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Mozambique Safari

Azura at Quilalea Private Island

Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The lovely Quilalea Island Resort in northern Mozambique
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View images of Azura at Quilálea Private Island: Azura at Quilalea Images


Quilalea Island is one of the Southernmost islands in the pristine Quirimbas Archipelago, 30 nautical miles North of Pemba. It has one of only a few safe deepwater moorings in the area, where the Portuguese and Arab traders traditionally found sanctuary for their dhows. Along with its sister island Sencar, it is one of the few properties in the entire Archipelago to lie within a fully protected marine reserve, ensuring an abundance of marine life.

The island is approximately 86 acres in size Pemba, and apart from Azura at Quilalea staff and guests, it is completely uninhabited.

The island is covered in indigenous vegetation, with statuesque age old baobab groves and stunning flora and fauna, a real nature lowers paradise. There are 4 large sandy beaches on the island, the villas are spread along 2 of them, the main beach always has boat access, and remote and beautiful turtle beach is home to dozens of nesting turtles and is an excellent spot for a private picnic lunch.

Its just as amazing below the sea, with snorkeling accessible off the beaches and around most of the island, patrolled by huge potato bass and schools of hunting jacks, and a spectacular house reef for diving just a short fin kick away from the main beach. This is paradise for lovers of marine life and marine experiences.

Azura at Quilalea is the second luxury Indian Ocean retreat from Christopher and Stella Bettany. Just as the name suggests, it brings Azura's trademark African-chic style to Quilalea Island, a private, wholly uninhabited island paradise surrounded by the pristine waters of a marine sanctuary.

The vision is to provide the ultimate in private luxury hideaways in stunning undiscovered destinations.

Azura at Quilalea is a hidden gem, somewhere to retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, with a relaxed and understated 'Robinson Crusoe' castaway style that belies the comforts and experiences on offer. Attention to detail, as ever with Azura, is paramount in the design, the finishes, and the overall wow factor of the island experience.

Azura at Quilalea is an Eco-Boutique Retreat. Whilst the Quirimbas Archipelago stretch from Pemba to the Northern border with Tanzania, only the very southern part of the archipelago, where Quilalea is located, forms a fully protected marine sanctuary.

Conscious of this pristine natural environment and the need to preserve it, Azura at Quilalea has embarked on a unique energy saving project, whereby solar power, wind generation, rainwater harvesting, and eco-friendly rechargeable crystal batteries are used in combination with normal generators and desalination to provide the island's power and water. The aim is for all basic functions to run without the need to switch on generators for lengthy periods, and also to switch generators off completely at night to ensure maximum tranquility for our guests.

Uniquely at Azura at Quilalea, guests can control their own energy consumption through a wall switch at their villa. They can opt for 'ECO' or 'LUXE', Eco resulting in power for the bare minimum requirements for the room, such as basic lighting and fan, or Luxe providing all mod cons including Aircon.

Accommodation            For images of Azura at Quilálea, click Quilálea Images
In keeping with the uninhabited nature of the island, the retreat consists of only nine seafront villas, accommodating eighteen guests.
The villas are built from natural coral stone and makuti thatch, and have all been revamped to increase comfort and make better use of the interior space, with natural finishings, indoor/outdoor showers, private decks stretching out to the beach, daybeds and sun-loungers for relaxing.
Guests can choose between three categories of villa: 4 Sunrise Villas, 4 Sunset Villas, and Villa Quilalea. The island may also be booked out in its entirety for a complete private island experience.

Sunset Villas have the premium locations, with an additional outdoor shower and beach sala. The cliff-top Villa Quilalea offers the most astounding accommodation for a couple in the whole archipelago, with a private plunge pool, feature bathroom & dressing room, an outdoor shower, and its own separate sitting/dining area.

The villas are open-plan and spacious, with stylish décors of wood, cotton and materials such as rope, pebbles and rattan, all blending in seamlessly with the island surroundings. Guests need only take a few steps to the gleaming white beach, or they may choose to bask on their sunlounger, recline in their sala, or cool off in their outdoor shower.

Room Amenities
All of the villas have a unique energy control system whereby guests can take control of their own eco-footprint. All mod cons are there if desired, including mini bar and air-conditioning, or guests can throw their villa open to being air-cooled by the natural breezes.

