Dhows, helicopters and private islands

Set on its own private island in the Indian Ocean, Anantara Medjumbe is a small and secluded resort, surrounded by swirls of aquamarine sea.
Anantara Medjumbe

The sea is warm. But this is not my first thought about Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort; this is what I’m thinking when, an hour after arriving on this remote island off the coast of Northern Mozambique, I am in the ocean rising and falling on the gentle swell of the waves.

I am not a water person. I haven’t been in the sea for years despite living in Cape Town (or maybe it’s because of living in Cape Town). But, after being greeted by a singing staff, handed fresh coconut milk still in its husk, a swim in the ocean feels like an obvious choice. It is a short walk across the sand back to my villa, one of only twelve on the island, where I can rinse off under an outdoor shower or by dipping into a private lap pool.

The helicopter flight from Pemba to the island had been magnificent – hand-carved dhows as small as paper boats on the water below; small fishing villages dotted around island coastlines; the sea a combination of light blues, dark greys and aquamarine, depending on the depths of the ocean floor. The pilot had searched for whales – he’d seen one that morning from the air, though it is the end of whale season.

Michelle and Mike Pretorius are the current resort managers. The couple from Cape Town have years of experience in hospitality, most recently managing a luxury resort on an island in Seychelles. Michelle talks passionately about the ‘Anantara mantra’ she shares with her staff – this might be your everyday, she tells them, but for our guests, this is a once in a lifetime experience. The staff at Anantara Medjumbe are a family and, according to Mike, the happiest and strongest resort team he’s worked with. ‘Our staff are always looking at improving the guest’s experience, offering suggestions on how we can do this.’

Sunset is a beautiful time of the day on this teardrop-shaped island. The sun sets early, at 5.30pm, casting pink light across the beach where you can watch sandpipers, ghost crabs and sun-bleached conch shells.

During the day you can walk around the island in less than an hour, dipping into the ocean to cool off. There are stand-up paddles, kayaks and snorkelling equipment you can grab and take out any time of the day. Other activities you can book beforehand, such as scuba diving, whale watching, water-skiing and fishing charters where you might catch yellowfin tuna, barracuda and dorado. You can opt for a sunset cruise in a dhow, or book a spa treatment in a bungalow facing the ocean, with the waves lapping metres away.

On our last day, we go by boat to Medjumbe’s closest neighbour in the Quirimbas Archipelago, Quissanga Island. A table is laid out with a picnic lunch of fresh fish and salad and a chilled bottle of wine. We’re then left on the island for the day with only deckchairs, the beach strewn with perfect exotic shells and the warm ocean.

Photographs seldom do a place justice. They do not capture the feeling of the warm, slightly humid air hugging your skin as you step out of an airconditioned helicopter, the silence of a hand-made dhow out on the vast ocean at sunset, or the sight of three fishermen being collected after their expedition to sell fresh seafood to the resort. Pictures do not capture the sound of the palm leaves rustling in the breeze, giving the sense that you are somewhere in Africa where very few people have ever been.

To find out more and to book visit Anantara’s website.

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