Mozambique has always been one of my favorite destinations, particularly for the beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, incredible seafood, underwater life and luxury lodges. It was time to return and remind myself of why I love Mozambique so much and how we can combine it more with Malawi and Zambia. Road transfers are long and not advisable, so the best way is to fly in direct from Johannesburg to Vilanculos. It is only a 1 hour 20-minute flight that operates daily on SA Airlink. Departing around 11:45am, it works well for early connections from Cape Town or Lusaka, so, you can overnight in Cape Town, Lusaka or Joburg prior to your Mozambique adventure. Flights into Joburg form Vilanculos land at 13:45pm, leaving plenty of time to connect back to the brutal real world…
A group of us in the travel industry all met at OR Tambo and proceeded to head to paradise. My good mate, Luke from Vayeni, joked that he saw them offloading my bag before we left. My response was “Buddy I am Gold Class, my bag would be the last to get left behind….”!! A blitz 1.5 hours later we landed in Vilanculos and turns out Luke was right – a bit of Karma right there, ha ha!! I have to say that hosts RioAzul part of Hideaways worked their magic and my bag arrived within 24 hours of our arrival.
Upon arriving in Vilanculos, we were met with two 4×4 vehicles to transfer us to the lodge. The drive is between 2-3 hours depending on the time of day, if it is low tide you may get to do the last 30km on the beach. Sadly, due to taking a while to report my missing bag, I kept the group waiting and we missed that boat and had to go the roundabout sand dunes route. Slightly longer and bumpier but very scenic. Arriving over the dunes and mangrove swamps we caught the breathtaking sunset over the ocean, what a welcome. The sunsets in Africa never fail to take my breath away.
Our hosts Mark and Karen met us with cocktails, over a briefing, we immediately felt at home and were spoiled with a delicious prawn dinner. Rio Azul is perfectly located on the Peninsula, benefitting from sunsets over the lagoon and sunrise over the ocean on the other side (and only a 5-minute walk over a little sand dune).
Our 3 days at Rio Azul were magical. The food was exceptional as was the service, and the rooms wild, rustic, comfortable and clean. The boys had the Villa, which is fantastic, with en-suite rooms, a private dining area and our own swimming pool. The villa is perfect for small groups or families… and the price is right ;-).
On day 2 we headed over to BD Island for lunch, which is only a 20-minute boat ride away. The island is completely underwater at high tide, therefore there are no lodges on it. During low tide, it is one of the most beautiful islands and you have it all to yourself…idyllic paradise. We had a great morning, enjoyed a delicious lunch before returning to the lodge and heading out on a sunset cruise to the mangrove swamps. These are beautiful, with fantastic birdlife, incredible scenery and a spectacular sunset. On our return to the lodge we settled into another tasty dinner, crab curry…yum!
Day 3; after another delicious breakfast we got ourselves ready to head over to paradise island which is about a 1-1.5 hour boat ride away. This is a beautiful spot, with a lot of culture and history – the old hotel still stands (kind of), run-down and deserted but it is great for an interesting walk through time. The snorkeling around the island is widely regarded as the best in the region, and I have to say it did not disappoint.
The sea was pretty angry on this day, so it was a bumpy ride back to mainland, however, you could tell Mark was very experienced and we felt very safe. We thoroughly enjoyed the water based ‘African massage’ as opposed to the usual one you receive when on safari. Another fantastic lunch on the islands, site seeing, visiting the hotel, all finished off with some good snorkeling. Mark could not have gone more out of his way to give us the perfect adventure. When we returned from our incredible day on paradise island, we headed back over the dunes during sunset and were welcomed with more cocktails and sat down to another incredible seafood dinner.
The adventure goes on
Feeling incredibly relaxed and having enjoyed my 3 days at Rio Azul, I decided it wasn’t time to head back to reality just yet. Luke was heading over to Santorini and then onto Azura Benguerra, yup, I managed to join in on the trip…the adventure continues! This time we were fortunate to get low tide and drove the 30km along the beach on our way to the airport. Great to see both routes to get to and from the lodge. What a few days and so thankful for the incredible hospitality, a wonderful mid-range product for the more adventurous traveler.
Arriving at the airport in Vilanculos, we were met by Santorini and began the 30-minute drive to the lodge. As soon as we arrived, we could see this was a very classy product. The lodge is beautifully built and as the name indicates, you get the sense of being in Greece with incredible views over the Indian Ocean. The decor and design is very European and very impressive, all matched by the service and food. Everything was first world standards.
I managed to bag the honeymoon suite, much to Luke’s disappointment he didn’t bunk in with me, but I did let him take pics for his Instagram addiction 😉 The rooms at Santorini are amazing, the lodge does also have a couple of 3 bed villas, perfect for small groups or families. A fantastic property, perfect for a few nights either side if staying on the islands. A huge highlight for me here too, was the Spa, a ‘real massage’ was just what I needed.
After our lovely stay, Santorini dropped us back at the airport where we would be met by our heli-pilot and begin the short and sweet flight to the islands for our final stop. It was a stunning day, somehow Luke got shafted again and ended up in the back seat…volunteering me the front seat. Deep down he knew I wanted those insta shots more (or I needed them more than he did). Short and sweet but what a flight, stunning views from above of the Mozambique coastline and islands and once we arrived, we were met by the lovely ladies from Azura Benguerra.
This trip just kept on giving…an upgrade to the PV (Presidential Villa). How Rockstar of us is this… a private butler, infinity pool, bar and deck… you name it this place is first class. We felt like royalty and we were in our element. Matched with the incredible villa and stunning beach was the amazing food, service and beverages (just be careful of the cocktails, they have quite a bite).
We spent the afternoon enjoying our bromance at the villa before heading down to the bar and beach restaurant for a great finish to the day. Sadly, I could not do a dive (I have to add that the diving here is world class, I remember it from my last visit) given that I was flying that afternoon, but we did get to do an island tour, climb the dunes and see the breathtaking views of Benguerra. An incredible 5 nights in paradise with top class lodges, staff, experiences and food. Thanks all for hosting me.