Living Like Queens on an African Beach

Boat on beach

“Dolphins!”

The boat captain pointed into the flat, clear, turquoise water. I caught a glimpse of dolphin fin a couple of hundred meters away.

“Let’s swim with them,” said Theresa. She flung off her sarong and dove over the side of the boat. Pippa, Bridget, and Sandi followed in quick succession. Theresa took several strokes and then turned around.

“Aren’t you coming, Heather?” I looked over at the captain. He was staring into the distance and seemed hardly to have noticed the boat’s deserters.

I shrugged, pulled off my shorts and tank top, and jumped.

Walking to boat

Our gang walking out to the boat that would take us on a day trip from Bazaruto to Paradise Island, not long before the moment described above.

We never caught up with the dolphins. We didn’t swim very fast and the dolphin pod was probably frightened by all the estrogen. But that didn’t matter. Over the course of three days, our group of ladies managed to:

  • Sled down a sand dune in the midst of a sunset sandstorm;
  • Explore the ruins of an abandoned beach hotel;
  • Ride a pack of lazy horses up and down a pristine, white-sand beach;
  • Spend many hours doing nothing, gazing out at the sea;
  • Drink dozens, maybe hundreds, of caipirinhas;
  • Rub mud all over each other while sitting naked in a sauna (seriously); and
  • Eat far too much of everything.

Empty beach

The Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort and Spa, my home for three days last weekend.

Every now and again, my blogging credentials get me invited on a media trip to a fabulous African destination. (The long-time readers among you might remember the post about my Luxury Weekend in the Waterberg, alternatively named “I Am So F-ing Lucky”.) I’ve learned that when such an invitation appears in my inbox it’s best to accept immediately, which is what I did when I received Theresa’s invitation for a weekend at the Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort and Spa.

Theresa’s trips are always incredibly fun, not just because of the amazing destinations but also because of the amazing, crazy women Theresa brings together.

Ladies on beach

A group of serious journalists, “working hard” in Mozambique.

Bazaruto is off the coast of central Mozambique, near to the town of Vilankulos. We flew into Vilankulos direct from Joburg (our flights were courtesy of Airlink) on a Friday afternoon, and hopped a 45-minute boat shuttle to Bazaruto.

Boat at Vilanculos

Our boat shuttle from Vilankulos to Bazaruto. (Just kidding. Our real boat was just out of the frame but this one was prettier.)

My photos tell the story from here on.

Anantara room

The inside of my luxurious bungalow at Anantara, about 50 meters from the beach. 

Grilled fish

My first meal at Anantara: grilled tuna with rice and vegetables.

Paradise Island beach

The wild beach at Paradise Island, which used to be called Santa Carolina Island. We spent a day at Paradise, swimming and eating and walking around. Exploring this island was my favorite part of the trip. 

Anantara spa view

The view from Anantara Spa, which is on a seaside cliff overlooking the rest of the resort. I don’t have any pictures of us naked in the sauna. (I actually did try but my lens fogged up.) We also hung out in the jacuzzi and had fantastic massages.

Holy Lad

The Holy Lad, my steed for the horseriding outing.

On horses

Lesley and I astride our steeds. Photo taken by our lovely horse-riding guide, whose name I forgot to record.

Horse-riding

The Holy Lad was so laid-back that I could take photos quite easily while riding him. 

Dune boarding1

Massive sand dunes occupy a large portion of Bazaruto. On our last evening we drove to the dunes (about 15 minutes from the resort) and did some dune-boarding. The view was jaw-dropping and the dune-boarding was a blast, despite high winds whipping sand into our eyes. (Photo: Sandi Caganoff)

Dune boarding2

This was fun. (Photo: Sandi Caganoff)

On Monday we (grudgingly) waded out to the boat shuttle, rode to Vilankulos, and flew home. The end.

A few words about Anantara. This is a very high-end resort and staying there is the utmost luxury. Every need is taken care of before you even think of it. The resort grounds are lush, beautiful, and understated. Drinks and all the food you can possibly eat are included in the cost of your stay.

The worst thing to happen to me over the course of the weekend was having to wait a bit too long for my fancy cocktail to be served. And sitting on that beach, with my toes in the silken white sand, watching the sunset over the impossibly blue water, was perfect.

