Well-Heeled Island Living with Azura Benguerra
After Santorini it was off to Vilanculos airport to catch the Helicopter across to Benguerra island. Soft bags are extremely important for this transfer and so even though I had been on the road before Mozambique and had a lot of luggage I had packed an extra duffle bag for this exact moment. At the airport I moved my essentials across to the duffle bag and left the rest of my luggage safely in the lock-up office of the Helicopter Company at the airport. I have been on helicopters before many times in my home town, Vic Falls and in South Africa, but nothing could contain my excitement for flying over this stretch of the warm ocean to the island. It was a short 8-minute hop, but it was absolutely breath taking. Being above seas that are so colourful and pristine made for a terrific experience.
We arrived to a fine Azura welcome at the Helipad, which is five minutes’ walk from the resort. Peter (General Manager), Jeni (Guest Relations), Tania (Activities) and Anderson (Personal Butler) took exceptional care of me throughout my stay. Peter informed us about Azura Time, which is one hour ahead, a pretty cool initiative from the Azura team meant to create some daylight saving for guests staying on the island. Watches were adjusted accordingly.
The first big surprise was an upgrade to “PV” – aka – The Presidential Villa – wow! Hedonism at its best! After some routine check-in procedures we were eager to get over to our living quarters. Anderson tailored every moment of service with precision and care – nothing being too much trouble for this friendly gentleman with a huge smile and fun sense of humour. A bottle of bubbly and a personalised welcome at the PV bar set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, which revolved around enjoying the exclusive pool, beach and warm sea with Mozambique Dos M / 2M fine lager beers and island cocktails. It was time to truly kick back, relax and enjoy authentic island life, which is definitely a number of paces slower than the rest of the world I normally find myself in.
PV has bucket loads of space and is ideal for a family or a small group of friends. The central living area has a full display bar, tea and coffee machinery, a tasteful library room with Flat Screen TV (for that odd rainy day), expansive outdoor seating and loungers by the pool. A number of board games, traditional Mozambique. On either side of the living area there are two commodious suites, including outdoor showers, as well as a capacious indoor bathroom with ample dressing and storage. The super king beds are also set in a vast room with lounge space that leads out through French doors to the swimming pool and beach beyond. The entire PV, as well as all the Azura suites are designed in keeping with the environment with extensive use of the bountiful coconut palm trees dotted everywhere. At PV there is a third comfortable bedroom with en-suite shower and toilet, that although smaller could easily accommodate two kids or as Jeni told us ‘an accompanying nanny’.
Although meals can be prepared and served at PV we had our meals at the main lodge. We quickly worked out that the best way to get there was to walk along the beach. PV is about 500m away from the central lodge and the walk or jog along the beach is a special one. Time to exercise a little, breath in the fresh sea air and take in the beautiful scenery.
Every group staying at Azura has a dedicated butler/waiter who designs and prepares the location of each meal you have. The menu choices are during the day are displayed on chalk boards displayed by the Butler and if you have a special request, then everything is done to accommodate that. There is absolutely no need to get out of beach gear, and ‘barefoot-bliss’ is the order of the day, no matter what time it is. The main bar serves up drinks all day and has a particularly great vibe at sunset and the hour leading up towards dinner.
The bar men were very attentive, and one taught me how to play the traditional Mozambique game called Tschouba, which is played using a Mancala board. It requires a fair amount of mathematical skill, which I’m not blessed with, but the bar man certainly was – needless to say I was utterly annihilated, but it was great fun at the same time haha! On my second night Anderson set a table for me surrounded by lanterns on the beach and he calculated it perfectly so that the high tide, which happened during main course meant the water lapped over my toes whilst I enjoyed yet another delicious sea food dish.
The only thing I really missed in Mozambique and this was particularly highlighted at Azura, were my wife, Suzanne and our two special girls Charlotte and Annabelle. These are places one should absolutely experience and share with your loved ones.
There are many activities, paid and included, to choose from at Azura Benguerra. Very popular of course are the island excursion, dhow cruises, fishing, snorkelling and diving options. There is a dive centre at the resort that offers introductory and advanced courses as well as guided sea excursions. Benguerra is part of the Bazaruto National Park and thus the sea life is well preserved, offering up all kinds of treasures for those that take the time to explore it. There is also a fully equipped spa at the resort and of course when you are given a complimentary treatment you don’t turn your nose up at it. A fantastic spa therapist once again transported me to another world with a soothing back and neck massage.
Benguerra is a pretty big island at 55km2 and is home to a small local population who live a largely subsistence lifestyle and depend on livestock, small scale farming and fishing. They also provide a very strong contribution to the workforce that helps drive tourism on the island. We went on a 2-hour island drive that took us through some of the quaint little villages and also visited the eastern side of the island, which is much less sheltered than the west, where the lodge is situated, looking back the 14km towards the mainland. There are some enormous sand dunes on the island that we climbed up, a seriously good work out that provides very rewarding 360-degree views from the top.
The Azura team have certainly got a special formula and their position on beautiful Benguerra is one that’s tough to beat. They are professional, yet personable and when you depart you certainly do so having made new friendships. I was once again rewarded with incredible views on my departure helicopter flight before landing again at Vilanculos airport for my SA Airlink flight to Joburg. Fortunately, this time the flight left on time and was pleasantly uneventful.
Thank you to everyone that made my Mozambique adventure a truly special and enlightening one. I have been talking about it to the family and Vayeni team ever since I left. As new ambassadors we are now determined to spread the love for this extraordinary beach destination and its welcoming people.