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Safaris TRAVEL

Azura Benguerra Island, Mozambique

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Situated on an island within the Bazaruto Marine National Park, Azura Benguerra is the first Azura property to grace the African continent. Visualize velvety white sand, turquoise water and a tropical climate that allows you to visit all year round. Add to that the most exquisite family friendly, couples and honeymoon accommodation, the tastiest food and the warmest smiles you will encounter on the South-East coast of Africa. Azura Benguerra has it all, and a whole lot more.

“The island is best accessible by helicopter” I am told. Well color me giddy with happiness and excitement! An enthusiast of all things winged, propelled, bladed or engined, I can’t imagine arriving in greater style. I might not always look the part, but making an entrance goes a long way in creating lasting memories.

Which is why it’s the perfect choice to get from Vilanculos airport to Azura Benguerra with Archipelago Charters in the sleek black and shiny Airbus EC120 Eurocopter. Captained by pilot Fraser Cilliers, we are comfortably strapped in, sporting headphones and from my vantage point next to Fraser, I am in absolute wonderment at the azure archipelago that meets my downward gaze. Too soon, we land on the helipad at Azura Benguerra where we are welcomed by General Manager Peter Siebert and host Hassane Zibane.

The walk to the reception area makes me feel like I’ve entered a rainforest and the warming breeze makes us all long for a refreshing beverage, which is provided by the very friendly Guest Relations Manager Jeni Grinaker. Walking through the foyer, I am transfixed by the stunning views over the Indian Ocean. We arrive in time for lunch where the chalkboard menu reminds me of the other Azura retreats I have been fortunate to visit. Today, we can choose from ‘light bites’ – tuna ceviche with lemon yoghurt, ‘salad bar’ – chermoula marinated beef salad, ‘from the sea’ – spicy prawn penne pasta or ‘from the grill’ – piri piri half chicken. All three of us choose the tuna ceviche, my daughter and husband opt for the chermoula marinated beef salad while I thoroughly enjoy the spicy prawn penne pasta. For dessert, we order the delicious chocolate brownies.

Stirring things up in the kitchen is Chef Paul Mouton, who ensures that there is enough variety on the menu to satisfy every palate. Quality and tasty meals form an integral part of your stay at Azura Benguerra, which the whole team executes with great care. Being so remote, there isn’t a drive-through should you crave a midnight snack.

Azura Benguerra island

“I have a surprise for you,” Jeni informs us after lunch, “but you’ll have to walk with me.” Already somewhat hot and bothered, I slump my shoulders as we walk the path to where Jeni is leading us. I start counting the numbers of the Villas we pass by and wonder where she is taking us. She stops at number 20 and turns to her left, gesturing that we follow her. The beautiful dark wooden door swings open and I inhale sharply as the relief of the air-conditioner is almost too much. Immediately transported to my ‘happy place’, I hear Jeni saying “welcome to your Royal Beach Villa”. Excuse me?

With only two Royal Beach Villas on the island, you are assured of the uttermost privacy and your own slice of paradise. At 172 square meters, solitude is a welcome respite with your private stretch of picturesque beach, a 10-meter infinity pool, a jacuzzi, a main bedroom & bathroom and an interconnected lounge where the conversion of two sofas into beds for children makes it the perfect family friendly option. The outdoor area is impressive, with a poolside sitting pavilion allowing straight access into the pool, a double daybed under a latte roof, a single daybed on the deck, a dining area, a beachside sala, a dining area, the list goes on.

A fundamental aspect during your stay at Azura Benguerra are the varied activities on offer. An invitation to observe the Azura soccer team play against the Crocodiles is right up my daughter’s alley and she can hardly contain her excitement. I decide to forego the outing as I want to luxuriate in my surroundings. After a dip in the pool, I take in the most spectacular sunset from the beach.

We are scheduled to meet Peter and Jeni for pre-dinner drinks at the Star Bar, after which we dine on the beach. Our choices are straightforward – I opt for the marinated smoked trout, my husband orders the butternut, cinnamon & apple soup and for main course, my daughter and I enjoy the made-to-perfection braised pork belly while my husband decides on the oven roasted mackerel. We conclude the delicious meal with the may-I-have-some-more flourless chocolate tart.

It is the most perfect night and as we look up, the whole sky is littered with stars. I’ve only experienced this type of star-spangled sky in the bush, but because of the absence of light pollution, we are able to identify Orion, Sirius, Andromeda and the Scorpion. The nice, brisk walk to our Villa is over in a flash and I cannot wait to indulge in a cleansing shower before retiring to bed. Sleep comes easy as the day has been very eventful.

Azura Benguerra island

We rise early, walking along the beach from our Villa to the dining area. The route seems quicker and the water lapping at my feet is comfortably warm. We enjoy a quick but hearty breakfast before our island drive, where we are shown around the island, the school, which was donated and funded by Azura’s Rainbow Fund and the ‘Wild Side’ – the red dunes and crocodile lakes. A sudden downpour puts an end to the excursion and as we head back, we spot the most adorable dik dik feasting on some greenery.

Azura Benguerra island

I am drifting off to sleep, trying to fight it, but it seems futile. Massage therapist Agnes Nazombe’s soothing hands work their magic on my back with the TheraNaka African peace body gel and the TheraNaka African revival gel. She gently nudges me awake and groggily, I realize that her calming massage techniques have done wonders for my back. My daughter had a relaxing pedicure before my session and emerges with toenails in her favorite color – blue! Next up is my husband and his 30-minute massage also sends him to dreamland.

