Does the thought of glorious sunshine, a pearl white powdery beach devoid of tourists and the most azure of oceans tempt you? Coupled with a special offer saving, how can one resist?
In fact, I have three very tempting ideas for Mozambique, all of which offer some seriously exciting savings at the time of writing:
This is a truly stunning corner of the globe and the glittering Quirimbas and Bazaruto archipelagos comprise spectacularly unspoilt islands. I have had the most fabulous experiences here and I hope to inspire you with a relaxing, unique, culturally rich and different beach holiday at a wonderful reduction!
After a slow descent into paradise where shavings of the whitest sand banks scattered amongst a hundred shades of turquoise flashed before my eyes, I landed in Vilanculos and its humble seaside airport.
As we made our way by road to the nearby jetty, I noticed the derelict remains of old and colourful Portuguese architecture combined with the aromas of spice infused food brewed over open street fires, filling the air generously and mixing with the warm salty breeze of the Indian Ocean.
Children laughed and waved furiously, shouting hello’s as we passed. Traditional dhow sailboats dotted in the bay, transporting eager fishermen between fishing hotspots. I closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply…I had arrived in Mozambique!
Benguerra , Bazaruto and the Quirimbas offer unusual experiences that are remote and uncrowded, and still very much true to an African beach holiday, without foregoing any of life’s luxuries!
Expect to find beautiful beach spas, personal room stewards, superb cuisine, large villas with private beach gardens and plunge pools and the perfect tropical setting of palm fringed, powdery beaches.
The villas are gorgeous and truly a home away from home. It is not necessary to leave your little sanctuary and one can while away the day enjoying al fresco showers, bathing in the ocean or your private pool, and indulging in massages under the shade of the palm tree in your garden.
When hunger strikes, only the freshest variety is on offer to guests. I was asked what I would like for lunch or dinner and each meal had been freshly caught out of the ocean!
Activities on offer are a superb addition to the day, and it is possible to really embrace the nature of both land and sea, as well as the wonderful local culture.
Should you partake on an island drive, you may spot one of the 150 bird species that occur, and also see red duiker and suni antelope, goats, chickens, crocodiles and other smaller wildlife such as endemic butterflies. The Benguerra archipelago was in fact declared a National Park in 1971, and consists of forests, savannas, and freshwater lakes and wetlands.
One can also visit the village and have an opportunity to speak to and interact with the friendly local people. A great deal of emphasis is placed on empowering the islands’ community, including the opening and consistent maintenance of the primary school.
Snorkelling expeditions are offered to a variety of reefs. I visited the Two Mile reef which is approximately twenty minutes by boat from the islands. There are six additional reefs on offer for guests to explore, but with its great reputation, this was the perfect choice.
I was utterly amazed at the immense diversity and the pristine quality of the reef itself with its hundreds of coral systems, prehistoric looking fish, devil manta rays, eels, turtles and other fascinating species. One member of our group was a serious snorkeler who explores reefs around the world, and commented that this was one of the best she had ever experienced.
These reefs provide the perfect habitat for over 2000 species of fish, as well as whales and dolphins. For those snorkelling or diving here, you are likely to come across giant lobsters, humpback whales, turtles, whale sharks, and manta rays.
Big game fishing is popular in these waters too, the deep channels that occur off of the islands are perfect for catching species such as Marlin and Barracuda.
It is also possible to delight in a sunset cruise on a traditional Portuguese Dhow fishing boat, which is hand-made by the locals - quite a feat when you get up close and witness the love and labour that has gone into the intricate stitching of the giant sails, and the way in which the boat itself has been crafted and painted.
Next I flew to Quilalea, a private island where there is only this one lodge. There are the most beautiful, large villas, dotted along the island, with views out across the ocean. If you are searching for privacy and exclusivity along with a stunning island setting and top-notch marine life, this is the place to go!
The diving is what sets this lodge apart – the island has a pristine house reef running along the entire western side of the island, where one can snorkel and dive. There are turtles nesting on the beaches and humpback whales pass by the island on their migrations, and can be seen breaching just off the main beach.
There is also the opportunity to take a dhow boat out or one can kayak around the island’s deserted beaches. In addition, one can go night diving which is fabulous and allows you to see the nocturnal fish. One that you might see is the pineapple fish, a nocturnal predator, who uses bio-luminescent lures to attract small prey close to its hiding place.
The food again was fabulous, fresh, with lots of sushi and sashimi - simply gorgeous. The contrast of the two islands is completely complementary although certainly Quilalea, occupying its own island, does have a more exclusive feel, whereas Azura Benguerra definitely offers a more cultural feel.
On Benguerra one watches the multitude of fishermen going out in the mornings for their catch of the day and returning in the evenings and it simply has a buzzy, authentic African feel as one is definitely part of the island and its activities.
