After clearing immigration at OR Tambo International we boarded our SA Airlink flight to Vilanculos – flying time 1hr 20 mins . On landing at Vilanculos the humidity hits you. Immigration can take time but make sure you get your Visa beforehand from your nearest Mozambique consulate. I remember visiting in 2006 and you could get a Visa on arrival when traveling on a UK passport, now you must get it beforehand (I paid R750 in Cape Town). South African passport holders do not need a visa if visiting for leisure purposes.
On arrival we were met by representatives of Anantara Bazaruto (our idyllic destination) and then driven in a mini bus to the beach, approximately a 10 minute drive, to catch our boat transfer to Bazaruto Island. Shoes and socks off please and roll your trousers up for those with long trousers – ok the holiday has began!! Shoes placed in a basket which with the luggage is carried to the boat. You wade out a few meters in the warm Indian Ocean water to the boat and off you go. The boat, a 16 seater largish speedboat, takes 45 mins to Bazaruto passing Benguerra Island en route.
We then arrived at our destination, Bazaruto Island and the Anantara Bazaruto, off the boat and wade onto a beautiful sand beach. You are met by the local dancers from the nearby village and with a nice Bazaruto cocktail as well as getting your sandy feet washed before walking into the Club Navel building, which is part of the resort.
We immediately noticed the huge rim flow pool that was there with waterfalls around it; it was here that we would be spending most of our 6-day stay. Oh yes I forgot to mention the big warm smiles that we were greeted with which were to continue throughout our stay and a personal welcome from the Italian GM Franco wearing his stylish Panama hat!
We were then shown around this magnificent resort which consists of two very nice swimming pools, the Club Naval one is for families and the other pool situated close to the reception area by Golfinhos restaurant is for adults only and has a swim up bar.
The property has Beach Chalets located right on the beach. All of them very well appointed with space between so you have your own privacy. We stayed in a Deluxe Sea View room, which is located, higher up the resort. The room was ideal for a family of five like ours. It had two bedrooms both with foldaway doors leading out onto a large wooden deck with a plunge pool with great views of the ocean. The main bedroom has a double vanity and a large free-standing bath complete with a indoor shower which opens out to an outside shower that we used all the time. The bed is a large four-poster and at turn down the mosquito nets are down. Yes we did take malaria tablets however didn’t really notice any mozzies. The other bedroom had two single beds with a nice sized bathroom with a shower.
All the rooms have air conditioning units; we actually had two in our room, which was most definitely required. We had a nice lounge area between the rooms with nice sized plasma and a fully equipped kitchen with a large fridge that was constantly stocked. The rooms are great and definitely offer a cooling respite after a day in the sun.
Breakfast is served at Golfinhos and lunch at Club Naval and dinner at different places every evening. The one thing that really stood out is the friendliness of the staff; it really came from the heart. All of them were so helpful and really wanted to help you, language with some of them was a slight issue but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. There are too many to mention but Joana, Monica, Reggie, Catimbe, Justino were superb and all very well managed by Roger who I don’t think sleeps as he was always on duty.
A typical day for us was to get up and head to Golfinhos for breakfast, the kids would go earlier as the main public areas, reception lounges, restaurants were the only wifi areas which they were very grateful for. Breakfast was great and included a full buffet of fruit, yoghurts, muesli as well as a selection of freshly made pastries and cold meats and cheeses. There was also a selection of hot dishes that were cooked for you that included a great French toast, pancakes and waffles. I must mention the chefs at this stage Fernando and Ronaldo (his food was certainly as good as his namesake in football) they were our breakfast chefs, again big smiles and nothing was too much for them.
We would head down to the Club Naval pool some days walk 5 mins or if we were feeling lazy would take the shuttle passing gardeners all of whom would greet on the way. We would set up at Club Naval and spend most of the morning in the 32-degree plus pool, seriously it was like a bath. I think we choose a fantastic time of the year to visit, it was after the mad Christmas New Year rush and we practically had the pool to ourselves. We would hang on the rim flow and watch the tide go out as the locals from the nearby village would come out and fish.
Close to the Club Naval pool is the activity centre so we would watch people leave on their day excursions to nearby islands such as Paradise and Pansy. As the tide pushed out further it would leave an expanse of sand with 100’s of small crabs scuttling around. The locals go out and catch crabs. We went chokka fishing one morning on a local dhow, hand made wooden boats with a plastic sheeting as a sail, and handled so well by the local fisherman including young children. We caught numerous calamari by throwing out a line and by reeling it in slowly by hand the calamari would hook on, however you had to reel in slowly as the calamari would squirt its ink out which is its defense mechanism. This was it, this is what some people do every day and it is a case of survival. For us we had fun and a nice experience.
Anyway back to the sunbed sorry the pool. Oh and by now it was time for a cocktail, which the efficient staff that are always checking if you are ok would bring to you. The staff even straightens your towel for you each time you get up and yes with a huge smile. I like this place!!! After reading a few pages of my book, the local dance group would appear on the beach an arrival on the way and in the distance the boat is making its way to the island. We were like a 2nd welcoming party all hanging on the rim flow to see the new arrivals the pure excitement on their faces when they arrive, weight off the shoulders, real kick back time!
