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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-12-20 11:05:55

Mozambique

Mozambique

Magical

MOZAMBIQUE

Norah Casey ventures to the beautiful island of Benguerra for
sea safaris, castaway picnics, whale watching and a voyage to
the deserted Paradise Island that inspired Bob Dylan.

“I like to spend some time in Mozambique. on a mythical deserted island were PHOTOGRAPHS BY NORAH CASEY USING CANON POWERSHOT
The sunny sky is aqua blue, allowed to bring with them. Me, I SX710HS; CANON POWERSHOT SX60HS; CANON EOS 100D
opted for a Canon SX60 Powershot
and all the couples dancing cheek to cheek. to capture the unspoilt perfection of a
It’s very nice to stay a week or two.” true desert island where nothing was
—Mozambique, Bob Dylan, 1976 expected or needed other than to stop
the clock and soak up the sensory
Mozambique came to Dublin on a day came and I touched down on the feast of sun, sea, and sky. I lost time
drizzly, dreich day, crackling through beautiful island of Benguerra after an transfixed by the blood red sunsets,
the transistor radio permanently tuned exhilarating helicopter flight over the the ebb and flow of the Indian ocean
to Radio Caroline in the bedroom I turquoise sea from the coastal African and the many shades of blue from
shared with my sisters. The hypnotic town of Vilanculus. the palest jade to the steely cobalt
drawl of Bob Dylan told the tale of beyond the reef. The bleached white
a magical land where people fell in Edna O’Brien asked for a vault of beach – pristine save for my footprints
love on a sunny beach. I had only the very fine wines, Christy Moore opted – magnified the feeling of aloneness at
vaguest idea of where this beautiful for the Uillean Pipes and Graham Benguerra, even though a five-minute
tropical paradise of ‘aqua blue skies’ Norton requested a mirror. Fans of walk would bring me to the library
might be, but I knew I wanted to be the BBC’s Desert Island Discs will and lounge where fellow humans were
there someday. Finally, last year, that recognise that these of course were the always to be found. Most appeared to
luxury items the prospective castaways be there just to cater to whatever whim

92 IRISH TATLER

LIVING

my chilled out and uncluttered mind desired; an Blue on blue – paradise waters
ice-cold glass of Chardonnay, a welcome shade
to escape the midday sun or a leisurely chat Feeling spoilt, with every
with Thys, the funny, charming man in charge. whim catered for
This is a level of bliss often promised in the
glossy travel brochures, but rarely experienced. in circles around the boat. We ventured out
further into the ocean on the dive boat one
I have been a fan of travel firm AndBeyond day and after a couple of hours shrieked
for a long time so when I heard the company with excitement when we spotted our first
had acquired and renovated this former fishing of many humpback whales break the surface
lodge a couple of years ago I had it firmly on as they soared upwards before splashing
the bucket list. Benguerra is the second largest back into the ocean, their distinctive tail fins
island in the Bazaruto Archipelago and is slapping the water. It was a truly wondrous
part of a protected marine-conservation area. and unforgettable experience, watching these
Compared to other island retreats, Benguerra is magnificent, acrobatic mammals nearing the
different in that this little corner of AndBeyond end of their annual migration from Antarctica
paradise is nestled in among a thriving island to the Indian Ocean for the mating season. The
population; fishermen head out in the early ethereal oceanic symphony of the male whales
morning and late evening and locals scour the could be heard faintly above the thrashing
beach when the tide is out for mussels and razor and blowing of the female herd. My camera
clams. Although still quite small, it is bigger captured the moments but it’s impossible to
than most island escapes at seven miles by three describe the feeling of standing on a tiny boat
and a half miles and mixing with the local in this vast expanse of ocean with a front row
community is a must to get a sense of island life. seat to watch these ancient sea giants. What I
particularly love about the ethos of AndBeyond
The jaw-dropping beauty of mother nature, is its commitment to the environment and local
with a helping hand from the exceptional staff communities. Benguerra Island Lodge supports
at Benguerra, provides activities at the resort. the Oceans Without Borders initiative which
Our days were packed with underwater sea protects endangered marine life. In these waters,
safaris while snorkelling over the majestic as well as the whales and the dolphins, Africa’s
coral and diving beneath the waves to hear
the sonic calls of the dolphins as they swam

