The Arrival –
Greeted by Landi, who was the lovely gal flying us via helicopter from Pemba to the island, Azura Quilalea; a short 25 minute flight. Her team quickly took our luggage and assisted us with getting our visa as well as getting us through customs for Mozambique. This is always great when you get help with these things as it can be a bit hectic entering a new country. While they loaded our bags on the helicopter, they had us wait in the air conditioned lounge and ordered us a few of their ice cold local beers (Manica) to sip on before our flight. It was quite humid outside, so the AC lounge and ice cold beer was perfection!
The flight itself was spectacular and this being our first helicopter ride, Landi made us feel extremely at ease with nothing to worry about except enjoying the incredible views. The 25 minute flight is like a tour or extra activity in itself as you get to fly so close to the atolls/islands, water and capture the most amazing pictures/videos. We were the only ones in the helicopter as well, so that was an added bonus!
At the helicopter pad we were greeted by Leon, the venue manager and Imede, our butler, who would be taking care of us during our stay. They had 2 cold herb infused towels to cool us off (I don't think I would ever get sick of these towels, they are so refreshing). Leon gave us a quick tour of the grounds, pointing out the amazing Baobab trees throughout the island, which are quite cool and unique to see, especially on an island in Mozambique.
Once we got to the pool, we were greeted by Claudia, Leon’s lovely wife, and the other venue manager of the island (or shall we say his better half).
Claudia had 2 chilled coconuts cut with fresh coconut water...absolutely delicious. She quickly reviewed everything there was to know about the island, including when breakfast, lunch and dinner are served as well as all the activities the island has to offer during our stay, including: fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, spa treatments, private lunch/dinner preparations on different parts of the island and much more. The most important detail is that "island time" is 1 hour ahead of South Africa, and Zambia, which is where we had been. This was very important because we didn’t want to miss any of our meals or activities by arriving an hour late. That would be bad!
After learning about the island, Claudia showed us our beautiful room, prepared with champagne and a spread of snacks: fresh fruit, cheeses, yellow-tail skewers, 2 cups of beet soup and some dessert.
For the rest of the afternoon we decided to leisurely unpack and enjoy our new home for the next four days. Since every villa opens up directly to the beach, we took a quick dip in the ocean to cool off. The water was like bath water, very nice and refreshing.
At six o'clock, we heard a knock, knock and that was Imede (there are no door bells, so he literally says "knock, knock"), who had come to say hi and provide us with 2 delicious "cocktails of the day" and some nuts to snack on.
Each day between 6-7pm island time, you can either go to the main bar and get your specialty cocktail from the bartender on duty, or have Imede bring it to where you would like to enjoy your sundowner. Right on our gorgeous patio was the perfect spot to watch the sun go down and enjoy our beverage.
After our sundowner we showered and got ready for dinner, which is served from 7:30-whenever you want to have it.
At 7pm, the bartender is ready to take any pre-dinner cocktail orders which we took advantage of and ordered 2 of their local Sauvignon blancs to enjoy by the pool, listening to the waves come crashing in.
While we were enjoying our drinks, our activities guide came by to introduce himself, and wanted to get an understanding of all that we wanted to do so that he could help plan the most opportune times/days to do them. We knew we wanted to do just about everything so that was easy, we just told him to check all the boxes, we are in!
Once I heard that they were catching yellowtail tuna, fishing jumped to my top activity as I could just taste the sashimi platters and all the fresh ceviche we could eat. Being that we are in diver's paradise, we also wanted to make sure we signed up to learn how to scuba or at least do a lot of snorkeling.
At 7:30pm Imede fetched us for dinner which was just stunning. They had lanterns setup for the walkway leading all the way to our table, which was 5 feet away from the crashing waves….you couldn't ask for a more romantic and gorgeous setting.
Our dinner was superb. We started with a yellowtail ceviche which was so fresh, then our main course was a vegetable & fish curry, followed by a delicious dessert which is very hard to skip so we didn’t, plus we can do an extra "insanity workout" in the morning.
Day 1 –
We got up around 7:30am island time (which is really 6:30am) to enjoy a cup of coffee on our patio watching the sun rise. Then we setup our insanity workout on our computer for a quick cardio session to burn off the dessert from the night before (not really, a quick workout each morning has just become habit, and yes, even on vacations and honeymoons we never skip it).
After our workout we made our way to the breakfast area and were greeted by Imede who had our table all ready for us. We ordered some fresh fruit to start and then 2 egg white scrambles with fresh crab, shrimp, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
After breakfast, we needed to grab our computers and head to the bar area, which is where the internet is the best, and setup our office there for the latter half of the morning to knock out some work emails.
