for a spin, and enjoy hours of fun surfing the waves and looping around the island. Those looking for a more relaxed cruise will find kayaks, canoes and sailboats are on hand. 

family playing with inflatable bananas on thanda island
child snorkels in the marine reserve around thanda island

For the chance to take a look at Thanda Island's vast coral reefs, guests can grab snorkelling gear and Paddelboards, and while away the day gliding along the surface of the sea and exploring the wondrous underwater world. 

Further adding to the magic of this incredible destination, guests have the opportunity to swim alongside whale sharks. A large pod inhabits the waters around Thanda Island for most of the year, and the island is easily able to organise excursions for their guests to swim alongside these magnificent creatures.


woman practises yoga on stage on thanda island
gym in villa of thanda island, with treadmills and other gym equipment
yoga on the beach on thanda island

While on the island, Thanda's guests can expect to find a selection of activities designed to rebalance the mind and help them reconnect with an inner sense of peace. Guests can enjoy a yoga session overlooking the water, or practice meditation with the assistance of a professional instructor.

In addition, those looking to stay active on Thanda Island will be pleased to find a well-equipped gym.

Relaxation & Spa Treatments

woman relaxes in copper bath on the beach surrounded by lanterns on thanda island
guest on thanda island receives massage on the terrace
cabana on sandy beach on thanda island

Dotted around the island, guests will find dedicated relaxation spots where they can stretch out and doze off in peace and privacy.

But if Thanda's tranquil setting isn't enough to put guests at ease, they can take it one step further and indulge in a variety of spa treatments designed to pamper and unwind. Professional masseurs will melt away stress using scented oils imported from Zanzibar, and reiki session will help ease tensions and contribute to a feeling of wellbeing.

As the sun goes down, guests can enjoy a copper bath on the beach. Infused with scented oils and fresh flowers, this is the ultimate way to end the days on Thanda Island. 

Thanda Island Yacht Cruise

crew greets guests stepping on board luxury motor yacht over the rainbow
alfresco dining area on board classic charter yacht over the rainbow
maps and charts on board motor yacht over the rainbow

With private access to a luxury yacht, guests are able to experience the breathtaking scenery and incredible natural wonders around Thanda Island. 

The staff will create a bespoke itinerary for guests ahead of their stay.  The Yacht Cruise is flexible, and guests can choose to venture as far as Zanzibar and Pemba Island, or stay in the area and visit the islands of Mafia and Bwejuu. Wherever guests choose to go, they can expect to cruise this unspoilt region in comfort and style on board the 35m/115ft motor yacht 'Over the Rainbow'.


marine biologist rianne laan above her coral nurseries on thanda island
baby hawksbill turtle freshly hatched on shore of thanda island
coral nurseries in seas surrounding thanda island
egret eggs in nest on thanda island

Although the Olofssons have leased the island for the next forty years, they were set on adopting an environmentally-conscious and sustainable approach to the retreat’s build and design. As a result, the island has its own salination plant to harvest and recycle water for its guests, and the entire island is powered by solar energy.  A few years ago, the WWF stepped in to plant trees on the island which would help maintain the local ecosystem.

In addition, the couple has also considered a future where the island may have to return to its natural state. To ensure that all the infrastructure on the island can be removed without leaving a trace, everything has been built on stilts. 

Thanda Island also plays a huge role in supporting the protected coral reefs encircling the island. A marine biologist is on hand to cultivate coral farms, as well as conducting studies to help foster a long-term future for the reefs. 

Getting There

staff wait to give cocktails to guests arriving via helicopter on thanda island
woman looks out at thanda island from helicopter window
family get out of helicopter on thanda island

The nearest international airport is Dar es Salaam Airport (DAR), also known as Julius Nyerere Airport, which is located on mainland Tanzania. From the airport, Thanda Island’s guests can choose a forty-minute helicopter journey straight to the island, or a chartered plane to neighbouring Mafia Island followed by a boat journey, which takes roughly an hour in total.

Whichever option you choose, a representative from the connecting airline will meet you at the gate at Dar es Salaam  to organise your visas, collect your bags and escort you to a car which will take you to a local airport just five minutes’ away. You will go through additional security before boarding your flight and enjoying complimentary refreshments.

The helicopter will touch down on Thanda's private helipad, and you will be met by staff offering Thanda's signature fruity cocktails.

The private plane will descend into Mafia Island, a neighbouring island in the Zanzibar archipelago. From here, Thanda's staff will meet you in a car and transfer you and your luggage to a jetty on the island, where the island's sleek power boat awaits you. The boat journey takes twenty minutes, and is accompanied by chilled champagne.

sun setting over thanda island aerial shot

Discover More About our Stay on Thanda Island

In December 2018, the editorial team at YachtCharterFleet had the opportunity to stay on Thanda Island and discover first-hand everything that this luxury private island has to offer its guests. To learn more about our experience, from the dining to the unique activities available, you can read our Thanda Island Review


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