Idyllic waterfront dining

IRISH TATLER 93

The setting for our
Castaway-style picnic

Travelling in style

The beach bar – our retreat

Unforgettable whale
watching moments

last sustainable population of the rare leading to nowhere. Graffiti adorns Whispers of a glamorous
dugong can be found along with a the walls of the former grand hotel past on Paradise Island
vulnerable ecosystem that stretches to and the hollowed-out rooms and
Somalia. It’s good to know that this overgrown gardens are all that’s left
part of the coastline is being protected of the splendour of its hay day. It
and supported. was one of the highlights of our trip
to Mozambique and we stayed some
Early one morning we took a longer time visiting the island, imagining the
journey on the lodge’s catamaran, one grandeur of the guests sipping cocktails
I had dreamed about since childhood. while listening to Bob Dylan playing
We headed to the deserted island of the baby grand.
Santa Carolina where Bob Dylan
wrote that famous song and was Benguerra is a very special place,
rumoured to have played the piano worthy of a top spot on your bucket
in a palatial hotel where the jetset list to mark something important in
partied in the sixties. The island was your life. For some it is a celebration
renamed Paradise Island and back in of marriage. For others, it might be a
the day boasted 250 rooms, a private birthday, an anniversary or a treat for
airstrip and its own chapel. The hotel just getting through years of work or
was abandoned in 1973 when the raising children. Whatever the reason,
owner, fearing for his life, fled when I know you will feel invigorated and
the country achieved independence recharged by the beauty and the
and was on the cusp of a bloody civil sensory overload of this magical place.
war. Now the ruins of faded glory As well as the camera capturing those
echo with the ghosts of laughter, special moments I took lots of ‘mind
music and ‘couples dancing cheek to snaps’ during my wonderful time there
cheek’ beneath a sky of aqua blue. All to sustain me during the long winter
that’s left are the skeletal remains of months. My favourite moment of each
what must have been a stunning Art day was sitting quietly on the beach to
Deco ballroom with the pillars still watch the sun slip into the ocean after
standing and a crumbling staircase another day in paradise.

94 IRISH TATLER

LIVING

MEMORABLE MOMENTS
Benguerra was full of precious moments it was hard to choose just one.

My top 5... Our private ocean...
or so it felt!
1. Sipping a cold beer one evening with Dara, our faces shiny from
2. hours of snorkelling, at the permanently landlocked colourful dhow Our evening
3. that serves as the perfect beach bar. sundowners spot
A wonderful Castaway-style picnic on a temporary sand island
4. under a vivid blue canopy. A chilled bottle of wine awaited us
5. and the staff served a simple but superb seafood salad with silver
cutlery and crisp white napkins. Afterwards, the staff left us to our
own devices lying on our personal sun beds, swimming in the clear
sun-dazzled waters of our own private piece of ocean, where we
felt we were truly reliving the Robinson Crusoe experience.
Every night we gathered around the fire with our fellow guests
to enjoy a drink before dinner. Dara and I were the only ones not
on honeymoon but our newly-weds were great company and we
stayed later and later each night enjoying the banter with our
amiable host Thys along with Renoir, Fernando, Heike and the rest
of the team. So much so that Thys organised a special treat one
night when the ‘Benguerra boyband’ featuring a troupe of local
children, including Sergio’s two brothers came to dance for us.
They did amazing sand dances and, better still, taught us all some
traditional moves.
Sitting perfectly still in the early morning watching a host of little
visitors take over the infinity pool. Benguerra is a bird sanctuary
and home to more than 100 species, including the crab plover,
olive bee-eater and green coucal.
Loving the local horses rescued by Pat and Mandy Retzlaff. The
couple rescued over 100 horses from President Robert Mugabe’s
brutal regime and the surviving seven live out their days ambling
the beautiful beaches of Benguerra. These gentle souls bear the
scars of their inhumane treatment but, rest assured, they were
cosseted by myself and Dara each and every afternoon.

Stunning sunsets Pat and Mandy’s
rescue horses

IRISH TATLER 95

“My favourite moment of each day was sitting
quietly on the beach to watch the sun slip
into the ocean after another day in paradise”

Beautifully themed Inside the Cassinha at
bedrooms that opened Benguerra Island Lodge
onto our deck

96 IRISH TATLER

LIVING

GOOD TO KNOW
You can travel to Benguerra Island Lodge by boat from the mainland but most guests
opt for the ten minute helicopter ride from Vilanculos. The Lodge has 13 thatched roof
beach villas. There are two Cabanas slightly smaller than the ten Cassinhas but all with
stunning ocean views and beautifully furnished with an African themed décor of dark
wood and bright blue textiles, a four-poster king bed, an oversized luxury bathtub and an
outdoor shower area. The room design seamlessly blends the outside in, with floor-to-
ceiling glass doors that open on to the deck and infinity pool. The outside Sala features
comfortable sofas, loungers and a four-seater dining table providing plenty of options for
shade or sun throughout the day. The suspended double beach bed over a thatch shade
was a lovely feature and perfect for early evening sundowners. There is also a larger Casa
Familia with interconnecting rooms which is ideal for families or groups. The dive centre
is well equipped with expert instructors and its own diving boat and catamaran. Guests
are introduced to their private butler on arrival. Ours was a wonderful young man called
Sergio who catered for our every need, bringing breakfast each morning and creating
wonderful dinner experiences on the beach or at the Lodge. He made sure the bar was
stocked with our favourite items even sending a night cap to our room each evening. All
meals and drinks are included along with a selection of activities.

GETTING THERE
Further details from Belfast–based travel specialists Mahlatini (Mahlatini.com; ask for
Claire Picknell who organised our trip) and details of Benguerra Island Lodge from
Andbeyond.com. Flights were from Dublin to Johannesburg (via Addis Ababa) with
Ethiopianairlines.com.

Beautiful moments spent The private deck and
whale watching infinity pool

Looking after our
every need

IRISH TATLER 97


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