Virtuoso Life - January/February 2018 - 132
Out & About
Channel. Manatee-like dugongs graze close
to shore. And from June through October,
the splash of humpback whales breaching
offshore may break the stillness.
The resort's full-day island-hop by sportfishing boat proves a superb introduction to
the archipelago's untamed side. We speed
to Bazaruto Island to hike immense dunes
spilling into the multihued Indian Ocean,
then snorkel a pristine offshore reef teeming with blue-banded snappers, Moorish
idols, and black-spotted sweetlips so close I
can almost kiss them. Staff serve a gourmet
picnic lunch on a blazing-white beach,
where I laze in the sun while the boatmen
play bao, as they call mancala, in the sand.
I fill two days relaxing with a massage in
a thatched open-air treehouse; naps on the
sundeck while ibis sip from my pool; and a
dhow "safari," a rather dull experience, the
wind being so still that the crew punts the
boat along the shore.
There's nothing dull, however, about
the children from Azura's Rainbow Fund
charity who sing and dance for us on the
beach at sunset. Nor the warmth of the
confident, well-trained island staff in
casual uniform who attend me with tropical ease as I savor seafood feasts served on
a beach adorned with fairy lights. And I'm
warmed by the resort's support for conservation and community, including funding
the local school.
"Safe travels. Wish to see you again,"
reads the elegant script carved into my
breakfast butter bowl. It's a lovely parting
touch that leaves me feeling wistful as I hear
the thrum of the helicopter, come to whisk
me back to Vilanculos.
From left: An emperor angelfish sighting during a snorkeling expedition, hiking island dunes, and some of Maputo Special Reserve's
resident elephants and impalas. Opposite: Azura Benguerra Island.
MOZAMBIQUE'S WILD SIDE
Its wildlife decimated by the civil war that raged from 1977 to 1992, Mozambique struggles to compete in the big-stakes safari game. Lodges
are as rare as rhinos, and efforts to restock the national parks with "big
five" species are works in progress. "Mozambique is not one of the great
African safari destinations at this time," advisor Ryan Hilton says. "It has
some tremendous natural resources in its scenic wildlife areas, though,
and over time, with the appropriate protection, the resilient wildlife
populations will hopefully rebound strongly."
There are opportunities for animal encounters, however. For a taste
of the country's wildlife, try the 257,000-acre Maputo Special Reserve, a
V I RT U O S O L I F E
short drive south of the capital. On my guided trip there, just five minutes
in, a herd of gazelles bounded across our path, followed by a tower of five
giraffes emerging languorously from thorny scrub. While the reserve has
no great densities of wildlife, its herds are growing steadily. Elephants now
number about 650, for example. To me, it felt like unspoiled, frontierexperience Africa: We had a steady trickle of sightings - antelope, hippos,
wildebeests, zebras - and saw only one other vehicle as we spun wheels
in first gear negotiating the reserve's deep sandy tracks. The first lodge in
the region recently opened, but for now Maputo Special Reserve seems
as wild a place to see animals as you'll find in this part of the world.