That said, Anantara is part of a big international resort chain and virtually everything is imported from South Africa and other far-away places. The cost of staying there is very, very steep: $590 (about R6500) per person, per night. This is more than my monthly rent in Joburg. I could never afford to stay at Anantara if I weren’t so f-ing lucky.

Other than the price, my only complaint about Anantara is the excessive opulence and abundance of the food. The breakfast and dinner buffets were so massive that I struggled to decide what to eat, and actually I would have been happy with a platter of grilled calamari and glass of vinho verde for every single meal. In fact my favorite meal was lunch, which was simple and chosen from a small, a la carte menu.

Less is more sometimes, and at Anantara I would have preferred a bit less. But, hey. I should really just shut up because this view is hard to complain about.

Sunset

Sunset on Bazaruto. It doesn’t suck.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post about the abandoned Santa Carolina Hotel on Paradise Island.

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13 Comments

  • Reply Cloud October 31, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    You really f-ing lucky! This sounds great!

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun October 31, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Hi Heather,

    Your photos are amazing, really beautiful. I can’t afford to go here either lol but we had been looking at going to Mozambique for a long weekend. Can I ask a practical question about the visas? From what I understand you can no longer get a visa on arrival (at least for americans) ? Someone sent me a website and the price was crazy expensive for the visa, I want to say around 200 USD. What was your experience with this ? Thanks so much, glad you had such a fun time.

    • Reply 2summers October 31, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      It’s so funny you should ask this. I actually considered writing an entire blog post about how to get a Mozambique visa as an American living in Joburg. And perhaps I still will. To make a long story short, it took me four trips to the Moz High Commission in Pretoria before I finally got my visa, only to learn the very next day that you can get a visa at the Mozambican consulate on Oxford Road in Joburg (!!!!!) Suffice it to say that information and communication is highly lacking in this area. But here is a link to the address for the consulate: http://www.embassypages.com/missions/embassy6665/

      The good news is that the visa only costs R750, which is actually a pretty good deal. I just applied for a Brazilain visa and had to pay R2080. Note that you have to pay for your visa via EFT, ahead of time, and submit proof of payment with your application. Odds are that no one will tell you this when you call. And be sure to check ahead to find out what time visa applications are accepted (in Pretoria it’s only between 9 and 12) and check when the Mozambican public holidays are because there are lots and the embassy and consulate are closed on those days 🙂

      I was told that you can no longer get your visa on arrival. Although I’ve heard others say that you actually still can. But I would get the visa ahead of time to be safe.

      • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun October 31, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all that Heather, you rock ! That is such valuable info and much more reasonable than I had been seeing. Yes the communication is so poor, it is great to hear your recent experience. Not sure if we will make it before the end of the year now, but hopefully soon. Thanks again !

  • Reply Catherine Caviar October 31, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    sounds really cool,! I hope you did eat peri peri shrimps and tried the Tipo Tinto local rum!

  • Reply Sine November 1, 2014 at 3:00 am

    wonderful pictures. enough to make me really jealous. The very top one is my favorite.
    I do think that the key to going to Mozambique is to stay at an expensive super luxury place like yours. I bet they imported the staff too. I have to say we had a pretty bad experience in Mozambique. we went for the more affordable range, and everything was simply bad.

    • Reply 2summers November 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I’m sure there are some nice places to stay in Mozambique that cost much less than $590 pp. Although before this I had only spent one weekend in Maputo seven years ago so I don’t have much to compare to. But hopefully at some point I’ll get to go back and try out some other kinds of experiences. I do think most of the staff at Anantara are local though, and they were all incredibly nice.

      Thanks for the compliment on the pics!

  • Reply Sunshinebright November 1, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Yes, Heather, I’ve got something to say! Fantastic! Terrific! Here I am, sitting in front of my display, and reading and viewing some of the most wonderful reporting! Through your journal (posting), I am living a great travel adventure in Africa. Where else than on WordPress, can one do that? So glad you chose this venue. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers November 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Awww, thanks Sunshinebright. What a lovely comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  • Reply Firefly - Jonker November 3, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Now that is the kind of place you go to unwind. A bit heavy on the pocket though so will have to give it a miss

    • Reply 2summers November 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Haha, I hear you 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca December 25, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Hard work, you lucky, lucky duck!! 🙂 Looks gorgeous.

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