As we kayak through the mangrove swamp with only an occasional birdcall breaking the silence. I ask my backseat driver how he came to be playing Robinson Crusoe.
Easy, he says. Working for an office automation company in Durban was getting a little dull. We paddle on through the magical mangroves, then Tristan Jenkins helps me back into the speedboat and we return to Quilalea, a private island in the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique.
Jenkins is the watersports master, and he’s a whole lot happier on his tiny island than he ever was selling printers. Another South African much enamoured by Quilalea is ANC stalwart Tokyo Sexwhale, who bought it in 2008 for $70 million. His island is now run as an elite resort by Azura Retreats and offers heavy discounts to South Africans.
Island-hopping in Mozambique is best done by helicopter or a small plane rather than by boat. It’s pricey, but worth it for bragging rights and because it’s a fabulous way to admire the stunning white sand islands cast across and Indian Ocean of iridescent blue. You can walk around Quilalea in about an hour. Following a trail past stately Baobabs. Its nine villas are discreetly isolated, each with a lounge, a working area, outdoor showers and wooden deck leading to the beach. A reef runs right in front of the island so you can snorkel from the shore. Meals are usually served in the garden or on the beach, and the food is excellent. It’s a place to go for solitude, beauty, and to contemplate whether your own life could have taken a different turn along the way.
Nearby Medjumbe is another stunning island where the only buildings belong to the Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa. Each thatched villa has a beachfront, while the airy main building of thatch and wood has a tepid swimming pool facing the ocean, a snug library upstairs under roof beams, large lounges with squishy chairs for lazing away the days, and a long terrace perfect for al fresc0 dining. You can eat lobster for every meal including breakfast, but after a few days of over-indulgence, it’s perfectly okay to ask for cornflakes. The spa is in a thatched hut where the sound of waves lulls you through your massage.
For a day trip the delightfully friendly staff whisk you off tinier island to snorkel, while the boatman grill up a seafood extravaganza.
To experience the real Mozabique for a while, try Pemba, a typical town with a lively market and an air of waiting for an economic boom after years of hardship. The Avani Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa has an infinity pool by the the beach, a gym, spacious bedrooms and a restaurant on a sunny terrace. It’s a ten-minute drive from the airport and those helicopters promising escapism on the islands.
At the southern end of Mozambique is the Bazaruto Archipelago, just a short hop from from Vilanculos airport on the mainland. This is where you find the gorgeous Azura Benguerra Resort, an eco-friendly lodge in a marine national park. Activities include diving and scuba courses, snorkelling, pristine deserted beaches, horse riding and sunset cruises. A highlight is an island tour where guide Paulo Zivane talks about medicinal uses of the plants, takes you dune-climbing and to visit a school supported by the lodge. There’s a fully-equipped spa, the funkily decorated Jellyfish restaurant, and 18 luxurious villas, each with their own small pool and his ‘n hers outdoor showes. In evenings, be sure to challenge the barmen to a game of Tsoro, the addictive board game of strategy and seedpots.
TEL: +27 21 426 0991
FAX: +27 21 422 0337
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