Not a bad office, looking out at the beautiful crashing waves and turquoise water. Yep, I could get used this view every day!
After we finished our work for the day we headed to the sports shop to check out some snorkeling gear and then made our way to the water right out in front of our villa. It had just rained a little bit so the visibility wasn’t fantastic, however, we saw our fair share of tropical fish.
About an hour of snorkeling around the front of the island, we were ready for lunch which consisted of gazpacho soup and a seafood salad with calamari, shrimp and fresh veggies. You can always get dessert as well if you’re still hungry.
After lunch, we decided to do a little exploring of the other side of the island which is beautiful where the water is very shallow and you can walk out (with proper water shoes) for a long, long way.
For the rest of the afternoon, we got a tour of the honeymoon villa, which is the island's most luxurious space and comes with your own private plunge pool and amazing panoramic views as it sits on the point of the island.
Earlier we had spotted the perfect palapa with some cozy lounge sofa chairs, so we ordered a couple local beers and stayed put for the remainder of the afternoon.
At 6:30pm Imede found us and had the cocktail of the day for us in hand. We enjoyed our cocktails and had some good conversations with the venue managers Leon and Claudia, who are very interested in listening and learning how they can constantly do better and better. That is so awesome to hear and see. They're a great team, who genuinely care about their clientele’s overall happiness from the moment the booking happens to when we depart the island, onward to our next destination.
At 7:30pm, Imede fetched us for dinner, which was another incredible pathway full of lanterns leading to our private table for two right on the beach.
Our starter was some huge fresh crab claws followed by an enormous piece of freshly caught grilled yellowtail and of course a side of grilled veggies. We asked for a side of peri peri sauce which is a specialty chili pepper sauce of theirs. If you like spicy like we do, this sauce is a must order.
After dinner, we headed to the pool/bar lounge area where the bartender on duty, Aro, made us a nightcap before we headed off to bed.
Day 2 –
We started our day off with coffee on our gorgeous patio followed by our usual workout to get our blood flowing and metabolism ready for more amazing food and delicious beverages later in the day.
For breakfast we made a slight change and opted to try their homemade muesli with plain yogurt, their fresh fruit of the day platter, and then we added the same from yesterday; the scrambled egg whites, fresh crab meat, shrimp, grilled onions, grilled tomato and a side of their spicy peri peri sauce. Absolutely fantastic!
After we stuffed ourselves to the brim we decided to checkout the lookout points which are located on the point where the spa is situated. One of the spots has a great patio setup with a table, umbrella and chairs so if you wanted to have lunch, do some work, or just read a book and relax in private, this is a perfect spot all to yourself.
For the latter half of the morning we made our way to another palapa with an incredible view and setup shop, with our books and computers to do a little work and relaxing.
Before lunch we wanted to do a bit more exploring so we decided to take the kayaks for a spin around the island. We heard about a nice beach on the opposite side of the island called "Turtle Beach," so we thought we would take the kayaks over there and see what that was all about. The kayaks are a fantastic way to get a great look at all the cool rock formations and lush green landscape the island has, it is beautiful.
Once we arrived to Turtle Beach, which took about 20 minutes as we were paddling against the current, we had the entire beach to ourselves...paradise! This beach (along with other areas of the island) can also be reserved in advance if you wanted to ensure that it was your own private beach for the day. At your request, the staff can have a picnic ready for you upon arrival or anything else you wanted special, it can be arranged. There are so many ways you can customize your experience on the island, the options are wide open.
On our way back, the wind picked up a little so we had our work cut out for us, or should we say at least one paddler had their work cut out for them. It was the perfect pre-lunch exercise as when we arrived back Imede was there to meet us and take us to our lunch table right on the beach. Lunch was great, we started with tuna sashimi and then mackerel with coconut rice and veggies for the main course….yum!
After lunch we headed to another great spot on the island with two chairs and setup for a lazy afternoon prior to our scheduled afternoon massages. I know, rough schedule right? The spa is in such a great location, sitting on one of the points of the island and super relaxing as you hear the waves crashing into the shore throughout your massage.
As we headed back to our villa post massage, we had a very special surprise waiting for us. They setup a Baobab bath which is a site to see. I knew what a Baobab tree was, so I as very excited to see how this would translate into a bath.
The bubbles come far out of the bath and form what looks like a cupcake (as you can see above) as they decorate the top of the bubbles with a beautiful array of colorful flowers. They also had our drink of the day cocktails and a platter of fresh fruit, nuts and other snacks to munch on before dinner.
