By Suzette Leal
When it comes to picking a gorgeous island as a holiday destination, the Maldives seems to be the default. No one is disputing its honeymoon credentials, but for a tropical retreat with a kick of bold adventure, we’re drifting toward Africa. In recent years, Mozambique’s unspoiled archipelagos have seen discreet and luxurious hotels popping up for discerning and curious travelers. Minimizing their impact on the lush green mangrove forests, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, these hotels subtly immerse themselves in the soft surroundings that Mother Nature shares with us.
Bazaruto Archipelago, Vilanculos Area
In describing the perfect island resort, you can’t help but overuse the word paradise. We’ve implemented strict regulations on our reliance on this particular noun, but the consensus is that Benguerra Lodge is exactly that: paradise! It’s situated in a protected nature reserve, and guests stay in spacious thatched-roof villas built on soft sand and flanked by palm trees. Steps away from your heavenly abode is an almost empty stretch of pristine beach dotted with secluded daybeds and beach huts. The area is rich in marine life and home to several inland lakes; snorkeling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing are superb activities to occupy your time with. But we must confess: Dragging us away from our Kindle and hammock in this immaculate setting takes some effort.
Azura Benguerra Island
At this boutique hotel with just 18 villas, visitors are spoiled with individual butlers, private plunge pools and personalized attention. Hand-built chalets are white, light and beachy with touches of local art and finishes. The African spa is a must-visit if you’re in need of relaxation therapies with a sublime combination of techniques and products. Activities such beach picnics, dhow sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving add adventure to your tropical time.
Quirimbas Archipelago & Pemba Area
The Quirimbas archipelago is made up of roughly 34 small islands, many of which remain uninhabited. The island chain forms the most rugged, natural and undeveloped part of the Mozambican island trail — but it doesn’t ask you to sacrifice comfortably glamorous accommodations. The lodges here nail the combination of sleek sophistication with the fresh, raw elements of nature.
Vamizi Island Lodge
You’ll arrive by private charter and then be transported in a four-wheel-drive vehicle down a bumpy, coral forest road to one of six private island villas. The trip alone will set the tone for a once-in-a-lifetime island adventure. Truly remote and exclusive, this is the ideal retreat for friends and family to regroup and spend quality time together. The villas offer multiple bedrooms and secluded access for residents only. The kids will find endless entertainment through kayaking and forest exploring while adults can catch some rays and bond over a cocktail … or two.
Medjumbe Island Resort
This idyllic Anantara resort describes itself as providing barefoot luxury, and we simply had to clone the phrase. On this private island covered in palm trees and surrounded by a soft ocean, you can indulge in myriad water sports, whale-watching boat trips and romantic private cruises. The thatched villas with deck patios exude a rustic, simple elegance that complement and respect the incredible surroundings. As for the buzzing Bahari beach bar, we’ll put it this way: After sipping a piña colada here, ordering one anywhere else will seem almost ridiculous.
The south coast of Mozambique certainly sees its fair share of tourists. With plenty of activities, a diverse range of accommodation options and multiple vendors catering to travelers’ needs, this part of the country will never fall out of favor. These are the two lodges we’ve singled out for their awesomeness:
Nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Maputo Elephant Reserve, at this Ponta Mamoli gem nature stretches beyond palm trees and cool beaches. Against a backdrop of striking Casuarina trees, wooden villas are perched on a hill offering elevated views of an endless ocean and vast stretches of pure, shimmering private beachfront. Couples may choose to exclusively enjoy each other’s company at their villa pool and daybed, but for the occasional venture out there are several stylish guest areas, such as the Ibiza beach bar, the pool decks and a reading room. The light and earthy décor is exquisite and the dinners of fresh prawns by candelight, spectacular. The staffers here focus on getting everything just right. And they do.
Chalets on stilts, pink flamingos clustered in the crystal clear waters and a sunset that paints the sky in pastel colors: the makings of an Henri Matisse painting or what? Flamingo Bay was one of the first epic resorts to open in Mozambique, and it continues to do its reputation proud. It’s popular with honeymoon couples and those in need of a dose of romance; friendly and professional staff make sure everything is taken care of so you can focus solely on vacationing. Horseback riding on the beach, quad biking through coconut plantations and scuba diving with whale sharks — dreamy days await you.
UPDATE: Flamingo Bay Resort recently burned down. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations and hopes to reopen in December of 2016.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.com