andBeyond Benguerra Island
sophisticated, private, romantic
Bazaruto Archipelago (+27) 11 809 4300 andbeyond.com
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At a Glance
With just 13 beachside bungalow accommodations on Mozambique’s Benguerra Island, this lodge feels like an undiscovered gem and makes a perfect conclusion of an activities-heavy itinerary in South Africa.
- The original beach bar housed in a restored dhow, a typical wooden fishing boat that has been beautifully restored
- The flickering light of lanterns that transform the property in the evenings
The privacy the casinhas afford guests–each with their own deck, shaded seating area, pool, beach cabana with swinging daybed and beachfront chaise lounges
Arriving at andBeyond’s Benguerra Island, located off the southern coast of Mozambique, is breathtaking. The helicopter ride from coastal town Vilankulos, where international flights arrive, takes just eight minutes, but the flight offers a wonderful introduction to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a 550-square mile area that has been a designated marine national park since the early 1970s. During low tide, large patches of sand emerge between a sea whose color runs from deep sapphire to the lightest Tiffany turquoise—a translucent panorama of water and light; a tropical Monet.
As all of andBeyond’s lodges, Benguerra was conceived to blend into its natural habitat, a lush canopy of coconut palms, Banyan trees, potato bush and tangled beach shrubbery. The main lodge is a low-lying building made predominantly out of stripped wood, with a soaring thatched roof and expansive decks on stilted platforms. There are dining nooks, overstuffed loungers covered in deep-blue fabrics and a tasteful mix of antiques, like a rough-hewn wooden coffee table in the shape of a crocodile. Everything opens up to make the most of the stunning views of sparkling Benguerra Bay and what must be one of the world’s best beaches, with powdery white sand and small waves delivering shells along its edge.
The lodge’s 13 bay-fronting guest bungalows fan out from the main lodge and they, too, are set a bit back so that they quickly disappear into the vegetation, when seen from a boat. Surrounded by large wooden decks and plunge pools, the 10 guest casinhas and two slightly smaller cabanas have glass doors but thatched roofs that let in the sea breeze (there’s also air conditioning). Complete with massive four-post beds, cool tile floor and cushy day beds, the rooms are supremely comfortable but not overly lavish. It would be a reach to call them rustic—for the well-stocked mini bars, beautiful fabrics and glam indoor-outdoor bathrooms alone—but they also don’t feel out of place in this laid-back place. (Suffice it to say that any shoe more elaborate than a flip-flop will stay in your bag the entirety of your stay.) Each comes with its own beach palapa, with a double-sized, swinging day bed.
Days can be spent lazing at the shore or partaking in a host of activities organized by the lodge’s lovely staff (and most of which are included in the room rate). There’s snorkeling at pristine Two Mile Reef, teaming with Ember Parrotfish, Fire Goby, Devil Firefish and other colorful reef species, as well as an embarrassment of healthy coral (if you’ve ever snorkeled in reefs effected by coral bleaching, like the Great Barrier Reef, you will weep with joy here). There are catamaran cruises to Paradise Island, a deserted isle that still holds the spooky shell of a once hot-spot hotel (Bob Dylan reportedly wrote his catchy song Mozambique while visiting). There are sunset cruises on a dhow, eastern Africa’s wooden fishing vessel of choice, and if you are in luck, you will spot dolphins or the elusive dugong, an aquatic mammal that is almost entirely extinct. Diving is another big pastime, though it helps to know that the level of scuba in the Bazaruto Archipelago is intermediate to advanced. The Indian Ocean can be rough and the best dive spots require some experience. Back at the lodge, there’s a one-room massage palapa and a small infinity pool, where guests rarely sit, however, since the calm waters of the bay beckon.
Guests eat all their meals at the resort–because short of another hotel (Azura) down the beach, Benguerra Island comprises only small fishing communities, and there are no other restaurants. The menu at Benguerra is short but innovative and includes lots of local seafood. A great way to mingle with other guests are the sundowners at the Dhow Bar, a beautifully restored fishing boat that serves as an early-evening gathering spot, or the adjacent fire pit for a night cap. Of course, honeymooners and romantics who prefer to remain solo can also dine at the beach in front of their casinha surrounded by lanterns.
Benguerra Island is the kind of place that’s best suited to travelers who can embrace a laid-back beach vibe. It’s not about water sports or non-stop activities. Rather, every day you spend there, you find yourself powerfully pulled back to celebrating simple pleasures: finding a pink-rimmed flamingo feather during a beach walk; waking to a symphony of birds; watching local women crabbing in the low-tide sand bars. The hardest part about a trip to Benguerra is finding and putting your shoes back on at the end of it. But luckily, there’s still the helicopter transfer back to Vilankulos—a last sweeping look at the watery dreamscape of Bazaruto.
Who Should Stay
While Benguerra Island is open to kids of all ages (unlike some safari camps), the beachside-castaway vibe is undeniably romantic. Couples will be most happy here, especially those who enjoy snorkeling or know how to scuba dive, as the marine wildlife is world-renowned. Africa aficionados who want to explore a special place before the rest of the world gets there, should book now. If you do opt to bring the kids, there’s a lovely three-bedroom villa, Casa Familia, that sits at the edge of the property (also beachside).
Who Should Not Stay
People who need an abundance of water sports, activities or a nightlife. Also, in keeping with the low-impact philosophy, paths at night are very dimly lit by lanterns, so older travelers or people who have trouble walking might face a challenge here.
When to Go
High season is June, July and August, as well as the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Mid-December through February is the rainy season, and January and February should be avoided due to rain and heat.
The eight-minute helicopter transfer to Benguerra Island is inclusive in the room rate and offers a spectacular introduction to the archipelago. Indagare Tip: Unlike the small prop bush planes, the helicopter offers less stringent luggage requirements, i.e., while duffels are preferable to wheeling suitcases, they are not mandatory, and the weight restriction of 44 pounds per person is a bit more lax.
Good to Know
Benguerra is in a Malaria zone, and even though the highest risk of contracting the disease is during rainy seasons (December – February), it’s best to get a prescription before your trip and to bring bug repellent. Indagare Tip: Off carries bug spray–drenched wipes which are easier to transport.
There is WiFi throughout the property and it’s surprisingly good for such a far-flung destination.