Villas can be configured as kingsize or twin, with oversized mosquito net and feature bathrooms, including indoor/outdoor showers, double vanities and separate toilet/bidet. Outdoors there are daybeds on the deck and sun loungers.

Villa Quilalea additionally has a feature bathroom with free-standing bath and separate dressing room, a romantic draped Kingsize 4 poster bed, and enlarged sitting area. It also has a private infinity pool, sitting/dining area, extended decking and relaxation areas, and a stunningly private location, including ocean access from a clifftop stepladder.

Communal Areas
Each 'public' area of the retreat is designed with its own particular ethos in mind, creating unique vibes and experiences out of which guests will find their own favourite haven, be it a hammock under the trees, a perch at the bar, or a dip in the main feature pool.

The main bar/pool area has been substantially reconfigured, including a chill zone with large cushions for lazing around. The kitchen has been completely re-designed and fitted with state of the art equipment, to provide the standard of cuisine that Azura is famous for, and the Dining Room has an all new Wine Cellar for private dining and to showcase the owner's wines. There is also an all new fully equipped Padi Dive and Watersports Centre, and TV and media room for those who want to stay in touch, and a Boutique with local crafts and designer beachwear.

Cuisine at Quilalea is focused around the natural produce available locally, in line with the island's 'Eco Ethos'. Lots of fresh fish and seafood dominate the menu, with dining a relaxed and laid back affair.

Guests receive Azura's trademark Mozambican Butler/Host service, where they try to make the dining experiences different through a range of unique and special venues and set-ups.

Should you have particular dietary requirements it is advisable to alert the us as far in advance as possible, as some specialist ingredients may take time for us to procure.

For the wine connoisseur, there is a wine cellar stocked with fine wines from the owner's 5 estates, as well as wines from Azura's own Chateau flown in from France's Loire Valley. The wine cellar makes an excellent venue for a more formal private dining experience.
Normal meals, house wines, local spirits, soft drinks, water, tea and coffee are included in the rate.

• Cliff-top African Spa
• Beach picnics / private dining experiences
• Island Baobab nature walk
• Mangrove Kayaking on nearby Sencar Island
• Scuba Diving and scuba diving courses
• Snorkelling and guided snorkelling trips
• Deep sea fishing
• Sea kayaking
• Dhow sailing
• Dhow Sunset Cruise
• Island hopping and remote beach picnics
• Cultural visits including nearby historic Ibo Island
• Tours of the working coconut plantation on Quirimba Island and the local village

Quilálea offers a full range of superb Mozambique diving experiences, providing some of the best scuba diving in the entire Quirimbas archipelago just 20 metres offshore.  The marine pavilion, which looks west over the Quilálea Channel, is a fully equipped PADI dive centre.

A reef just off the beach provides sheltered diving and snorkelling for the beginner.  More experienced divers will want to explore the big walls of the Montepuez channel on the southern edge of the sanctuary.  Caves and currents combine to create an underwater paradise, inhabited by reef and pelagic fish of every size and description.  The most adventurous will head for the Saint Lazarus Bank, recognised as having the best unexplored diving in the world.

The dive boat used started life as a traditional Portuguese fishing vessel and has been remodelled.  The wide afterdeck allows freedom of movement for whale watching or exploration of the bay.  Mares diving equipment is maintained in top condition for use by guests and staff.

Mozambique diving offers up to 30-metre visibility and water temperatures around a balmy 28 degrees Celsius, so you can expect to see all coral reef species typical of the Indian Ocean region as well as game fish - yellow fin tuna, dogtooth tuna and marlin. There are also manta rays, eight species of shark (to date), whale sharks, huge schools of feeding barracuda, many species of king fish, red snappers, green and hawksbill turtles, pods of humpback dolphins, not to mention the humpbacked whales in season.

Mozambique Diving Spots near Quilálea Island
• Lagosta alley is situated barely 50 metres off the main beach. The hard coral slope/drop-off bustles with aquatic life.  Here you will find hundreds of colourful fish, nudibranchs and unspoilt, hard and soft corals.

