Co­ral is­lands, trop­i­cal fish and a lux­ury re­sort await

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION MOZAMBIQUE - KARA MUR­PHY

The dhow’s creamy la­teen sail bil­lows proudly against sap­phire skies and the sleepy 8km stretch of In­dian Ocean be­tween north­ern Mozam­bique’s main­land and Med­jumbe, the pri­vate is­land on which I’m stand­ing. From here, the dis­tant craft re­sem­bles a toy mov­ing lazily with the wind; how­ever, tra­di­tional Ara­bian wooden boats such as this have nav­i­gated these wa­ters with in­tent for more than 1200 years. In ad­di­tion to the un­hur­ried beauty the ves­sel lends to the scene, I’m re­minded how far I am from home.

One of 32 is­lands in the more than 200km-long Quirimbas ar­chi­pel­ago, Med­jumbe hosts a sin­gle lux­ury prop­erty, the 12-villa, adults-only Anantara Med­jumbe Is­land Re­sort, ac­ces­si­ble via a 45-minute he­li­copter trans­fer from Pemba air­port. En route, we whizzed over hump­back whales teach­ing their calves the tail­slap­ping chore­og­ra­phy of the sea; some of the man­groves, reefs, and sand­bars that link this ar­chi­pel­ago to the main­land; and eight other low­ly­ing is­lands, in­clud­ing Ibo, an an­cient set­tle­ment with a tra­di­tional cul­ture and his­toric build­ings that Med­jumbe guests can ex­plore on an op­tional ex­cur­sion.

The only dated ar­chi­tec­ture on Med­jumbe is a dis­used 1930s light­house, now the lonely haunt of egrets and other sea birds as well as the best place to catch the sun­rise. The re­sort it­self – a ca­su­ally airy, thatched main build­ing hous­ing the restau­rant and lounge bar, spa villa, dive/wa­ter­sports hut, 12m swim­ming pool, and the guest vil­las – was built in 2005 and most re­cently re­fur­bished in 2016. While some guests dab­ble in the ar­chi­pel­ago’s his­tory via an ex­cur­sion or two, Med­jumbe is more of a place to re­lax, com­mune with the ocean and feast on the fresh seafood – lob­ster, crab, squid, fish and prawns – that dhow fish­er­men de­liver daily.


The 36sq m vil­las face the north­ern beach – five west of the main build­ing and seven to the east. All have thatched roofs, ex­posed beams, white­washed floors, king, queen, or twin beds, and walls adorned with cheer­ful hand­made bas­kets and tex­tiles. A com­pli­men­tary mini bar with beer, wine and so­das along with plunger cof­fee and choco­late short­bread en­sures reg­u­lar re­fresh­ment, and a pri­vate out­door shower com­ple­ments the in­door bath and shower. The villa’s most re­lax­ing el­e­ment, though, is the pri­vate out­door deck which, with its lounge chairs, ta­ble, plunge pool, and beach and ocean views, in­spires bouts of lazi­ness, read­ing and con­tem­pla­tion.


Rates in­clude all meals (as well as lo­cal house wines, beers, and spir­its), and it’s pos­si­ble to dine in your villa for no ex­tra charge – some guests take all their meals there, says re­sort co­man­ager Michelle Pre­to­rius. But as invit­ing as the vil­las are, it’s worth step­ping away oc­ca­sion­ally.

Restau­rant seat­ing op­tions in­clude the beach, a ter­race, and in­doors. A more in­ti­mate op­tion is Din­ing by De­sign, where staff mem­bers cre­ate a ta­ble and seat­ing in the sand, fur­ther down the beach. You have to be cau­tious (you don’t want the sand “fur­ni­ture” to col­lapse be­fore you fin­ish dessert), but the canopy of stars and the ro­mance of the set­ting make any gin­ger mo­tions worth­while.

The most ex­clu­sive meal lo­ca­tion, though, is on an­other is­land. Smaller Quis­sanga Is­land – de­serted ex­cept for a rus­tic pavil­ion and se­cu­rity staff – is just a 15-minute boat ride west.

Some cou­ples elect for the Star Bed Ex­pe­ri­ence, where they ar­rive for sun­set, tuck into a gourmet pic­nic ham­per, and spend a night on the beach, stargaz­ing from a comfy four­poster bed. If you can’t tear your­self away from your villa’s en­suite, though, visit Quis­sanga for a sump­tu­ous lunchtime pic­nic of fresh grilled seafood, sal­ads and South African wine, also tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore Med­jumbe’s anemone-rich house reef en route.

Even if you overnight on Quis­sanga, you’ll re­turn to Med­jumbe for break­fast, where a menu sug­gests items such as Is­land Bene­dict (served with lob­ster and cur­ried hol­landaise sauce) to ac­com­pany the pa­pay­atopped Bircher muesli and freshly baked Por­tuguese cus­tard tarts, crois­sants and pas­tries. This, how­ever, is the only menu you’re likely to see. In­stead, ex­ec­u­tive chef Car­los Azarias will pop by your ta­ble to chat about op­tions for lunch and din­ner which, de­pend­ing on the catch, might in­clude seafood dishes such as Mozam­bique prawn curry and red snap­per sashimi, along with non-seafood choices such as beef es­petadas and veg­e­tar­ian pasta.


Hol­landaise sauce and but­tery baked goods aside, the fare is mostly healthy. Still, your mind and body will thank you for some gentle ex­er­cise. A walk round the 1km-long is­land takes about 30-40 min­utes – at low tide, the beach can ex­tend an­other 600m out to sea. At this time, a western sand­bar ap­pears – ven­ture here when the tide is fall­ing and you’ll feel you’re float­ing into a sur­real work of art. Pad­dle board­ing to­wards pass­ing dhows is an­other way to draw your­self into this ex­otic seascape, as is the dhow sun­set cruise.


Be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber, mi­grat­ing hump­back whales fre­quent these wa­ters.


Ten dive sites of vary­ing dif­fi­culty are within a short cruise of the is­land for vi­brant co­ral and trop­i­cal fish.



Dis­cover a pri­vate is­land far, far away, and feast on fresh seafood at the adults-only Anantara Med­jumbe Is­land Re­sort.

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