with Roxy Louw – The Sunday Times
1 July 2018
Azura Benguerra is the perfect combo of stunning surrounds and luxury care, writes Claire Keeton
Out of the infinite blue, a hawksbill turtle swims towards us. It is unfazed asof the infinite blue, a hawksbill turtle swims towards us. It is unfazed as
it paddles alongside Roxy Louw, a former pro surfer, who says her spirit animal is the turtle.
Endangered sea turtles are often spotted in the
Bazaruto Archipelago National Park off central Mozambique, where we are snorkelling.
But Roxy ’s first close encounter with a turtle was in an unlikely place.
“Iwas walking my dog up the coast from Cape Town,” she says, “where the water is ice cold, and I saw a turtle stranded on the beach. We rescued it and it is still in the Two Oceans Aquarium today.”
After a decade spent surfing the world and modelling, Roxy studied yoga on Koh
Tao — the island of the turtle — in Thailand. On her first surfing trip to the island of Recife, Brazil, at 17, she saw a turtle and she has watched turtles hatching in Madagascar.
As she swam, Roxy demonstrated yoga poses, such as the Eagle and Bow, like a supple mermaid in the sapphire ocean. But the Cape Town-based celeb wasn’t the sole attraction underwater. Shoals of gorgeous reef fish and a blue-spotted stingray flowed by. Hard finger leather coral in pristine condition and other, soft corals glowed pink and orange in the fractured light.
The dazzling array of life around Two Mile Reef off Benguerra Island, where we stayed
at Azura Benguerra, surpassed all my prior snorkelling experiences, including places
like the Maldives, Madagascar and Thailand.
The water was crystal clear the first morning we went out with a friendly skipper and dive instructor, and no one in our group wanted to get out of the water.
Even though Azura Benguerra has a fivestar Padi dive centre, there was no need for scuba gear.
On the second morning out, the sea turned slightly murky from a bigger swell, but we saw hundreds of neon-splashed fish, including big tropical specimens.
As we headed back to the island, three humpback dolphins played around the bow. The Bazaruto Archipelago — six islands altogether, including Benguerra, Bazaruto and Magaruque —was Mozambique’s first marine national park, created in 1970.
Although it’s a beloved watersport haunt, Bazaruto is also a popular fishing destination
— gamefish, like giant travelly, are caught (and released) here, and winter is high season for sailfish.
It ’s difficult to picture that this balmy paradise, where the shade from dozens of lala palms along the beaches is soothing, ever has a winter. The villas, surrounded by greenery, all have an infinity pool out the front — and the sea.
Benguerra feels like a deserted island, although it is inhabited — the eco-friendly resort was built by the community and supports the local school and clinic.
ON THE WILD SIDE
There are three lakes —with Nile crocodiles — in the interior and the island has an abundance of other reptiles and birds. A flock of common bulbuls would splash every day in the villa’s pool.
Paddling in a sea kayak up to the North Point on my own, I got a sense of how far the island stretches. Approaching the panhandle strip of beach just across the channel from Bazaruto, I could hear the surf pounding the other side of the island.
I pulled up my kayak to cross over he dunes to the “wild side” before turning back to paddle along the sheltered west the sunset.
On another sunset trip with our group of five aboard a dhow, we drifted towards South Point.
But to really see the marine life from a different angle, you should try stand-up paddleboarding — or “supping ” —which offers the equivalent of a bird’s-eye view into the translucent water.
We also visited Pansy Island, which adjoins Bazaruto, where dozens of delicate pansy
shells adorn the sand and where we saw a live urchin on the shell.
Later we trudged to the top of the island’s highest dune to take in the 360-degree view
across the archipelago.
The next day our boatmen took us to a remote beach on Benguerra, where butler
Pedro Anderson and Azura’s other attentive staff had set up an elaborate picnic.
An awning provided shade for the
glamourous group. There were loungers, a
table with chairs and flowers, and drinks on
ice, and we feasted and unwound until we
were almost horizontal.
Great meals distinguished the days at
Benguerra, which runs on “island time” —
adjusted in winter to follow the sunrise and
sunset (marked by cocktails, of course).
Touching down in a helicopter at
Benguerra we reset our watches to what felt
like another realm, yet — as general manager
Peter Siebert points out —we were only 90
minutes by air from Joburg.
At dawn on our final day, Roxy led a
relaxing yoga class on her deck overlooking
the ocean. She is dedicated to this meditative practice but not ascetic about it and even offers pop-up “yoga and wine” classes in Cape Town. This year Roxy wants to lead a yoga retreat on Benguerra, which will blend right into the peaceful spirit of the island.
Azura Benguerra has the space for retreats like this but it’s also the ideal place to do nothing, where time is laid back and the hours drift into idyllic days.
Keeton and Schwankhart were guests of Azura Benguerra Island, Archipelago Helicopter Charters, SA Airlink and British Airways. Roving Ambassador and Travel with Flair organised the trip.
Go, Go, Go!
WHAT IT HAS
Azura Benguerra has 20 spacious villas overlooking the ocean with gorgeous island-style décor and every luxury, even a Nespresso machine and free wifi. The bathroom shower has mosaic art and the outside showers are huge. The villas have armchairs and desks, a private pool deck with daybeds and salsas
on the beach.
The Jellyfish restaurant, with its beaded jellyfish lights, is open to the ocean, as is the Star Bar, and there is a comfortable lounge and library with a good range of books. Beaded fish and sharks hang above the reception rafters where barn owls nest.
HOW’S THE FOOD
Chef Meera Johannes is the head chef for all the Azura resorts and she conjures up creative and delicious meals every day.
The fresh prawns were , naturally, fantastic and another local dish I enjoyed
as roasted white snapper with a coconut and ginger sauce. The desserts were
Villas are from R4 700 per person sharing per night during low season until July 31, and from R5 700 in high season. Children stay for free in the luxury and infinity villas. Contact : azura-retreats.com
Airlink (flyairlink.com) offers direct flights between Johannesburg and Vilanculos.
Return flights operate daily. From Vilanculos take a magic helicopter transfer over the ocean and reefs to Benguerra with Archipelago Charters. The flight costs R2 600 per person each way.