• The Cabecas reef can be reached by shore or boat.  The coral and aquatic life consists of ribbon eels, nudibranches, wip coral (5 to 8 metres tall), yellow banded snappers, fusilliers and spotted sweet lips.  Green turtles and hawksbill turtles, rare pipefish and tropical shrimp species can also be seen.

• The Canyon is found on the southwest side of the island and is reached by boat.  The reef forms steep walls and overhangs, with a depth ranging from 14 to 38 metres.  Wire coral gobies hang on the long wire/whip corals.  Gorgonian sea fans, long nose hawk-fish and green tree corals are a common site on this wall.  Napoleon wrasses, honeycomb stingrays, huge kingfish and barracudas as well as black tip reef sharks are plentiful.

• Bird Rocks-Massundju is located on the south side of the island.  A drop-off at 12 metres has a well-developed coral reef with good visibility and is regularly frequented by dolphins.

• Salaama Bank is a coral bank in pristine condition and remains magnificently untouched.  Depth is 8 to 12 metres.  Nudibranch, turtles and fish-a-plenty abound.  At the south end of Sencar Island is a reef where a variety of large fish such as potato bass keep company with game fish and turtles.

• The Slipway makes for exciting drift diving.  The channel is usually dived on either the rising or falling tide.  A soft coral carpet hides the small juvenile fish and the diver needs good buoyancy to navigate his/her way around the coral rocks that pop up, sometimes unexpectedly.  The sea-grass fields and shallow coral ridges are ideal for snorkelling.

Sport Fishing
Although Quilálea forms part of a marine sanctuary, sport fishing and deep-sea angling are offered outside the protected sanctuary.  The experienced skipper and crew know all the hot spots, so novice and veteran anglers alike can enjoy Mozambique's unspoilt fishing waters.

A 30- foot Bertrams Express, powered by twin Volvo Penta diesel inboards, is available for use by big game fishermen.  This vessel cruises comfortably at 18-20 knots.  A local dhow is also available for those who prefer to cruise in silence and serenity.

The wide variety of game fish species can be taken from the complex of habitats formed by the Quirimba Archipelago itself, while the Saint Lazarus Bank due east of Quilálea is a hotspot for tuna and billfish.  Both the Archipelago and the Bank have yet to be discovered by big game fishermen.

The deep drop-off immediately to the east of the Quirimbas Archipelago guarantees a unique sports fishing experience.  The Southern current passes near the coast here and billfish can be taken within shouting distance of shore; local fishermen sometimes catch them on hand lines trolled behind dugout canoes.

The rods and reels available for use by guests are all Shimano, with lines ranging from 20 to 80 lbs.  Six lines can be trawled from the Bertram's.

Indian Ocean Sailing
Enjoy a magical sunset in a spectacular setting aboard the traditional sailing vessel or dhow, the “Doña Fatima”.

Sail the Indian Ocean waters around the island of Quilálea and experience the beauty and tranquility of these historical vessels and the time-honoured method in which they are sailed.  Cold beverages of your choice and light refreshments will be served while you enjoy the magnificent sunset.  This activity is available at no extra charge.

Sencar Island
Sencar, Quilálea's neighbouring island, remains untouched and uninhabited, although day excursions and picnics are encouraged. Seventy-five hectares in extent, Sencar has a coral rag exterior and a mangrove swamp interior. Sencar offers only rudimentary beaches, but it is a bird lover's dream. A paradise for sea birds, the island has large areas of untouched coastal thicket. Samango monkeys have also made their homes here, though no one knows quite how they arrived there or how they survive in the absence of fresh water.

Historical Tour to Ibo Island
Leaving Quilálea by boat, you will travel through the mangrove channels between the mainland and Quirimba Island.  There is a good chance of spotting majestic fish eagles and also the shy humpback dolphin and dugong.  A small passage through the mangrove reveals the island of Ibo.

After anchoring in the port, the land adventure begins.  The first stop is the imposing fortress of São João, which was used during the colonial period as a prison and to house slaves before transporting them to Ilha de Mozambique.  Today, local artists at the fort produce fine handmade silver jewellery using traditional methods.  Their work is of a high quality and unique to the island making a beautiful and original souvenir.

