Updated: May 11, 2020
As soon as you fly over the blue and green ocean meeting Vilanculos, you feel like you’ve arrived in paradise. This is the sea you always imagine seeing as a little kid whilst watching films.
We arrived in a rather warm Vilanculos, but fortunately we were greeted by the friendly &Beyond staff, ready for us with cold face cloths and even colder bottles of water. As we waited for our helicopter transfer to the island, we were introduced to one of the local beers - Dois M (2M). It was light and refreshing and just what we needed to start this vacation off right.
The helicopter transfer was an incredible experience. The flight from Vilanculos to Benguerra Island is only 8 minutes long, but in those 8 minutes, you see such a vast array of blues and greens of the sea, you see how the colors change, where there are patches of sea grass. Nothing says “luxury island holiday” like a helicopter transfer. Besides from that, it’s a truly unique experience, and you have a different view of things, which you won’t get by traveling by boat.
Stepping off the helicopter, we were welcomed by the &Beyond Benguerra Island Staff. This time, the water was traded for a very well received frozen lemonade. After the lodge briefing, our friendly butler, Bento, showed us to our rooms and gave us a tour of our casihnas. This was followed by a light lunch, and the rest of our day was spent just soaking up the beauty of this piece of paradise we’d call home for the next week.
At six o’clock in the evening, all the lodge guests meet at the Dhow Bar for sundowners. The boat was actually used to transport supplies from the mainland to the island, and has now been transformed into a bar. We enjoyed the most delicious bar snacks; consisting of chorizo, mixed nuts, vegetable spring rolls and fish cakes. A gas fire is lit where guests can sit around and spend time before dinner.
My family and I decided to opt for all the seafood options at meals that we can possibly get, as we aren’t as spoilt for choice with seafood back home. For starters, we had the Battered Benguerra Prawn served with a Sweet Chilli Dip. Our main course was the Seafood Risotto which tastes like tropical heaven! It has fresh crayfish, prawns, line fish and calamari - everything city slickers dream for from island cuisine. We finished our meal off with Churros and Chocolate Madeira Ganache.
Day 2: Snorkeling and Sunset Cruise
It’s a surreal feeling waking up and overlooking the boundless blue ocean. We still can’t believe this is real. Our morning started with the Benguerra Breakfast - consisting of fresh fruit, muesli and yogurt, as well as freshly baked muffins and orange juice. This is followed by a hot breakfast “special of the day”, which was Eggs Benedict. The &Beyond staff are very accommodating - if you want just scrambled eggs on toast, they will organize that for you.
Since we needed to indulge in all that the island has to offer, we went for a midday snorkel. You sail out for about 25 minutes to a coral reef, closer to the Bazaruto Island. On the sail, we lounged on the trampoline in front of the boat, and stood in front to have some salty sea spray splash us.
Carlos, our snorkeling instructor, fitted our fins and masks before leaving the island and made sure everybody had the correctly sized gear; and prepped us well before we slid into the water. &Beyond ensures that this coral reef is protected, so it is of utmost important not to touch anything in the reef, in order to ensure its conservation.
We snorkeled for 45 minutes (it can be longer or shorter, depending on the guests) and we were all awe-struck. There is a colossal arrangement of coral reefs, all of different colors, shapes and sizes; varying in texture and pattern. One is left breathless, and not just because you have a snorkel mask on. The most vibrant and colorful fish dance around below you, slipping in and out of the coral caves. You can spot some starfish, and even sea cucumbers. Carlos pointed out a pufferfish and a spotted eel that slimily slid into a cave. These 45 minutes fly (or should I say swim) by, you don’t even realize how far you swim - perhaps because of the unparalleled natural beauty that awaits you under the sea.
After the snorkel, we boarded the boat and were handed towels and water by Mario, the skipper. We then went to the shores of Bazaruto to hopefully spot a dugong (relative of a now extinct sea cow). Spotting dugongs in the Bazaruto Archipelago is a magical occurrence, as they are endangered in this area. We waited a few minutes in the shallow waters around Bazaruto, and blue blistering barnacles! We spotted one! The dugong fed on sea grass in the water, and came up for air a few times, showing off its enormous tail. I did some research afterwards and discovered that dugong actually comes from the Malay term “duyung” which means Lady of the Sea. This is because they move slowly and elegantly, like large ladies – and they swim beautifully thanks to their buoyant bodies. What’s more, is that dugongs are though to be the inspiration for early seafarers’s tales of mermaids.
Heading back to the island, we were welcomed by Bento with cold face cloths and refreshing iced-tea. This invited us to our second afternoon’s lunch. Spending a day out at sea, you crave seafood, and fortunately for us, the chef placed grilled calamari steak on the menu. The steak was served fresh, as is - and you realize it doesn’t need a lemon butter or tartar sauce. Our dessert was a sweet strawberry sorbet. Having such a busy morning, we decided to just relax on the loungers before our next adventure.
At five o’clock, we met up at the Dhow Bar for the next exciting venture - the Sunset Dhow Cruise. The Dhows are quite small, with just enough room for my family of four. Fernando has impeccable balance, and just ensured the boat was staying upright, and the rest was left to the sails. There were a few moments where the boat just-just wanted to tip sideways, and we’d scuffle around to try “balance it”, but Fernando just laughed and said the boat will be fine. We enjoyed gin and tonic and beers whilst enjoying a spectacular sunset. The whole time, we were cracking up with laughter as the boat teased us with a few tipping scares, and we played magical chairs to even it out after one of those scares. You can’t imagine how the colors of the sky and sea change as night draws nearer.
Back on the Benguerra beach, our table was ready for dinner on day 2. The van Zyls were craving crayfish, and the chef surprised us with Benguerra Island Crayfish Tail and Cous Cous. The crayfish was fresh and juicy, prepared in true island style - no sauce over it, just the fish meat in the tail. You really get the true taste of the crayfish in this way, and it really is gorgeous! As Mozambique has a lot of Portuguese influence, we were not surprised to find a beloved Portuguese tart, Pastéis de Nata, on the menu for dessert. Their custard tart was light and fluffy, and just sweet enough to hit the spot.
In these two days, we’ve already had new and fresh cuisine experiences, went snorkeling and got a little sunburnt, and started soaking up the magnificent scenery that Benguerra Island has to offer. Can’t wait for the rest of the week!