Steph in our Africa team has recently returned from a trip to Mozambique. Here she recounts some of the best bits…
When I looked at my itinerary of how to get to Azura at Quilalea I was slightly taken aback… I thought my backpacking days of taking every type of transport under the sun to get somewhere were over and Scott Dunn was all about simple and efficient journeys. On paper, in my own words, it just looked like a mission involving planes, smaller planes, cars, and boats. However, it was the most enjoyable “mission” I have ever done.
We landed at Pemba airport in Mozambique from Johannesburg, which is somewhat chaotic, but in the way small African airports can be, yet they work! From Pemba I took a small, 6-seater plane over to Quirimba Island. The flight lasted only 25 minutes but I wished it had been longer as the scenery below was absolutely amazing. Miles and miles of untouched coastline, swirling sand banks, turquoise waters changing through a spectrum of color with reefs, corals and rocks visible from the sky had my face glued to the window.
Quirimba Island came into view, and the plane headed towards a small strip where the pilot executed an incredible landing on the rough grass. Within seconds of landing a land rover appeared to drive us 10 minutes through the coconut plantations to the other side of the island, and there we met the Quilalea staff who were to take us over to the island. Fold up seats awaited us under a giant baobab tree and then we were handed some wetsuit booties as we had to walk through the shallow water to the boat due to the low tide – I can’t lie, wetsuit boots and a skirt wasn’t one of my finest looks to begin my stay at Mozambique’s newest luxury retreat!
Soon we were whizzing across the water on the speed boat for a 20 minute journey to the private island of Quilalea where we were greeted by singing staff, a cool towel and fresh cocktail… this is why you make the effort to get here.
Quilalea for me was simply perfect. Being a coral island it does not have miles of endless white sand beaches that some people want, although there are beaches dotted around the island, some small little coves, others much larger.
But what it lacks in sand it more than makes up for in style, character and location. Accommodation is in either Sunrise or Sunset Villas depending on the side of the island, but all are very similar in design. Spacious yet cosy, contemporary yet rustic, luxurious yet not bling – really just a perfect combination.
Being a private island you can walk around the entire perimeter in 40 minutes which we did before breakfast one morning (some choose to jog which I cannot comment on!) and at times you are walking through thick bush and others along beaches where turtles are known to nest. Followed by a delicious breakfast on the beach this was the perfect start to the day. Being there for only a short time I wanted to make the most of what was on offer so went snorkeling on the house reef which is just in front of the lodge. Surrounded by an array of colorful fish, both small and large, and pretty corals I decided that I also better go diving to “test” those sites. The dive was amazing and that day there was quite a strong current so we just floated effortlessly over the reef seeing turtle, huge wrass and multitude of other sealife.
Arriving back at the island you are met with a fresh, frozen fruit smoothie lolly as “who likes the taste of the sea” and a refreshing cool towel … I was amazed. They have thought of everything here and it is these little touches which takes Quilalea above and beyond.
Every lodge in Mozambique has the natural advantage of being surrounded by incredible beaches and coastline, but Quilalea really got to me due to its staff, the service, the style of detailed yet natural décor and the feeling you are somewhere totally luxurious yet somewhere that is also down-to-earth and overwhelmingly friendly. For those on their honeymoon I would urge you to push the boat out and stay in Villa Quilalea which is the honeymoon villa… 100% out of this world!