Mark Sabourin from Ontario, Canada, offers us a glimpse of his recent trip to Tanzania… It became a habit. Return to the lodge mid-afternoon after two of the best scuba dives ever. Wash off the sea salt in an open-air shower. Nap, then rendezvous before dinner for a drink, sunset and the bat show at the best bar in the world.
The best bar in the world faces west, overlooking the kilometre of turquoise water that separates Chole Island from the main island of Mafia, off the coast of Tanzania. Formally, it’s the Red Herring, and one quickly suspects that Jean de Villiers, owner of both bar and nearby lodge, built it simply to give himself a perfect spot to sip a scotch at sunset. Why else build a bar on an island of 1,300 conservative Muslim residents?
From the open-air patio the view is of water and distant beach, dotted with a few low-slung huts and dhows at anchor. An inevitable concession to modernity: three cellphone towers now rise above the treescape.
Chole Island is a few ticks south of the equator. The sun sets quickly. Just as it touches the horizon, the bats appear, hundreds of them, as they make their nightly migration from Chole to Mafia.
It was precisely at such a moment that the Red Herring got its nickname, de Villiers explains. He and a visiting friend were sipping Taliskers. A lodge guest casually fly-fished in the waters below. “The fruit bats had just started flying over to Mafia across a crescent moon with the evening star almost inside the lunar circle, when a pod of dolphins decided to take the whole thing over the top by frolicking through.”
“Fucking hell, this must be the best bar in the world,” is what de Villiers recalls hearing from his friend.
“That seemed to sum it up,” says de Villiers, and he takes another sip.