Africa’s new Riviera: Seven special places to stay on Mozambique’s 1,500 miles of glorious beaches
Once considered an apres-safari wind-down, the Mozambique Riviera is emerging as a destination in its own right.
The coastline offers two enchanted archipelagos — Quirimbas in the north, Bazaruto in the south — a history which wraps together African, Arab and Portuguese influences, and 1,500 miles of beaches.
Yes, getting there can be a trek but it’s worth it. Here are some of the best places to stay . . .
Rest and relaxation
Diamonds Mequfi Beach Resort, pictured, is a series of bungalows on a secluded beach
Diamonds Mequfi Beach Resort is a series of bungalows on a secluded beach on a peninsula, 40 minutes’ drive from the port of Pemba. The entire place has been created to help you unwind — though you can also try windsurfing, kite surfing, fishing and diving.
Ibo Island Lodge, pictured, is a 11-bedroom guesthouse in a prime waterfront location, with gardens, good food and caring service
Once the business and cultural heart of the Quirimbas archipelago in the north of the Southern African country, Ibo has been a junction for the best part of a millennium — since Arab traders ranged the coastline in search of gold, ivory and slaves.
After independence from Portugal in 1975, Ibo suffered a mass colonial exodus. Ibo Island Lodge is a 11-bedroom guesthouse in a prime waterfront location, with gardens, good food and caring service.
Don’t miss: Tours of 16th century forts and crumbling Portuguese architecture.
Details: From £4,270 for two people staying seven nights, includes all meals, daily boat transfers to the lodge’s sandbank and island tour. Honeymooners get a private beach dinner and sundowner cruise, iboisland.com.
Rich in history
Jardim dos Aloes, Mozambique Island, is close to several museums, fortresses, mosques, churches and temples, as well as the British Memorial Cemetery
Jardim dos Aloes, Mozambique Island, is a family-run ‘friend’s house’ occupying a restored colonial property on Ilha de Mocambique — the former Portuguese capital where the local ruler, Mussa bin Bique, unwittingly gave his name to what became Mozambique.
Enjoy breakfast in the shade of almond trees and take a tour to museums, fortresses, mosques, churches and temples. At the mainland port of Lumbo, visit the British Memorial Cemetery, commemorating the dead of World War I.
Don’t miss: Homemade cakes, quiches and aloe products.
Details: A special package for 2017 offers seven nights B&B for the price of six, from £688 per room in low season, and up to £853 in high season. jardim-dos-aloes.com/en/
Viewed from beanbags, Azura Benguerra Island gives a fresh perspective on Africa
Dhows, the local name for fishing boats, are still built by hand on Benguerra
That whirring sound is the helicopter arriving from the mainland delivering another party of top lotus eaters. Ever since the Queen of Sheba stopped here to pick up pearls, the Bazaruto Archipelago has enticed colourful characters, the latest being John Bredencamp, the Zimbabwean business man, who manages Magaruque Island, and Thomas Flohr, founder of VistaJet, who is developing a resort on Benguerra Island.
Top property here is the Azura resort on Benguerra. A series of chic villas set in their own gardens with plunge pools and beach-front gazebos strung along a beach on the protected north-west coast. Azura is perfect for exploring the island’s weird topography, dominated by great dunes and crocodile-infested lakes. The resort funds the local school and supports the football-mad fishing community.
The Master Bedroom in the Presidential Villa at Azura Benguerra is decorated beach-chic style
Don’t miss: Island hopping around Bazaruto archipelago, especially Paradise Island, while dugong-watching.
Details: Red Savannah (redsavannah.com, 01242 787800) offers six nights all-inclusive in a Beach Villa, plus South African Airways flights from Heathrow to Vilanculos and helicopter transfers, from £4,455 per person.
Dunes and mangroves
Coral Lodge 15.41 is a relaxing and peaceful ten-villa lodge protected by dunes and mangrove forests, pictured
The ‘15.41’ in the name Coral Lodge 15.41 refers to the lodge’s co-ordinates — useful if you want to drop in by yacht or airship.
This is a relaxing and peaceful ten-villa lodge protected by dunes and mangrove forests, on a peninsula pointing towards the Island of Mozambique.
Don’t miss: Visits to uninhabited adjacent islands.
Details: £2,850 for two people staying seven nights, full board, newmarkhotels.com.
Good enough to eat
At the Dugong Beach Lodge — in the 30,000-hectare Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary — prawns are served sizzled and curried to perfection
Dugongs are marine mammals similar to sea lions, only friendlier. The waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago are their last sustainable natural habitat — they lurk in the seagrass.
An altogether more edible local speciality is the prized Mozambique prawn.
At the Dugong Beach Lodge — in the 30,000-hectare Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary — they are served sizzled and curried to perfection.
Don’t miss: Day trips around the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Details: £5,120 for two people for seven nights, full board, legendhospitality.co.za.
Back to basics
Mozambique is all about idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind resorts. Anvil Bay comes as close to glamping as it can without you sleeping rough. Comprising nine luxury canvas casinhas dotted along the coast in Maputo Special Reserve.
This creates a home-grown eco buzz in a pristine coastal setting, as well as a striking assortment of furniture seemingly evolved from the bush.
Don’t miss: Coastal elephants.
Details: A four-night full-board package for two from £1,600 pp, including helicopter transfer from Maputo, anvilbay.com.
The White Pearl Resort in Ponta Mamoli, pictured, is a cluster of timber lofts embedded in a hillside that cascades down to a lagoon
When the beach club set are priced out of St Tropez, they will come here.
White Pearl Resort, in Ponta Mamoli, is a cluster of timber lofts embedded in a hillside that cascades down to a lagoon.
The beach club vibe is conveyed by trendy ‘egg’ chairs, arty decor, day beds, good food and great service.
Don’t miss: Swimming with the friendly dolphins.
Details: Seven-night full-board stays for two people start at £7,750, whitepearlresorts.com
When Vasco de Gama anchored at this 86-acre island in the Quirimbas in 1498, he would have noticed some 200 species of bird, nesting turtles, a rare coral ‘garden’ just off the main beach and 58 baobab trees.
Its beauty remains unchanged, but for a scattering of luxury villas. Now run by Stella and Chris Bettany, and superbly managed by Leon Joubert and Claudia Pellarini, Azura Quilalea offers the ultimate African private island getaway. You will leave with a blissful glow thinking that life really does have its moments.
Don’t miss: Snorkelling or scuba diving around the reef-garden.
Details: Seven nights in a Kaskazi Villa costs from £9,642 for two, azura-retreats.com/azura-quilalea. This fully inclusive rate (all meals and activities) excludes helicopter transfers, which are booked automatically at £443pp.