Mozambique : Ilha de Moçambique
Ilha de Moçambique was the old capital of Portuguese East Africa and has the crumbling faded glory of many a colonial capital. The island was joined to the mainland by a 3km bridge in the 1960s and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Like many islands off the east coast of Africa, it was an early Arab trading post before the Portuguese arrived, built a port and naval base and then a fort in the 16th century. It withheld bombardments by the Dutch in the early 1600s and many galleons and ships were sunk in battles and shipwrecks off the coast. In recent years some marine archaeologists have been salvaging treasures from the deep including a shipment of Ming China which amazingly has survived 400 years on the seabed. Many of these treasures can be seen in the small museum. The San Sabastiano Fort housed up to 2000 soldiers in its day and has had some pretty impressive restoration work done to it. It’s a lovely island with a very relaxed atmosphere and well worth a couple of days to wander around the dusty, rather dilapidated streets. On the mainland there are a couple of lovely luxury lodges where you can relax, dive and snorkel and both are involved in community projects with the local villages.
Terraco das Quintandes is a lovely restored Portuguese villa set on the waterfront and next to the former Governor's Palace. The feeling of the hotel is definitely colonial, entering through a huge wooden door into a courtyard, then up a sweeping staircase into the elegant main dining and sitting room. Fitting for a hotel on Ilha de Moçambique, there are many influences with antiques and furnishings from Asia, Zanzibar and Europe. There are beautiful gilded doors from Bali and old and replica Zanzibari doors throughout the building. There are six simple but beautiful rooms adorned with silks and drapes and a huge terrace on the roof with lovely views over Stone Town.
Villa Sands is a unique hotel on the seafront restored from three 16th century warehouses. On the ground floor are eight modern and very comfortable rooms which, with their arched ceilings, have the feeling of a monk's cell but with great luxury. Then there is the rooftop suite which has three bedrooms and its own private two-tiered terrace with a private pool and fantastic sea views. In the suite you can eat privately on the terrace or in the restaurant downstairs. There is also a larger pool on the main terrace. There is a feeling of the Mediterranean in Villa Sands with the white terraces and blue skies and if you prefer the contemporary feel then this is the hotel for you.
Nuarro is a lovely eco lodge set in a very remote area on Manda Bay north of Ilha de Moçambique. It's quite a drive to get there but worth it to see some of the local countryside. There is however, also an airstrip so it’s advisable to fly at least one way. There are 12 very comfortable chalets, set back from the beach and hidden in the dunes. The lodge is solar-powered and they have self-composting toilets which are clean and absolutely perfect. The beach is huge, with the local village at the far end and the villagers are co-owners of the land, so the community association receive a donation for each bed night sold. There is an excellent water-sports centre and there is a wall that drops off just in front of the lodge so you can dive straight from the beach. The diving is not the best on the coast but perfect for a few dives. They also have bikes to visit deserted beaches, the lighthouse and local villages to watch the fishermen bringing in their catch. Nuarro is somewhere you can feel totally away from the world with little impact on the local environment.
Arriving at Coral Lodge by boat from Ilha de Moçambique you feel as if you are heading to an island destination with its turquoise seas and huge white sandy beach. The lodge is actually set on the mainland within the private Varanda Nature Reserve. There are 10 lovely villas, five in the dunes overlooking the beach and five overlooking the lagoon. They are spacious and very comfortable with a fridge for cold drinks and snacks left temptingly on the sideboard. There are sun loungers on the terrace or you can make your way to the beach or to the lovely infinity swimming pool. There is a big tide on the main beach but it’s still possible to swim in the lagoon and there is some surprisingly good snorkelling there. The food at Coral Lodge is outstanding - the chef is imaginative with his dishes and it's simply delicious. There is plenty to keep you busy with diving, snorkelling and boat trips, canoeing in the mangroves and visiting the local village. There are some excellent children’s activities on offer as well. Coral is a fantastic lodge with exceptional service and great food.