Azura Benguerra Island, Mozambique, is the first of several luxury Indian Ocean eco-island retreats from Christopher and Stella Bettany. Christopher has a background in luxury hotel development and investment.
The hotel first opened in September 2007.
The vision is to provide the ultimate in private luxury hideaways in stunning undiscovered destinations. Azura Benguerra was hand built by the local community, and blends designer modern chic with all that is traditional in Mozambique, including local wooden beams and thatched jekka roofs.
The 20 luxury beachfront villas comprise of 3 Beach Villas, 3 Luxury Beach Villas, 10 Infinity Beach Villas, 2 Royal Beach Villas, 1 Villa Amizade and 1 Presidential Villa. All villas are very spacious with the Infinity and Luxury Beach villas covering a total private area of 650m2.
The key difference between the Luxury Beach Villas and the Infinity Beach Villas is the prime positioning of the Infinity Beach Villas, a larger bathroom with freeform bath, and the size of the villa pool. The Luxury Beach Villas each have 3.5m plunge pools whereas the infinity Beach villas have a 5m long infinity pool. The Beach Villas are slightly smaller in all aspects but have an excellent location.
The Royal Beach Villas feature infinity edge pools and magnificent sea views. They are 172 square metres, making them the largest and most lavish of all the villas. The villas offer, besides a bedroom/bathroom area same size as and Infinity Beach Villa, an separate lounge with own bathroom connected via walkways and glass sliding doors.
The villas are all nestled amidst the indigenous trees and vegetation and have been created to offer guest their own private sanctuary where they can feel at one with the environment.
Guests need only take a few steps to the pristine white beach or they may choose to just lounge around on plump cushions and have their host serve them tea and ice cold drinks. They can dine on the private deck, or sip a cocktail in the beachside Sala as the sun goes down. Lie in the large bath and gaze at the view, or shower beneath the stars.
Benguerra is the second largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which is made up of five islands: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Banque (or Shell Island), and Santa Carolina (or Paradise Island). Santa Carolina is the only true volcanic island, whereas the others are sand based.Benguerra Island is approximately 11km x 5.5 km and lies some 14 km north east of Vilanculos. It is famous for its unspoiled white beaches, remarkable dive sites and excellent fishing. Benguerra Island has about 2000 inhabitants and there are 359 children in the school which was built by Azura's Rainbow Fund Charity. There are no shops, other than small trading posts, so please bring everything you may need with you, especially any medication you may require.
Flights from Johannesburg International Airport on Airlink and LAM which connect well with the major international flights to Europe. The flying time from Johannesburg is approx. 2 hours on modern aircraft. Max baggage 20kg including hand luggage.
Airlink also has a lodge hopper which conveniently connects JHB and KMIA to Vilanculos.
The island is warm and sunny year round, and is exceptionally dry. In some years there has been very little rain at all. Rain showers are generally restricted to the mainland, although some will occur over the island close to the rainy season. These usually fall as short sharp bursts, often at night. Breezes are usually light and the sea temperature varies with the seasons and currents between 24 °c and 30 °c.
Weather patterns globally are changing, and it is becoming harder to predict weather patterns with certainty
•A key focus at Azura is the cuisine, with a focus where possible on fresh local produce such as fish and seafood. The array of irresistible signature dishes will not disappoint, and nor will the accompanying fine wines, including those flown in from the owners chateau in France's Loire Valley.
•Meal settings range from informal 'foot in the sand' dining experiences, picnics in secluded spots, to dinner by candlelight on the beach beneath the stars, to feasting in the comfort and intimacy of your own villa, to tasting dinners in the Jellyfish Restaurant. As many meals as possible are served outdoors.
•Dining Mozambican style is a slow relaxed affair, so please advise your Host if you are in a rush.
•Special dining events include a more formal seven course tasting menu at least once a week, as well as Mozambican seafood evenings, also once a week. The tasting menu is a good opportunity for a dressier evening.
•You will be allocated a Mozambican Host during your stay. The Host is entirely responsible for “adopting” you and creating an unforgettable holiday experience for you. Most of the Hosts have English as a second language and many have only been communicating in English since their employment at Azura. Some understanding around this may be required. However the generosity and kindness with which you will be looked after will be difficult to replicate elsewhere.
•The guest services and activities management team are there to work in a supporting role to the Hosts and are also there to make your stay memorable by offering and arranging activities and additional services.
We offer a large selection of activities, many of which are weather dependent. We do not pre-book activities for this reason. Activities are as follow:
•Scuba Diving we are a PADI 5 Star centre, with dedicated dive training pool
•Guided snorkeling trips
•Island visits, including our recommended Island Hop
•Guided tours of the island and its natural beauty, as well as visits to the community and school
•Local soccer match
•Visits to Vilanculos and its market
•Deep sea fishing in a custom built boat
•Shore based fishing
•Leisure flips in the Helicopter to various destinations
•Dhow sailing and sunset cruises
•Guided marine shore walks
•Star gazing events
•Beach walks with a picnic
•Beach picnic and private dining
•Guided bird watching / walking trails
•Dolphin sightings (year round)
•Whale sightings (in season, June-Oct)
Although we are happy to loan snorkeling gear for use by guests to snorkel outside their villas, there is not much to see other than sand. Some of the best snorkeling along the east coast of Africa is to be had a short 20 min boat trip away, at the Aquarium, at Two Mile Reef.