After the fort, the tour heads inland to the town centre and market place.  The many ruins and Old Portuguese villas make excellent subjects for photographers and create a timeless and tranquil atmosphere.  Opposite the market, there is the small fort of São Josè, which can also be explored.

Heading along the coast, the tour comes to the Old Catholic church.  This is definitely worth a visit, providing an insight to past inhabitants of Ibo.  After the tour, you may continue to view the island at your leisure before returning to the boat for refreshments.

You depart Ibo and head out around the seaward side of the island.  If conditions are favourable you might participate in a spot of snorkelling along the shallow reef by the lighthouse or try your chance at big game fishing in the deeper waters of Quirimba before returning to Quilálea.  This activity is a half-day tour and is dependant on the tides.

Quilálea Island Walk
What better way to appreciate the island in all its glory, than by exploring it on foot.  There are two pathways around the island; The Casuarinas Path for short walks incorporating Kingfish Bay on the west side of the island and Turtle Beach on the east is a total length of 2½ kilometres.  The Whale Lookout Trail, which extends down to the southern point past Heron’s Point and Oyster Rocks, is about 3½ kilometres.

Along the meandering pathways, you are likely to encounter some of the wildlife indigenous to Quilálea.  During the high tide, snorkelling is possible from Turtle Beach, the halfway point of the walk.  The walks can be undertaken at any time and a guide will accompany you if requested.

Mozambique Conservation and the Quilálea Sanctuary
The Quilálea Sanctuary was the first marine protected area in the Quirimbas Archipelago, an area considered by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to be of worldwide importance for conservation.  Four partners, all with a keen interest in preserving the islands and in working with the local community, proposed the creation of the Quilálea Marine Sanctuary to the Mozambican Government.  After consultations with the local community, the government declared it's support for the sanctuary.  Subsequently, the WWF visited Quilálea, endorsed the sanctuary concept, and on the 25th September 2002, the government declared the official opening of the National Park with a 500,000 hectare area around Quilálea.

Within the sanctuary itself no fishing of any kind is allowed, and in the National Park no commercial fishing is allowed (local people are allowed to fish using traditional methods in most areas of the Park, as are sport fishermen).  The local fishermen who used to have camps on Quilálea and Sencar agreed to remove their camps from the two islands which make up the sanctuary.  Most of them then returned to acquire new skills in construction.  The enthusiastic former fishermen have undergone in-house training to provide hospitality services for visitors to Quilálea.

Quilálea's buildings are of local rocks, seawater was used in a traditional cement mix, so the fragile island ecology and its limited stocks of fresh water were preserved.  The "island villas" are roofed with traditional palm thatch (makuti) ideal for cool and unobtrusive comfort.

The marine sanctuary functions as a nursery.  Turtles now nest on the beach, dugongs have been sighted many times, and humpback whales shelter in the channel during the months of July to January before continuing their journey to the south.  Numbers of all marine organisms are high and increasing.  A total of 375 different species of fish have been identified in the sanctuary area.

Of course, for the visitor, Quilálea conservation efforts have produced some of the finest diving, fishing and birding available in the world today - and all visitors to the Island help sustain the conservation efforts as well as the local communities.

The Ecology of the Quilálea Sanctuary
The Quilálea Sanctuary contains three of the WWF's Global 200 habitats (those habitats considered most important worldwide for biodiversity):
• no. 23 Southern Inhambane-Zanzibar Coastal Forest
• no. 118 East African Mangroves
• no. 193 Eastern Africa Marine Eco-region

Quilálea Island is almost entirely covered by Southern Inhambane-Zanzibar Coastal Forest, while Sencar Island, also within the Sanctuary, is a mix of coastal forest and mangrove.  This forest is an area of high endemicity, with many unique species found nowhere else in the world.  As the area is unexplored biologically, it is expected that many plant species remain to be discovered.  Most of the trees are under 6 metres in height, but baobabs and paperbark trees soar much higher.  All plants are adapted to the salty and dry environment, so figs, Euphorbias, and succulents are common.  An interesting aspect of the two islands is that while both have ancient baobabs, no young baobabs have been found on Quilálea, yet Sencar has these in abundance.  The baobab fruit must be eaten in order to germinate, because without scarring from stomach acids the fruit lies dormant.  Sencar Island has samango monkeys, and it is presumed that these eat the baobab fruits.  Quilálea at present has none, but must have had at some point within the past 2000 years, as this is the estimated age of the oldest Quilálea baobab trees.

