Where is paradise, exactly?
Turns out it’s about a two-hour flight from Johannesburg, plus a quick jaunt by helicopter or boat …
The Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, lazing 30km off the Mozambique coast, isn’t the absolute quickest beach idyll to reach, but it’s more than worth the extra effort it takes to get there. It has an authentic feel to it, it’s the ultimate island escape: it’s not highly polished and refined luxury, but its charmingly gorgeous, with beachside villas, a sensuous spa and exquisite barefoot dining; bathed in tropical sunshine and lapped by dazzling blue-green-turquoise seas; and integrated with the local community, within a jaw-dropping national park.
This is spectacular, responsible, adventurous Crusoe-castaway luxe.
The Anantara is one of only two properties on Barazuto, the archipelago’s biggest island, which it shares with around 3, 700 people. Staying here affords a great opportunity to sample delicious local dishes, watch the fishermen haul in their catch, visit traditional villages and soak up laidback archipelago life. The property works closely with these communities, helping to build wells and schools; as well as founding the first health centre here – previously, the only option for residents was to make the journey over to the mainland.
But the support goes far deeper than this. 95% of employees at the hotel were born on Bazaruto, demonstrating beyond doubt the commitment of the business to the islanders. The easy option would be to employ a team experienced in hospitality from other regions; people who understand what luxury hospitality looks like and who already have a strong command of the English language surely? “Yes maybe, but easy doesn’t equal right” says General Manager Yiannis Kosmas. “We work closely with new recruits to help them both with their language development, and with their guest experience delivery skills”. Yiannis joined the resort twelve months ago, after spending almost five years in Thailand and Malaysia and has already made huge inroads; employing Executive Chef, Jean Piere, from their sister property in the Maldives, elevating their culinary offering and helping to refine the skills of the existing staff. He’s also investing in his people, sending team members to other Anantara properties on placement in order for them to see customer experience being delivered at the highest levels.
Of course the beaches and pools offer some welcome R&R, but the island is a diverse and tropical playground too. You can go sand-boarding on rippling blonde dunes, paddle across the shallows by kayak or SUP, try your luck at world-class deep-sea fishing, horseback ride through the shallows, and sail off into the sunset aboard an elegant dhow.
The wider area is truly special. Declared a protected area in 1971, the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park spans 1,360 sq km of ecologically unique waters – the biodiversity and volume of marine life is astonishing. It’s now managed by conservation organisation African Parks, which works closely with communities and commercial operators – such as Anantara – to ensure that this remarkable place has a more sustainable future. This includes instigating ranger patrols to help stop illegal activities occurring within the park and developing a detailed code of conduct for tourism to ensure activities such as boat trips, snorkelling and diving don’t negatively effect the environment.
This is good news, because you will want to explore these teeming waters. Head out from the Anantara and you may well encounter manta rays and dolphins, sharks and sailfish, nesting turtles and rare dugong. The snorkelling is some of the best I’ve every experienced: clear waters, huge volumes (every size and in every colour of the rainbow) varieties of fish; . Time it right and you might also meet humpback whales, which migrate past from July to September.
Yes, you’ll spend a little longer getting there. But a true ocean paradise will be your reward. It may not deliver the impeccably polished, highly refined offering of resorts in the other parts of the Indian Ocean, but what it does provide is a high end, charming and “real” island getaway …. not to mention some of the best shellfish I’ve ever tasted!