Lunchtime already, lunch is served at Club Naval and the menu is amazing. A selection of pizzas and pastas are offered every day as well as 6 other dishes all of which change daily except the Prego dish, which was on daily, obviously very popular. The selection is too much it really is, something for everyone and to add if you don’t like anything on the menu the chef will cook something you fancy as long as the ingredients are available. Jamie our nine-year-old son had Tiger Prawns, and they were Tiger prawns, and chips almost every day. Again the chefs led by the very amusing Chinese born Chen were fantastic. Chen would come to the table and amuse us with some magic tricks he had picked up from his life of traveling the world and working in different countries, he was great.
Where to now oh yes the lounger awaits and the pool and the sea has changed its course and is heading back in. The tide arrived back around 17:00 hours and we would then Sup, kayak in the clear clear water which was actually warmer than the pool, can you believe it.
The boats that were moved out when there is a low tide could all be brought back close to the beach. The day excursions arrive back after a day of snorkeling at the nearby islands. A plane lands at the adjacent airstrip with more arrivals; we can see the dancers heading in that direction. If you don’t want to get the boat over which is included in the cost you can fly over from Vilanculos, must be a 7-minute flight by plane or helicopter.
We visited Paradise Island, which is about a 30-minute boat ride from Bazaruto, you can see the island in the distance. En route we came across a pod of 20 dolphins, we stopped the boat and the Dolphins were swimming all around us and under the boat, it was truly magical.
Arriving close to Paradise we stopped again, all put on our snorkeling gear and flippers and went into another world. On the edge of the coral reef we saw amazing colorful fish, the captain of the boat would throw in a bread roll and all of a sudden a million fish would be around you. The water is so clear and warm. Back on the boat we travel around the island where a Bedouin tent has been set up for our arrival and the food cooking on the fire, prawns, local fish, beef steaks and chicken kebabs as well as numerous salads. We toured the island and looked at the ruins of the Santa Carolina Hotel, which in its day must have been the grandest hotel in Mozambique even surpassing the old lady of Mozambique the Polana in Maputo; 100 plus rooms with imported tiles and marble from Portugal where the owner was from. How did they get it here? The hotel was open for only 21 years, can you imagine the work that was involved to build this thing and only for 21 years when it closed in 1973 when the owner died and Mozambique was going through a rough period. It stretches across the width of the island with the mainland one side and Bazaruto the other.
Only three people live on the island, one from the hotel who sets up these wonderful lunches and some government officials, the island is a protected area but has amazing potential for a real deluxe property but then I thought how much more deluxe can you get from where we are staying without taking the immediate surroundings into consideration. It is so pristine.
Back to our home away from home! We are still in and out of the pool and sea and having cocktails, what a life! As it was slightly cooler we even kicked a ball around on the small expanse of sand that was remaining, it was nice to fetch in the water as it cooled the feet down from running on the warm sand, the guys from the activity centre would join in with us, there are two small goalposts positioned on the beach, yes had to mention the beautiful game in this report and of course a great way of communicating is through football. There is also a volleyball net set up if you are feeling energetic.
We would take the transfer back to our room around 6 and chill in the cool air watching a movie before we hit the outdoor shower to get ready for, yes you guessed it, more food!!!!!
Dinner was at a different venue each night and many were themed with the type of food that was being served. All the dinners were superb and prepared by the kitchen staff including head chefs Gustav and Gary who came to chat to the guests every evening at dinner. All dinners consisted of a choice of starters, mains and dessert.
We had a bar-be-cue one evening prepared on the beach with tables set up on the beach, it was amazing and so was the food from lobster, prawns, calamari, king mackerel, steak, chicken…………..also some of the salads made were so creative and very enjoyable.
After dinner back to the room, turn down was done and that was a typical day. I couldn’t wait for the next day to do it all again.
One day we got talking to a local guy on the beach and asked him how far the village was, he said not that far and he would take us there. So off we went in the midday heat luckily with slops on as the sand was very hot, along the beach where a wood carver was working cutting out wooden curios from solid wood. We trudged over the dune and down the other side until we reached the village. It was amazing, there was a mini farm there where locals were growing fruit and veg to sell to the lodge, we carried on and met many locals who were all so happy to see you and greet.
We went to the local shebeen, which is owned by one of the guys who works at the hotel and had a beer with a few of the locals. 2M beer brewed locally was my favorite and we visited the primary school which literally was a brick room covered by corrugated iron. I think my kids got a shock; but it was so good for them to see. Anyway 2 hours later and knackered we made it back to our spot at the pool but it was a very worthwhile exercise.
There is a whole load of other activities to do at Anantara including dune boarding on the large sand dunes behind the property, a ten-minute ride away.
We visited the spa on the last morning, which is located at the very top of the property with some fantastic views and really well appointed. It offers lots of treatments as well as a Jacuzzi and steam room. As you can imagine with the many honeymooners it is a popular spot so you must book.
Time to go back to reality, the dancers walked across the beach to wave us goodbye as we waded in the warm ocean water for the last time. It was just what we needed and we will definitely be back.
Anantara Bazaruto really did tick all the boxes for that perfect island get away!