For dinner they had another special treat prepared for all of us on the island; their specialty island bbq under Baobab trees. Imede came at 7:30pm to fetch us for dinner. He lead us down the path of lit lanterns leading to the very cool Baobab bbq location. The entire area was lit up with lights, including the trees, tables, and the smell of the bbq seafood was making our mouths water, we couldn’t wait to see what they were preparing for us.
Once our platter of amazingness arrived, wow, this is just what we were anticipating. There was crayfish, crab, yellowtail, shrimp, lobster, salad, coconut rice and our favorite peri peri sauce to ensure our mouths would remain on fire. The bbq was the perfect ending to a great day.
Day 3 –
We got up extra early, about 5am to get a quick workout in before we headed out on a fishing adventure to see if we could land any tuna, or wahoo. We left at 6:30am and it started out a little choppy due to the wind, however, once we got to our destination the ocean was very calm and perfect for fishing. Our guide and his assistant got our lines all prepped and dropped them in, we were ready for some action.
Within about 15 minutes we landed our first keeper fish, a king mackerel. Within the next hour we caught several GT’s (Giant Trevally) which gave us a great fight, however, the GT’s are catch and release. We then snagged a bonita which was another keeper. So far so good!
Our guide spotted a sailfish jumping so we headed that direction fast and sure enough there were about 15 of them surrounding our boat. This was an awesome site to see as they were huge and so many of them. We landed about 4 of them for a period of time before the sailfish did what they do best, their notorious jumping out of the water followed by flicking off our lure/line. We didn’t actually bring one in the boat, however, the show was worth it, they are gorgeous fish to see up close.
Later our driver spotted a huge flock of birds dive bombing into the water, which meant there were fish near bye, more specifically tuna. We got our lines prepped and headed in that direction fast. We circled around the area for quite some time and didn’t land anything. Right before we were going to call it a day, boom, a huge tuna hit and took off running. It took about 25-30 minutes and a lot of forearm power, but we brought him onboard. Disclaimer: my incorrect fishing form caused burnout at about 20 minutes in and I had the professionals take over. Plus, I didn't want to be the one to lose it. He weighed 21 kilos (~46 pounds), which was the biggest fish I had ever caught. Sashimi for breakfast, lunch and dinner coming right up.
Once we got back, the rest of the guests were quite excited about the fish we caught and even more excited about the fresh sashimi to be consumed over the next few days!
Right on schedule, Imede met us when we got off the boat and escorted us to our table for breakfast. We ordered the exact same thing as we had the previous two days. Since it was so good for round #1 and #2, we decided to keep it the same and round #3 didn't disappoint.
After breakfast we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed out as the water looked very clear and calm.
Our guide gave us a hot tip about where to go for the best sightings of fish on the island, which happened to be near villa 8 and 9 where the black pipe enters the water. He said to swim out to the end of it and at the bottom there are loads of fish. We did that and he was right on point, it was like a fish tank with swarms of beautiful fish swimming all around us.
For the rest of the afternoon we decided to hang out on the pool deck since there are chairs that sit right on the edge of the point overlooking the beach and water. Add a fresh coconut water beverage right from the coconut and you can turn out the lights for a lazy and sleepy afternoon….this was just perfect.
Imede met us at the pool to see if we were ready to have lunch and his timing was great. For lunch we started with our tuna sashimi, from our tuna we had just caught, followed by a crab and avocado salad, also fantastic. Our main course was king mackerel skewers with coconut rice and grilled veggies. The mackerel was also from what we had caught that morning and so so good. No room for dessert, however, it sounded incredible for those who had room for it.
After lunch we headed back to our rooms to relax on our patio which has amazing views of the coral rock sticking out of the water and the turquoise water glistening in the sun. We lounged here reading, writing and snoozing until our evening's dhow boat ride was ready to set sail.
A dhow looks like an old school sail boat, however, this one is much cooler looking as it is cut completely out of wood and the way the sail bends just makes it look old world awesome. As we headed over to the boat, they had the inside all setup for us with cozy lounge chairs, cocktails, and snacks.
We had 3 crew on board to maneuver the dhow.
We cruised down past several different islands watching the sunset, enjoying our beverages and snack platter. This is a really inexpensive activity to do and really worth it….a great value and you get some incredible shots of the other islands, great sundowner pics, plus it is very relaxing as the boat cruises through the water.
