By: Lesley Stones
Chilling on Quilalea
Quilalea Azura Private Island is the perfect retreat with only nine luxurious villas on an otherwise uninhabited island. No more plans, just you and your partner in blissful solitude.
Quilalea sits in the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique, in a marine sanctuary of 32 picturesque islands. Getting there is as fabulous as the stay itself – by helicopter, skimming low over white sandbars set in iridescent turquoise seas. You can walk around the island in an hour, following a baobab trail past majestic trees and exploring rocks and beaches as you search for elusive monitor lizards.
Quilalea is run by South Africans Leon Joubert and Claudia Pellarini-Joubert, a couple of deep-sea diving and underwater photography experts. If you want to dive or improve your underwater photography, you’re spoilt for choice with 17 dive sites. Look out for humpback whales and turtles in season, and for dolphins all year round. The ocean is so warm that swimming, snorkelling and diving are always a pleasure, and a coral reef runs right in front of the island – you can walk down your wooden deck and see colourful coral and gaudy fish clowning around just meters away.
Quilalea’s villas are gorgeous, each with a huge bed and elegant mosquito net, although mozzies rarely reach these shores. There’s a writing desk, a lounge area, a complementary bottle of champagne to greet you, and lots of quirky touches, like a safe made from an old wooden chest. Each villa has a butler whose sole job is to make sure you’re, loving island life. For a real treat, ask him to organise a Baobab Bath. You’ll be banished from your villa for an hour while the staff fill an oval bathtub with thick frothy bubbles and scatter pink hibiscus petals on top. Then the butler discreetly disappears, leaving you both to soak as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean.
To relax even more, book a treatment at the spa overlooking the ocean. At meal times the tables are set up on the beach or in the garden. Chef Julio Manuel presents fabulous dishes like seared tuna, succulent calamari, juicy hamburgers and luscious granadilla ice cream.
Along the beach is the main lodge, with a bar and lounge inside, and the pool has a deep section for scuba lessons. If you want to go adventuring, try deep sea fishing, take a speedboat to kayak through a mangrove swamp, or visit Ibo Island, rich with architectural ruins and famous for its silversmiths.
Fly to Pemba in northern Mozambique and arrange a helicopter flip through to the hotel, or arrive by boat. Visit www.azura-retreats.com or call 011 467 0907 for bookings.