Five mangrove species are present in the Sanctuary.  These are found in the hollow interior of Sencar Island.  A narrow channel on the western side allows seawater to enter.  Mangroves are home to a great variety of juvenile fish and crustaceans, and serve as a refuge for nesting birds and the mangrove kingfisher.

The Eastern Africa Marine Eco-region is actually a complex of habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, intertidal flats, and undersea canyons.  The coral reefs are particularly rich and well preserved.  Fifty-two genera of coral are found here, the highest coral diversity in Africa.  Long, fringing reefs are found east of Sencar Island, while a coral drop-off is found off the beach at Quilálea Island.  Just south of Quilálea, a deep canyon drains the Montepuez Bay, and here corals tend to be small and of the soft and pulsating genera.  Gorgonians abound in the channel and reach three-plus metres in diameter.  Sea whips are also present in their numbers, as is black coral and other branching corals, so the general effect is that of diving in a giant's undersea greenhouse.  Salaama Bank, in the centre of the channel, has some of the most perfectly preserved branching and table corals in all of Africa.

Further Conservation Efforts
Quilálea was also the 'seed' from which grew the much larger Quirimbas National Park.  After a visit to Quilálea, the WWF joined forces with Quilálea's partners and local government in an effort to replicate the Sanctuary concept on a wider scale.  This effort led to the declaration of the Quirimbas National Park, which includes Quilálea as well as 110 kilometres of coast both north and south.

Park Regulations allow fishing by local residents using traditional techniques, but also mandate the creation of sanctuaries in 30% of the total sea area of the Park.

Four new sanctuaries have been established within the past year.  Eight more communities within the park have also requested sanctuaries and these will be established this year.  The Sanctuary concept has even been extended to other provinces.  The WWF and Quilálea shareholder, Peter Bechtel, are currently setting up another national park in the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago, 500 kilometres to the south, using the same principles that worked so well in Quilálea.

Wildlife on the Island
Marine life on the Island is protected by the Quilálea Marine Sanctuary, and both the Archipelago and the St. Lazarus Bank have yet to be discovered by big game fishermen.  A wide variety of game fish species can be taken from the complex of habitats formed by the Quirimba Archipelago itself, while the Saint Lazarus Bank due east of Quilálea is a hotspot for tuna and billfish.

Quilálea is noted for the size of its reef fish, with parrotfish, angelfish, cave bass, morays, and others all reaching exceptional sizes.  Long-nosed hawkfish are found associated with the gorgonians.  A wide variety of game and pelagic fish also visit the Sanctuary.  Resident schools of kingfish of the three species (giant, yellow, and indigo) accompany most canyon dives as well as snorkellers along the beach.

Dugongs are present but shy; it is easier to find their grazing marks than the animals themselves.  A slow dive through the seagrass beds yields brightly coloured nudibranches, up to 195 species of fish, and swimming scallops that will come up and dance in midwater.

Turtles range widely throughout the Sanctuary, with green turtles and perhaps Olive Ridleys nesting on the islands.  Humpback whales visit the Sanctuary from June to December every year, coming inshore to feed and shelter their calves.  Dolphins include spinner, common, and bottlenose, with humpback dolphins appearing occasionally inside the Sanctuary but common in the mangrove channels of Ibo Island just to the north.  Blacktip and whitetip sharks, blue spotted stingray, and electric ray are common.  The Zambezi shark, the hammerhead shark, the tiger shark, and the manta ray have also been sighted.

The area is home to 140 taxa of molluscs, including giant clams.  Three hundred and seventy-five species of fish have been identified in the Sanctuary area, including threatened pipefish and seahorses.

Other Wildlife
Both Indian Ocean islands are home to a variety of birds; doves nest here as do seabirds.  Goliath herons are present in abundance and fish eagles also make their home here.  Ospreys are common and flamingoes and pelicans are occasional visitors.

Other fauna found on the island include small Suni deer, tortoises, and different species of snake (all harmless) as well as large monitor lizards.

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