Par­adise Found

SLOW Magazine - - Must Go - Text: Dei­dre Loots Im­ages © Azura Benguerra

There are thou­sands of rea­sons why peo­ple fall in love with Mozam­bique – in­clud­ing end­less de­serted beaches, pris­tine reefs, sparkling turquoise seas, and the friendly, wel­com­ing peo­ple. Christo­pher and Stella Bet­tany, own­ers of Azura Benguerra, fell hook line and sinker for Mozam­bique the mo­ment they first touched the sand, and this year, their beloved Azura cel­e­brates 10 glo­ri­ous years of ex­cel­lence.

21°51’12.83”S | 35°26’ 18.79”E – these are the GPS co-or­di­nates of Azura Benguerra in Mozam­bique. It is in close prox­im­ity to ab­so­lutely noth­ing but the warm, tran­quil wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean. As our he­li­copter left the con­ti­nent be­hind in a lazy haze of African heat to later touch down on the abun­dant green of Benguerra, this peace­ful iso­la­tion made it­self known. Ap­proach­ing by air gave us an ex­cit­ing over­view of the oa­sis in which we would find our­selves for the next few days, and we hit the ground keen to ex­plore the is­land. Af­ter check­ing in and meet­ing our host and Azura Benguerra GM, Peter Siebert, we were in­tro­duced to our base for the next few days.

Peek­ing out at azure wa­ters through an as­sem­bly of trop­i­cal fo­liage are 20 hand-built vil­las, one of which we were to call home. They’re con­structed us­ing an in­dige­nous aes­thetic, with low-hang­ing wisps of thatch cam­ou­flag­ing the con­tem­po­rary, open-plan and spa­cious in­te­rior. Each boasts its own in­fin­ity pool, with ours ap­pear­ing to stretch out long­ingly to­wards the ocean.

Want­ing to see more but not quite ready to aban­don the splen­dour of my im­me­di­ate sur­rounds, I de­cided to fol­low the pool’s sug­ges­tion and stroll out onto the beach. Tak­ing in the calm blue wa­ters lined by an in­fin­ity curve of palms, I couldn’t help but feel strangely dis­con­nected from re­al­ity, yet strongly rooted to Mother Na­ture.

Benguerra of­fers a va­ri­ety of ways for guests to in­ter­act with their new-found en­vi­ron­ment. As it is part of a na­tional park, it’s re­plete with wildlife. We ex­pe­ri­enced a taste of this on our first out­ing – a snorkelling ex­pe­di­tion at Two-mile Reef. The reef of­fers some of the best marine-life sight­ings off the east coast of Africa, and it wasn’t too long be­fore we came across a tur­tle, fol­lowed shortly there­after by a mag­nif­i­cent stingray, gen­tly drift­ing along in the soft cur­rent. Other friends of the is­land in­clude hun­dreds of species of trop­i­cal fish, dol­phin, and the en­dan­gered and pe­cu­liar du­gong. At cer­tain times of the year, the hump­back whale also makes its pil­grim­age past the is­land.

Af­ter en­joy­ing the vis­ual feast of this un­der­wa­ter world, we were treated to a sim­i­larly im­pres­sive culi­nary spread pre­pared for us on the beach. Lo­cally sourced del­i­ca­cies in­clud­ing freshly caught fish made us feel as if we were truly liv­ing from the land, as na­ture in­tended.

What nat­u­rally fol­lowed was some­thing of a sunny sab­bat­i­cal – hours of re­lax­ation spent be­tween the beach and the ho­tel’s bar, li­brary, lounge, spa, wine cel­lar and restau­rant, Jel­ly­fish. Par­tic­u­larly good for freshly sunned skin is the spa’s Tribal Tra­di­tions mas­sage, which sees you cov­ered head to toe in olive and shea but­ter, and then mas­saged us­ing African drum rhythms.

If your travel com­pan­ion prefers to move to the beat of his or her own drum while you get but­tered up, an out­ing to The Red Dune and Crocodile Lakes Drive is a great way to ex­plore the is­land. The drive winds its way through the di­verse trop­i­cal land­scape pop­u­lated by a medley of rep­tiles, birds and in­sects – some of which are en­demic to the is­land. Small lo­cal vil­lages punc­tu­ate the

route, so stop and meet the lo­cals, taste the in­dige­nous wild fruit, and even join an in­for­mal game of foot­ball while you’re at it. The is­lan­ders have an en­thu­si­as­tic foot­ball cul­ture, com­plete with an is­land league and week­end matches.

For the even more ac­tive, ad­ven­tures in the area are plen­ti­ful. Mount a horse and take a trot along the coast, jump on a boat and go deep-sea fish­ing for dorado or bar­racuda, or take a hike (in the nicest way pos­si­ble) up Bazaruto Dune to savour the 360° panoramic views of the ar­chi­pel­ago be­fore ex­plor­ing the old Por­tuguese ru­ins of yes­ter­year.

On re­turn­ing from my own ad­ven­tures for the day, I stepped onto the deck to find that a can­dlelit beach din­ner had been laid out for us. Our seafood was ex­pertly bar­be­qued while we gazed at the count­less stars above. There was some­thing truly unique about this com­bi­na­tion of the nat­u­ral, raw en­vi­ron­ment and per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with our host. De­spite the lux­ury of it all, it didn’t feel as if we were as­signed a concierge or but­ler. Rather, we had found a guide and friend – some­body to deepen and per­son­alise our in­te­gra­tion into this won­der­fully un­charted ter­ri­tory.

By the end of the evening I was able to slip – com­pletely sat­is­fied – into a deep rest, duly en­chanted and look­ing for­ward to an­other day in par­adise found.

For more info, visit www.azura-re­treats.com.

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