Resort Review: Medjumbe Island Resort, Mozambique
As our tiny plane approached the diminutive runway on Medjumbe Island, a fellow passenger actually cried with tears of joy at the land – and sea – scape below us. Consider that for a moment. A particularly well-travelled woman, a woman who in fact travels for a living, was moved to impromptu tears at the sheer beauty of the place we were about to visit. That is how utterly marvellous the Mozambican island of Medjumbe really is.
The tiny island – just 1km by 500m – lies off the coast of northern Mozambique in the improbably beautiful Quirimbas Archipelago. The plane ride – a 30-minute jaunt in a nine-seater plane – saw us filling our cameras’ memory cards with endless shots of turquoise reefs and of midnight blue inlets snaking among the dense, olive green mangrove swamps of the Quirimbas islands.
In fact, the colours seen from the air are a taster of what you can expect to see within the ultra-exclusive Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort following its recent refurbishment. Calming shades of blue, turquoise and green dominate, cleverly incorporated into the décor in patterned cloths reminiscent of the traditional capulana – the sarong-like garment seemingly sported by almost every woman in the country.
Calming is a word that comes to mind often on Medjumbe. On arrival we were treated to a short burst of mapiko – a masked dance accompanied by drumming that is a symbol of the Makonde people of northern Mozambique. Once the display is over we were told “and now, just lots of peace and quiet”, and the dancers disappeared as quickly as they had emerged. Peace and quiet are indeed in abundance. There are no other buildings on Medjumbe, no cars, no roads – just a small, adults-only resort. And there are no other people but the guests that occupy the island’s 12 luxurious villas plus the staff that are here to cater to their every need.
My first encounter was with Shorty, who has the crucial job of running the water sports centre. Options here include kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and snorkelling but I opted for an activity that was born in another island paradise. Stand-up paddle boarding originated in Hawaii but has become popular the world over. I was drawn in by Medjumbe’s calm, warm waters – where falling off the board seemed unlikely, but if it happened it would be a welcome way to get acquainted with the Indian Ocean. With no sound but the light splashing of paddle hitting water it was a fittingly peaceful start to our Medjumbe stay.
Days and nights here are split between oceanic adventures, pure relaxation and decadent dining. Mornings begin with options like freshly baked pastries, piri piri chicken and the revered Island Benedict – a sumptuous dish of English muffins, poached egg and hollandaise topped with a locally caught lobster tail. Lobster indeed becomes a highly welcome feature of daily life on Medjumbe, appearing on breakfast plates, in fragrant curries and best of all, grilled simply on a barbeque and enjoyed with a dollop of garlic butter and a glass of sparkling South African wine.
It would be remiss of me to suggest that there was only one glass of bubbly being consumed, but I felt we earned the post-swim mimosas on neighbouring Quissanga Island. Quissanga is yet tinier than Medjumbe and consists of nothing but a thatched gazebo for pre-lunch sipping, a palm grove under which to enjoy the most lavish picnic of your life and a circuit of completely untouched, powdery beaches. The boat trip to reach Quissanga is short – perhaps about 20 minutes, though watches had long since been buried away in suitcases. On arrival, we quickly hopped back onto the boat to reach a sheltered snorkelling spot. For 40 minutes or so, we swam and dived and pointed to increasingly exotic fish to which I gave increasingly ridiculous names in an attempt to recall them and correctly identify them later. We emerged salty and happy and more ready for champers and lobster than we had perhaps ever been before.
Back on Medjumbe I decided to better explore my room. The thatched villas are hidden from each other by indigenous vegetation meaning whether you’re relaxing on the deck or lounging in your private plunge pool, you never see or hear your neighbours. The only neighbours you will regularly encounter are the ghost crabs that inhabit the island, scuttling across the paths as you wander from villa to spa to restaurant and back throughout the day.
Much thought has gone into the rooms – been for a barefoot stroll on the beach? There’s a hose on your villa steps to stop you bringing sand to bed. Fancy a shower under the stars? The outdoor showers link directly to your bathroom so there’s no need to traipse along the deck. Feeling the strain of all that lobster weighing on your hips? There’s a “gym in a bag” waiting to be unpacked on the ocean-facing terrace. Rooms even come with those little beachy extras you might have left behind – sun hats, sarongs, beach bags and flip flops.
The staff at Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort have everything covered – from ice cold cocktails and scrumptious desserts to beachside spa treatments and traditional dhow sailing trips. All that remains for you to do is decide exactly which way you choose to relax. And that’s not an easy decision at all.
Address: Medjumbe Island, Mozambique / +27 10 003 8979