Monday, December 5, 2011

Hot Updates on Mozambique - Azura Quilalea

New Frontiers Tours' Sally Moon just spent some time exploring Mozambique's new gems and gathering updates on some of our tried and true favorite spots. Read on for info on the *NEW*, luxurious Azura Quilalea! Thanks, Sally, for all this info and please don't hesitate to contact the Kusini Collection or Sally: with questions, details on current specials or for more info on anything you see below.

Here are some of Sally's general comments and observations on Azura Quilalea:

When it comes to the look and feel of the guest areas and suites I am not sure what I was expecting – I assumed Stella would go all out to try and outshine Azura at Gabriel’s which, in my opinion, has a definite WOW factor especially when compared to the other Bazaruto Archipelago lodges. I was so wrong as Azura Quilalea is stylish yet low key and understated. There is something about it that is homely and cosy which creates a really relaxing atmosphere plus the d├ęcor doesn’t try and compete with the natural beauty of the island.. If it weren’t for the stunning ocean views and the sound of the waves I could easily have thought I was at a top game lodge.

When the lodge is full I wonder if the main guest areas won’t appear to be a bit crowded as the pool area is relatively small. Hopefully this concern will be unfounded as there will be guests who will want to relax on the deck of their suite whilst others will be out enjoying activities, a picnic lunch or sundowners at a secluded spot.

It’s been incredibly hot and dry which means the newly landscaped gardens look rather sparse and a bit sad – a couple of good rain showers will no doubt work wonders and this will make all the difference. Scarlet bougainvillea, hibiscus, colourful trees and shrubs are a great contrast to the cornflower blue sky and azure ocean.

· Azura Quilalea is one of 32 islands that make up the Quirimbas Archipelago, northern Mozambique, and is the most southerly of the inhabited islands.

· One flies over Quilalea Island en route to Quirimba Island, the second largest island in the Archipelago, where there is a landing strip. Guests then transfer for about five minutes through coconut plantations to the beach where they board the boat that transfers them to Quilalea. The total transfer time from Pemba is just over an hour and is a wonderful introduction to northern Mozambique.

· Due to its proximity to Tanzania, Pemba is only about 300 kms from the border, the Quirimbas have a distinctly East Africa feel – about 99% of the people are Muslim and they are incredibly friendly and welcoming.

· Quilalea is a stunning little coral island that is approx. 34 hectares in size and about 1 km x 2 km – I kayaked around it so it can’t be that big!

· The Quirimbas islands are a chain of fossilized coral rock islands and are very different to the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago with their endless sandy beaches and spine of dunes.

· Quilalea Island has just four smallish beaches. The main beach where guests arrive by boat, a beach in front of sunset suites 6, 7 and 8, another small beach in front of sunset suite 1and Turtle Beach where guests have a surprise island lunch or picnic.

· Unlike other islands there are no coconut palms on Quilalea – the island is vegetated by baobabs, star-chestnuts and corkwoods. Bougainville and hibiscus add a blaze of colour to the lodge garden which has been recently been landscaped and is still looking a bit sparse. I have no doubt it will flourish after the first rains.

· The bird life is good – from September to March olive bee eaters nest in holes in the ground behind suites 6 and 7 – they are so beautiful and a wonderful sight.

· One of the attractions of Quilalea is the stunning snorkeling straight from the beach in front of the lodge. From sunset suites 6, 7 and 8 guests only have to walk a couple of meters down to the ocean where they can spend literally hours snorkeling. At a depth of only a couple of meters there is spectacular marine life and colourful corals

· New reefs are being discovered all the time. There are currently 14 dive sites a 30 minute boat ride from Quilalea but the big plus is the fact there is a house reef which is a bonus for first time divers. Diving, deep sea fishing and snorkeling at a reef other than the one in front of the lodge is at additional cost.

· Reef shoes must be worn when guests wade out to the boat that transfers them from Quirimba Island to Quilalea. Once on Quilalea its advisable to wear reef shoes or slip slops when walking on the beach as coral and shells can cause nasty scratches and cuts. The lodge has a supply of reef shoes for guest use.

· Advise guests to carry a pair of shorts in their hand luggage. They can change into them at the CFA lounge before transferring to Quirimba airstrip for the boat transfer to Quilalea

· Villa Quilalea is situated on the sunset side of the island and is secluded and beautiful. Nine fairly steep steps lead up to the suite which means it’s not suitable for guests with a walking disability.

· As there is no beach directly in front of Villa Quilalea this is the only suite that has a private infinity plunge pool which is situated in front of the bedroom. Access to the ocean is via a ladder.

· In order to make the most of the day light Azura Quilalea time is one hour ahead of Pemba time!!! The same goes for Azura Gabriel where clocks are also moved forward by one hour.

· Due to being relatively close together Suites 6 and 7 and 1 and 2 are the best suites for families. As there is plenty of vegetation privacy is not compromised.

· Azura Quilalea is child friendly however I wouldn’t recommend it to families with very small children as the main guest areas are set on a cliff and there is lots of coral rock on the beach in front of the suites.

· Although slightly more expensive I definitely recommend the sunset suites (photo above left). Apart from their location the sunset suites are very slightly larger than the sunrise suites. Other sunset suite features are an umbrella on the sun deck and an outdoor shower. I hasten to add there is absolutely nothing wrong with the sunrise suites!

Photos by Sally Moon - New Frontiers Tours

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