Azura's uniquely African Spa offers signature treatments based on local ingredients and traditions. These include being rubbed down with ground coconut shells, covered head to toe with tamarind and aloe, or gently massaged with warm marula oil.
There is a one treatment room at the Spa and couples treatments are usually possible, dependent on how many therapists are on the island. In Villa treatments are done as a compliment.
Families are very welcome at Azura. Villa Amizade and the Presidential Villa are best for families, although our Infinity Beach Villas can accommodate an extra bed without compromising guest space.Inter-leading Infinity Beach Villas can also be arranged for families. The Royal Beach Villas sofas in the lounge can be changed to full size single beds, and will fit 2 children easily who will have their own bathroom.
We have a range of children's and teens activities at Azura, with activities very much based around our pristine natural environment. Children can learn to dive at Azura from age 8, fishing is a great activity for all, and our younger guests can also enjoy the Spa.
We ask children to respect guest privacy and tranquility at Azura. Younger guests may be requested to dine in- villa. Our chefs can prepare a range of meals which are suitable for children of all ages. Please discuss your requirements on arrival.
Marine Life / Flora & Fauna
Benguerra is a sand island which has spectacular moving dunes and a diverse range of habitats for exotic and endemic wildlife.
• On the lsland there are fresh water lakes; home to crocodiles, fish and migrant wading birds, the beautiful 'greater Flamingo', remnant forests along the dunes, grasslands and swamps which house a variety of bird life and mammals.
• In the surrounding ocean there are near pristine offshore coral reefs; inshore sea grass beds, upon which the Dugong (the legendary mermaid) and turtles feed; good stocks of pelagic fishes and long stretches of sandy beaches ideal for swimming, walking or just relaxing.
• Dugongs year round, although very scarce
• Turtle season year round
• Whales humpback mid-June to mid-October
• Dolphins year round
• Whale sharks/Manta rays - December to March
We are in a marine national park, and as such wish to enhance the peace and tranquility of the park. Towards this end we offer limited motorized activities.
A park fee of 15 USD will automatically be charged, per person, on your departure bill, which is the government's entrance levy for accessing the park and gets paid on to them on a monthly basis.
A portion of this goes to Kane Kwedo, which is an initiative along with the other hotel on the island to further the needs of the community.
Contributing to the community
The vision behind Azura Retreats is to harness the power of responsible tourism for the benefit of the local people whilst conserving the unique cultural and biological diversity of Benguerra Island.
Azura is one of only a handful of resorts where the community is a major stakeholder and contributes to every aspect of the project.
The local communities have been educated and encouraged not to hunt rare species or over-fish certain areas and a No Fishing Zone has been established in front of the resort's shores to encourage a resurgence of dolphins.
Besides employing local islanders wherever possible Azura has also helped in rebuilding the village after the area was devastated by cyclone Favio in March 2007. Guests are encouraged to get involved with the projects as much or as little as they would like to during their stay.
The Rainbow Fund, a registered charity, has been set up to support these social and environmental projects, and guests are invited to contribute $10 per night at the end of their stay. This will be automatically added to their bill on check-out, but is discretionary and can be removed.
Many of our departing guests have commented that they wish we had told them to bring something for the impoverished island community. Should you care to do so, kindly find some suggestions below:
• School supplies: pens, pencils, crayons, sharpeners, erasers, exercise books and coloring books.
• Aspirin and plasters
• Sweets or nonperishable foodstuffs
• Soccer boots, clothing or balls
• Second hand clothing for babies and children
• Unwanted clothing
We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase and take supplies for area schools or medical clinics in need, you'll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families. Www.packforapurpose.com
We also have people with albinism living on the island that benefit from:
• Good sunscreen for body, face and lips
• Light, long sleeved clothing
• Hats and sunglasses
We respectfully ask that you DO NOT hand money or objects to any person or child that may solicit donations from you. We do not wish to perpetuate a culture of dependence, nor create a culture of begging that could be detrimental to future visitors to the area.
To assist the community in a considered, wholesome and productive manner Azura runs a registered charity (the first hotel in Mozambique to have an officially registered charity) called the Rainbow Fund. The registration certificate may be viewed at reception, as well as a list of projects undertaken. The Rainbow Fund supports a variety of social and environmental projects, which can be discussed with our residential environmental guide. Azura is very proud of having built the island school and of supplying the ongoing needs of the children and the community
Azura has a small boutique; however the opportunity for shopping beyond this is very limited.
Benguerra Island has no formal infrastructure such as roads, municipal power, shops etc. there is no postal service to the island, and it is best to come prepared with most of what you think you might need whilst on the island.
Azura prices extras in US dollars but takes payment in Mozambique's local currency the Metical in accordance with Mozambican law. The Metical is sometimes subject to large short term swings, and the actual amount charged by your credit card company may therefore differ to our estimate once the transaction is processed through the banking system. We will always give our best estimate of the exchange rate at check-out.
We accept all credit cards except American Express and Diners, as they are not present in Mozambique.
South African rand, Euros or American Dollars cash are also accepted. Traveler's cheques are not accepted as they cannot be cashed locally, only in Maputo.
Recommended length of stay
At least 5 days to fully appreciate all that Azura has to offer. Some guests have stayed for as long as 3 weeks!
Azura has arranged many wedding/blessing ceremonies for guests at Azura. We happily offer a blessing service by a local representative. If you require a legal wedding your own arrangements for the formalities will have to be made.