Azura Benguerra island

After pre-dinner drinks, we are informed that we must make our way to our surprise dinner location, which is exquisitely set up next to the pool by the Padi Center. We are very surprised when an abrupt rain storm sends us scurrying for cover to the Jellyfish restaurant. The food is moreish and the slow roasted lamb shank for main course is delicious.

Azura Benguerra island

Our early morning Island Hop activity is scheduled for 8am, so we head back to our Villa early enough to warrant a good night’s sleep. We first make our way to the Padi Dive Centre where we are fitted for fins, snorkels and diving gear. Skippers Paulo Zibane and Jose Mucuacuane are steering the Novacat, Becca, towards Two Mile Reef. The sea is rough and the waves seem almost insurmountable to get over. I can sense my daughter’s fear, but Paulo assures her that the reef is not too deep. She climbs off the boat and when I look again, she is smiling as the reefs here are filled with the most colorful corals. Completely breathless back at the boat, she excitedly tells us that apart from all the multi-colored fish, they even spotted a black tip reef shark, which is relatively harmless to humans.
 Azura Benguerra island

Next is a hike up Bazaruto dune from where the 360-degree vista of the archipelago will take your breath away. Before we are transported by speedboat to North Point, where the most incredible picnic has been set up for our enjoyment, we hop off for a stroll around Pansy Island, teeming with countless pansy shells.

Azura Benguerra island

Departing from the beach in front of the lodge is our dhow cruise, where we take in the jaw-dropping sunset. Back on terra firma, our dinner is supposed to be served on the beach in front of our Villa, but we decide to rather have our table set up closer to the restaurant for convenience sake.

Azura Benguerra island

It is our last day and Jeni notifies us that there seems to be weather coming in from the mainland and we should preferably be on standby for our helicopter transfer back to Vilanculos airport. Fraser is ready to fly us back and we are once again mesmerized by the color of the water and a school of stingrays gathering in one spot. At Vilanculos airport, our flight to Johannesburg is delayed because of inclement weather, which means we could miss our connecting flight to Cape Town.

With the unwavering assistance of Airlink Vilanculos branch manager Osvaldo Gimo and the very competent Airlink ground crew trainee at O.R. International Airport in Johannesburg, we make our flight to Cape Town with two minutes to spare. Which once again shows that Airlink will go the extra mile – she ran with us through the airport and got us onto our flight. Thank you Airlink for averting a disastrous ending to our wonderful trip to Azura Benguerra.

www.azura-retreats.com/benguerra-introduction

*** Thank you to Krista North for making all our arrangements and for the Azura Benguerra team for their kind hospitality.

TRAVEL TRIPS:
– Visitors need a VISA when entering Mozambique.
– Mozambique is a malaria area, so consult your doctor about prophylactics.
– Major currencies are accepted as well as major credit cards.
– Wi-Fi is available throughout the lodge.
– Bring lots of sunscreen, hats, cool cotton clothing, a jacket in the winter months (June to August) and don’t forget your camera and memory cards – this is any photographer’s dream!

Azura Benguerra island

GETTING THERE:

  • Airlink is a privately owned airline business.  The Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA
  • Route Specific Information:  Direct daily scheduled flights between Johannesburg and Vilanculos, gateway to the Bazaruto and Benguerra islands. As well as direct flights from Nelspruit KMIA to Vilanculos offering a same day bush and beach experience.
  • Connectivity: Through our alliance with SAA travelers connect conveniently with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
  • Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of South African Airways Loyalty programme – Voyager.

Website: www.flyairlink.com
Flight Bookings:  Online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations on +27 11 978 1111.

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Helene Ramackers

Heléne Ramackers is a freelance journalist who enjoys interviewing local and international celebrities but thinks she has found her calling amongst the travel writing fraternity. A creature comfort girl at heart, she loves all things opulent. Her first taste of the bushveld was all it took to get bitten by the ‘bush-bug’, an absolute life-altering experience. She now longs for the expanse of wide open spaces, a pollution-free sky and the roar of a lion lulling her to sleep. When she’s not fantasizing about her next leopard sighting, she thrives on taking photographs of her family and loves capturing the beauty of sunrises, sunsets, rainbows and the magnificence of the full moon. Born and bred in Cape Town, this wife and doting mother loves visiting the beauty that is right on her doorstep – the splendor Table Mountain, the crashing waves at Bloubergstrand and the alluring scenery of the winelands. To add Upscale Living to her portfolio is a dream come true!
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Helene Ramackers

Heléne Ramackers is a freelance journalist who enjoys interviewing local and international celebrities but thinks she has found her calling amongst the travel writing fraternity. A creature comfort girl at heart, she loves all things opulent. Her first taste of the bushveld was all it took to get bitten by the ‘bush-bug’, an absolute life-altering experience. She now longs for the expanse of wide open spaces, a pollution-free sky and the roar of a lion lulling her to sleep. When she’s not fantasizing about her next leopard sighting, she thrives on taking photographs of her family and loves capturing the beauty of sunrises, sunsets, rainbows and the magnificence of the full moon. Born and bred in Cape Town, this wife and doting mother loves visiting the beauty that is right on her doorstep – the splendor Table Mountain, the crashing waves at Bloubergstrand and the alluring scenery of the winelands. To add Upscale Living to her portfolio is a dream come true!

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