One thing to note about Mozambique are the tidal patterns. In the mornings at low tide, you can walk out for a good kilometre, inspecting shells that almost always hold their inhabitants intact.
In the afternoon and evenings, the ocean laps on the doorstep of your private beach garden and it is incredible to take just a few steps, and sink gently into the healing water...
This is one of the most amazing trips to consider, for something totally relaxing and so unique, and I cannot recommend the Bazaruto and Quirimbas Archipelagos highly enough as a stand-alone beach holiday or the perfect complement to a Southern Africa safari.
For me, Ibo Island is an important component of any visit to Mozambique, because with its rich history it allows one to understand the meaning of this country and how it evolved to the place it is today.
Ibo Island is amazing - like Zanzibar 50 years ago. It is an old, traditional island with colonial architecture, which although in decay in many places, is beautiful and elegant.
In AD600, Arab traders discovered Ibo and established fortified trading posts and forts along the coastline. They shipped slaves, gold and ivory to the Arab world. The island gained municipal status in 1763 but very little development occurred after the Portuguese left Ibo in 1975.
Today, craggy and old structures reflecting a deep legacy are intertwined with frangipani petals, the twisting roots of fig trees and bougainvillea. Visit a fort where political prisoners were incarcerated during the Frelimo Renamo war years where one is taken around this eerie building and given a potted history on life at the fort.
This is a rich part of history which you will be partaking in, and gives you a much deeper understanding of the country.
The place to stay is Ibo Island Lodge, a gorgeous, independently owned boutique hotel, originally the governor’s house and two other grand mansions, now sympathetically restored to their former glory.
There is a host of activities to choose from at the Lodge. You can kayak, the bird life is excellent for bird watchers, and there are also a couple of sand banks where you can snorkel. There are two plunge pools in two of the gardens and a large swimming pool where the main house is located.
My favourite reserve on the Cape coast! Stay at Kwandwe Private Reserve, set in 22 000 hectares in South Africa's Eastern Cape, for an experience with one of the finest wildlife reserves with some of the best guides I have come across. They have three gorgeous villas and two lodges.
They have a fabulous ‘young rangers’ programme (family programme) which really bonds the family together and teaches the children the ways of the bush.
The children learn skills such as bush cooking, how to track animals and take plaster casts of the prints, how to identify animals from their faeces, which trees and plants are used for medicinal properties (and which ones are used for toothbrushes and toilet paper!). There is so much to entertain children in the bush! Although serious – the guides make it absolutely fun!
There is a village one can visit which is linked to Kwandwe. The village make a lot of items for Kwandwe’s curio shop, the proceeds of which then go directly back into the community.
Kwandwe also operate the Ubunye Foundation which has been very active in the local community, opening a library, setting up new classrooms for children using repurposed and brightly painted shipping containers, and supporting a women’s craft workshop.
As for traditional safari experiences, the wildlife here is astonishing! There are fabulous lion sightings, leopard sightings and most exciting of all – cheetah – which are becoming far harder to see in Africa as strong lion populations diminish cheetah populations.
Guests can take night drives in search of nocturnal species like porcupine and aardvark. There are also wildlife photographers who can accompany you to help you get that ‘perfect shot’. Then, the most precious experience of all – the chance to be part of a rhino darting exercise for conservation, to help protect these beautiful creatures who have been on our earth for 1.5 million years.
I have had the honour of taking part in this truly unique and humbling experience on my recent visit to Kwandwe and I highly recommend this to everyone, though it is dependent on having a rhino needing to be chipped and the availability of the vet, so this should be organised well in advance.
For $6000.00, the helicopter is deployed with the chief vet, who then dart the rhino/s. Guests assist in rolling the rhino to a comfortable position and help the vets to install a microchip in the horn.
The rhinos ear is also notched for identification purposes and other data taken. Their bloods are checked for health, they are given vitamins, and you are part of all of this!
You then see the rhino being given the antidote to the tranquiliser and woken up; it is aided and then it runs off into the bush. These processes are vital for conservation and the money that guests pay for this experience goes directly to anti-poaching work.
Kwandwe is gorgeous and luxurious and the villas have a real home from home feel. Whether walking or on a game drive, the hills surround you and there is a magic aura that settles onto this region as the sun sets. Truly dramatic – only surpassed by the staff themselves who are utterly wonderful and nothing is too much for them!
This collection of special offers are my recommendations for combinations that make for a truly exquisite holiday to Africa.
However there are so many other possibilities depending on your preferences, and this can always be tailored especially for you. If you are interested in any of the places I have recommended above, please do feel free to contact me for further information.
Images kindly supplied courtesy of Azura Retreats, Ibo Island Lodge, Kwandwe Private Reserve, Claudia Pellarini,