Don’t tell the world, but we’ve found the precise spot where the striped, multicolored and glow-in-the-dark fish you’ve seen in the best aquariums all mingle. We’ve never seen them clustered like this, so many angelfish and surgeon and butterfly fish banding together and not giving much thought to the huge mass floating right above them. They’re swimming along the reefs off Paradise Island, part of Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago and one of several natural playgrounds of guests of Indigo Bay Island Resort & Spa.
Paradise Island is a 35-minute boat ride from Bazaruto Island, the largest in the archipelago and home to Indigo Bay. Both are home to white-sand beaches and clear waters, but for now, Paradise Island is just for day trips that come with extravagant lunches by the sea, a snorkeling bonanza and perhaps a careful hike around the island and along the ruins of an old hotel. It’s not part of the all-inclusive stay at Indigo Bay, costing approximately $95, but it’s certainly worth it.
As are several days of doing little in Bazaruto. The setting is as pristine as it gets, since there’s not much else on the island—just the resort and a handful of residents. But it’s what an island getaway once was, albeit with many modern conveniences and the friendliest of staff, infinitely patient with children and the occasionally dazed.
This might be a family resort, but we ran into four honeymooning couples from different parts of the world, all enchanted by their accommodations, their surroundings and the attention bestowed upon them. And if the romantic dinners and secluded beach spots were not enough, they, along with other guests, were also treated to extras provided free of charge by nature and the universe around us, including
dolphins swimming alongside the boat and shooting stars
almost every single night. We saw three in just one night.
island down time
Should guests not go off to Paradise Island or enjoy the complimentary trip and snorkel in Neptune’s Nursery, they’ll find that they have the Indigo Bay beach mostly to themselves, with calm, clear waters to cool off, a dhow prettying up their view and a tranquil beach to explore. An activities center not far from the Indi Kidz Club can easily arrange for other diversions, however. Dune boarding is an exciting option, as towering sand dunes are one of the island’s main attractions. Fishing aficionados will love the chance to catch sailfish, black marlin, wahoo and other species, while others will want to horseback ride along the beach, kayak or windsurf.
Then there’s the gorgeous, open-air spa, with most treatment rooms serving up views of the foliage and the blue beyond the green. The view from the spa is so splendid, in fact, that wedding receptions there are not uncommon. Besides an ice pool and wet room, there’s a full menu focused on international and African-inspired treatments and ingredients. The most fun, however, seems to be the Rasul treatment, which lets you cover yourself in a healing mud, “bake” in the warm, beautifully tiled Rasul Chamber and then rinse off when the chamber’s showers go off automatically; a decadent massage will follow.
Yet another pastime at Indigo Bay: dining, which is always excellent, with local seafood playing a leading role. There is always a surprise in store once it’s time to eat, with a shore-side roast or generous beach buffet. In the morning, as you breakfast on a bountiful spread or loll about in the pool, a chorus of birds cheer you throughout as the day begins on the island. Cocktail hour is just as fun, with fruity beverages and yummy roasted Mozambique cashews at the ready as you celebrate dusk. And as expected, the sunsets are simply unreal, with the sky awash in pink and the orange sun burning through until it’s swallowed by the sea.
The weather during our winter visit: just perfect, with clear skies, the most idyllic of breezes and hardly any insects to worry about. Indigo Bay sprays regularly for mosquitoes, as this is a malaria-prone area. However, we are happy to report not a single bite; mosquito repellent is provided in your room, but clients should still consult with their physician about malaria prevention prior to their visit.
Don’t expect a huge cement monstrosity or mismatch of styles at Indigo Bay. Wooden decks lead you from the lobby and main building through trees and shrubs and red squirrels to your darling, palm-thatched beach chalet for two; ours was about 40 steps away from the ocean, with tons of room for lounging about, a tub with a view, an indoor/outdoor shower, spacious verandahs and an extravagant bed with mosquito netting to protect your sleep at night. Each chalet even has its own hammock just beyond its terrace for impromptu naps.
Families or couples wanting more space can opt for a beach villa for four or five guests, with two bedrooms and a kitchen. It’s downright impossible to stock the kitchens, as there are no shops on the island, but there’s talk of a private chef being made available in the future. The resort is also working on providing room service. These same villas are a bit higher on the property than the chalets, which means they have less-instant access to the beach—it’s still within walking distance, however—but simply incredible views of the island and the shore from huge decks with plunge pools.
Rates at Indigo Bay start at $625 pp dbl for a beach chalet and include daily meals, beverages and house spirits, a daily snorkeling trip to Neptune’s Nursery (weather permitting), WiFi in the breakfast area, a 15-minute spa treatment and non-motorized activities.
Rani Resorts has other properties in Mozambique so clients can easily visit more than one to sample different experiences. This being Africa and all, they might want to complement their unspoiled-beach getaway at Indigo Bay with a safari adventure at Rani’s Lugenda Wilderness Camp in the Niassa Reserve, in the northern part of the country. Set in 16,000 sq. miles of pristine bush, the property features just eight luxury tents with their own decks amid the highest concentration of wildlife in the country. What’s in store: fireside bush dinners, high tea in the afternoons and game drives where lions, hippos, leopards, zebra and so many other animals come out to say hello. Rates at Lugenda start at $560 pp dbl. The camp is seasonal, open only from April through May and from November through December.
Clients can fly from Johannesburg into the spiffy, smallish international airport in Vilanculos, Mozambique in about 1.5 hours with Federal Air, then take a 15-minute flight with CFA Air Charters into the island. As a U.S. visitor, we paid $85 for an entry visa upon arrival in Mozambique—cash and exact amount only. It’s important that you let clients know that there is a 44-lb. luggage allowance for travel into Bazaruto and that only soft luggage is allowed, as there is very limited space in the tiny plane—or sometimes a helicopter—that transports travelers into the resort. If they are traveling with more luggage than is allowed, there are lockers for rent available at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.
Indigo bay with ker & downey
It’s not just us talking up Indigo Bay. According to Ker & Downey’s v.p. David Jones, clients who choose this property rave about it. “They absolutely love it. They are always surprised that it is so beautiful,” he says. “Many are thinking of the Seychelles and we suggest Indigo Bay and they are overwhelmed. They like the choice of being either up on the ridge, in privacy, or near the beach.”
Being that Africa is the award-winning luxury tour operator’s number one destination, pairing up a stay here with another intrinsically African experience is the norm. “They always combine it with safari and, most of the time, [with South Africa’s Western] Cape,” explains Jones, adding that clients who choose to visit Indigo Bay typically like privacy and exclusive attention. “We sell to honeymooners, couples and families alike.”
Because Ker & Downey only hand-crafts journeys, they are able to combine Indigo Bay with various lodges and provide free nights or discounts. Forget cookie-cutter tours here; your clients will get private guides and access to some of the world’s most beautiful properties, which have passed the site test of Ker & Downey’s own staff.
Agents, says Jones, are able to travel on a complimentary FAM based on production. “We love travel agents,” he exclaims. “We also have an amazing air department that can assist with incredible airfares in first, business, economy plus and economy.” Info at (800) 423-4236; kerdowney.com; kerdowney.com/travel-agent-resources.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com):
Out of Africa Come Romantic Retreats (June 2012)