Absolutely heads to Mozambique and Zambia to get a taste of two properties that are worlds apart…
Words Helen Brown
Vying for its place among the private island resorts of the world is Medjumbe, an Anantara property ensconced within the remote Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique. A far-cry from the typical safari-style holidays of southern Africa, this secluded gem comprises just 12 beach villas and affords total detachment from the rest of the world.
Medjumbe Island Resort
We reach the resort via a 45-minute helicopter ride from Pemba International Airport, which follows a two-leg journey from Heathrow to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Pemba. Yes it’s a long way to travel but the tranquillity on the other side is worth it. Here, the horizon is an endless swirl of white sands and the azure blue of the Indian Ocean.
Beyond this vista, the waters surrounding Medjumbe Island offer an oceanic playground for water sports, whale watching, sunset cruises and remote island picnics, while below the waterline lives a wealth of marine life. The Quirimbas National Park is known for its coral reefs and waters inhabited by whales and dolphins. The 500m by 200m Quissanga Island is just 15 minutes from Medjumbe via boat and an ideal spot for snorkelling. A trip to this untouched island can be arranged as part of your stay on Medjumbe for a leisurely morning of swimming and splashing around amongst the fishes. We enjoy cold beers on the beach but guests can also arrange for a private picnic and can relish in the remoteness of the island with the Sleep Under the Stars experience. This invites couples to sleep outside in a four-poster bed surrounded by lanterns beneath the bejewelled night sky.
Medjumbe’s restaurant, Jahazi, is a rustic yet elegant spot overlooking the ocean. It serves all manner of international cuisine, from fresh seafood and local curries to grilled meat, sushi and salads. Breakfast – comprising the usual fruit platters, eggs, breads, cereals, plus a delicious lobster benedict and jerk chicken – is also served in Jahazi. One thing to bear in mind is that menus are heavily dependant on what is delivered to Medjumbe that day. Our breakfast one morning is compromised by a disrupted delivery, although the staff do their best to work around the issue. Evening drinks are also served with a side of sea and sand at Bahari Lounge Bar.
The resort’s overall aesthetic is one of laid-back beach-cool; think white-washed wooden beams, woven rugs, bright cushions and neutral tiling. Each room has the beach on its doorstep, a mini private pool, a sundeck and an outdoor shower. Each villa can accommodate two people and comes fully equipped with mini bar, VIP amenities such as fruit platter and local chocolates, and WiFi – although this is sketchy at best. But a lack of communication with the outside world only serves to make Medjumbe’s guests that little bit more relaxed. We move onto part two of our African adventure feeling carefree and rejuvenated.
The Royal Livingstone
Our second home-from-home is The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara. To get here, a quick car ride takes us from Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport to the shore of the Zambezi river where a zippy water taxi launches us upstream. Like a scene from an Ian Fleming novel we serpentine at speed across the vast river, spotting a herd of sun-basking hippopotamus en route, before enjoying a lavish lunch on the hotel’s terrace.
Sitting quite literally on the river bank, we spend our first evening on the sundeck with cocktail in hands watching the ferocious African sun sink behind the Zambezi. This is followed by a gin masterclass in The Travellers Bar, a room that oozes Old World charm with a huge, polished mahogany bar, low-slung harbour wing chairs and vintage leather travel trunks tottering high upon library shelves. Finally it’s a three-course dinner in the dining room where guests can enjoy European and indigenous dishes plated up with modern sophistication.
The British Colonial-style interiors carry through to the bedrooms which come with their own butler, on-duty 24/7 to bring you fresh cookies and to wish you good morning. From the private veranda zebra can be spotted roaming the gardens but if you venture out further into the grounds there’s every chance you’ll happen upon feeding time. One fortuitous afternoon we bumped into a wildlife whisperer of sorts who led us into a clearing to watch four giraffes and three times as many zebra eating their lunch. The Royal Livingstone is also home to monkeys; one cheeky grey chap steals half of our afternoon tea, while others can be seen messing around above the pool.
The hotel’s trump card though is the fact that it has Victoria Falls essentially in its back garden. Just 15 minutes away by foot, it’s possible to hear the thundering of the water and see its spray from the sundeck. The hotel encourages guests to come and go as they please to this spectacular site. Sunrise is one of the most brilliant times to visit if you can drag yourself out of bed.
Undoubtedly the best way to see the falls is by microlight flight, which can be organised very easily by The Royal Livingstone. This spectacular experience offers jaw-dropping views of the falls by way of a tiny unique motor bike-cum-plane that is unhindered by windows or wings. The exhilarating 15-minute ‘Flight of the Angels’ trip takes you over the falls themselves, offering views of the thundering Zambezi River and its many inhabitants (crocs, hippos, eagles and elephants) before coming back in to land. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that shouldn’t go a miss and comes at the end of a spectacular trip. From sunshine, white sand and sea to textbook African landscape, these Anantara properties are worlds apart but similar in the way they deliver on excellence. Back-to-back the trip was exceptional but even better would be to visit individually; twice as long and twice the holiday.