When we got back we washed up for dinner and headed to the bar area to receive our daily drink special before dinner. Imede then met us at 7:30pm to take us to our table which was all lit up as usual and right on the beach. The cool thing is that they change up your location each night, so you may be sitting on the beach most nights, but they will take you to different locations on the island which makes it a completely different experience each time.
For dinner we started with a fresh garden salad and the grilled calamari. The main course was a fish curry with coconut rice, veggies and a yogurt sauce. The fish curry was really good. For dessert they had a poached pear with cinnamon, raisons and vanilla ice cream. I had a bite and it was quite delicious. I asked for some of their fresh fruit for my dessert.
Day 4 –
This was our last day on the island so we woke up little later than usual since we had nothing planned for the day besides catching our helicopter ride at 1:30pm back to Pemba. We got all packed up, got a quick workout in and then headed over to see our buddy Imede for our favorite breakfast. He didn’t even have to take our order, he just said the same right and we gave him the thumbs up. Round #4 seemed like our portions got even bigger, they know we like to eat and probably saw the plates 100% wiped clean each time Imede brought them back to the kitchen. No complaints from us, we still managed to take down the entire breakfast….really delicious.
After breakfast, we went back to the pool area and lounged in one of those areas trying to hop on the internet and get some work knocked out before our flight. Unfortunately, the internet wasn't working really at all as they use a satellite service being on an island and it is extremely slow or doesn’t work, which is what we were experiencing. We did have one day within the 4.5 days we were there that it worked somewhat well, the others not so much. Not that we want to be on the internet the entire time we are on an island in paradise, but since we were there for work and pleasure, we needed to get online to check and send business emails as well as any social media and we couldn’t due to the poor signal. If the internet was strong we could have gotten our business work done within an hour or two max and then been done for the day, however, we were trying and trying and trying at different points throughout the 4.5 days we were there to connect with no luck at all. So all in all, we ended up spending a lot more time "trying to connect" with no luck than we would have spent getting our business done if we could have had a solid connection for just an hour. I would recommend they get a decent connection in at least one area on the island. It would be nice to have it in each private villa, however, if it was working well in just one area that would be great. As long as we can get online quickly and then off and on with our day, we are happy people.
Imede came and got us for our last lunch which also did not disappoint. As usual, we started with our freshly caught tuna for some sashimi, then our next course was a delicious salad and lobster carpaccio….so good!
Our main course was a huge seared tuna steak with grilled veggies. Again, the portions are quite large, but we didn’t have a problem finishing them each time.
We had to skip dessert this go around due to time, but, I don’t know if I would have had any room for it anyhow, look at the size of that yellowtail steak....wow!
Off to the helicopter pad we went to get on our flight. Leon and Claudia escorted us to the helicopter and wished us safe travels for our next journey. The ride back to Pemba was another great experience, flying so close to the water and islands, and panoramic views, you can capture so many great shots during the flight. Highly recommend the helicopter ride over any other modes of transportation, if you can make that work into your budget. Although, I think the helicopter may be the only way to get there now as opposed to a speed boat option. So, in that case, you will have a blast for your 25 minute flight to the island and back to the Pemba airport. It's the way to go anyhow.
With only 9 villas, Azura Quilalea is the perfect honeymoon spot, getaway/retreat or holiday as each villa is situated on the island where you don’t feel as if you are on-top of your neighbor. The staff was extremely nice and very attentive to our needs. Imede, our butler, was fantastic and such a sweet young man, always wanting to make sure we had all our proper silverware, our drinks were topped off at all times and to ensure we were happy with each meal, which was more of a dinning experience than just a meal.
The activities on the island are great as there is a lot to do if you are up for activities or if you are one that just wants to lounge on the beach each day, you have a ton of places to do just that. And finally with Leon and Claudia taking over as the venue managers of the island, we are confident that our second visit would be even more amazing as it was very apparent throughout our stay that their number #1 priority was to figure out how they can constantly improve and make the experience for their guests a better one each time they visit the island. You can’t ask for more than that. The thing I really appreciated is that they listened to our feedback and really took it to heart. My only complaint would be the poor internet service or non-existent should I say. Like I mentioned before, we were on the island 4.5 days and only had so-so connectively one day for about 1-2 hours tops and then for the rest of the trip we were in the dark. Being on an island, you want to relax and if you need to use the internet for a few quick things, it makes it hard to relax, as your mind is constantly thinking about getting that email out and checking something else that needs connectivity. If they can get this fixed, that would make for a business traveler and/or anyone who needs to stay somewhat connected for a quick email or two during their stay very very happy.
Thanks so much Azura Quilalea and we are very much looking forward to a return trip back to paradise sometime soon!