Every day I think Africa surely can’t get any better. And then it does.
My final few days have been spent on Benguerra Island in Mozambique, at a beach paradise resort called Azura.
Not a single other guest here is NOT on their honeymoon. Literally, not exaggerating, not a single one of them (except for moi). Sparkly rings and snogging every direction you look.
All I can say is thank goodness I am not limping out of a recent break-up, or I’d be sobbing into my 400-count Egyptian cotton sheets on a nightly basis.
So I got flown in from the mainland by way of a shiny black helicopter, and sat in the front seat, next to the witty and attractive pilot. I swear, this was my 19th flight this month, and all the small ones have been manned by South Africans who are witty and attractive.
It was brilliant. I’ve never been in such a small helicopter, and definitely never in the front.
Taking off in this bad boy gave me the pinch-me-pinch-me-please-can-we-feeze-this-and-make-it-last-longer spasms. One minute you are on the tarmac and the next minute you are just HOVERING in an upwards trajectory, like a seriously swish bumble bee.
So we buzzed over the vast expanse of turquoise streaked ocean, and ten minutes later, we touched down at Azura, which is a small-ish resort right on the beach.
The manager Colette (softly spoken, honey hair, very white teeth) swoops in to welcome me.
“You must be so tired after all this moving around,” she says earnestly. “We’ve left your itinerary clear for this afternoon. Go and have some champagne in your villa, relax, and we’ll see you later at dinner.”
I’m not fond of the word ‘itinerary’ when in the same context as ‘beach’ but just wait until you read about what it entailed.
Azura is perhaps the only place I’ve ever been which looks just like it does in the travel brochure. No need for Photoshop here, kids.
The sand really is that white. The sea really is that blue. The beach really is that deserted.
The crunchy seashell paths are made from crushed mother-of-pearl. My villa is strewn with petals. The plunge pool overlooks the ocean, which is only a hop-and-a-skip away.
There’s a fucking bird bath outside my room for christ’s sake.
Beautiful winged creatures float into it nonchalantly, dip their exotic-coloured heads in, and shake little silver droplets of water around as if they’ve been paid to perform.
A beautiful feral cat slinks past occasionally – one eye yellow, and the other dark amber.
So I did exactly what Colette suggested, and spent all afternoon guzzling champagne and relaxing, surrounded by flower petals and prancing birds.
The following morning it was out on a speedboat to go island-hopping, which I shared with two young and beautiful honeymoon couples.
Neither of the couples (one American, one Swiss) were nauseating and annoying, they were really nice.
The first minute island consisted purely of sloping sand dunes, which we trudged up and galloped down. It felt confusing, like we were suddenly in the Arabian desert (a Photoshopped one), but in a good way.
I love snorkelling at the best of times but I can say hand-on-heart that this was the most incredible setting in which I’ve ever had the fortune to do it. I haven’t even seen photos of coral (which have been Photoshopped) that look this good.
The water was clear as glass and the sun filtered straight down to the seabed in a way that made it look like everything was in HD.
The coral was alive with tropical fish of every size and description. At one point, a turtle slid gracefully past. He, like the birds, also looked as though he been paid to do so.
Maybe all these animals are robots and the blueness of the sea is just a hologram, and Azura is run by virtual reality geniuses. It wouldn’t surprise me.
The next seemingly-computer-generated island I was ferried to was set up for a picnic. That’s what they called it. It wasn’t a picnic. When I think of the word ‘picnic’, I think of plastic cutlery, hay fever and wasps.
Azura’s version of a picnic was a private feast, laid out on a beautifully dressed table, under a reed sun shader, with mounds of sand sculpted around it which were artfully punctured with green foliage. And no wasps, obviously.
So I got drunk, bobbed around in the soup-like sea oogling fish and got really quite sunburnt. Particularly on the bit of my back which I couldn’t reach with my meagre smattering of sunscreen. Single People Problems.
That evening, I met Faizel, who, like Brian and Jelly before him, was one of the most interesting people I’ve met in ages. So interesting, in fact, that he will get his own separate post.
In summary though, Faizel has lived in lots of countries (Ethiopia, Switzerland, England, Mozambique, to name a few), speaks five languages, and very kindly made me a hand-written photography guide to help with my ongoing quest to become a not-shit photographer.
The following morning, I went crunch, crunch, crunch along the mother-of-pearl path over to the spa, where a predictably talented woman named Linda worked wonders on my poor shoulders – which have been under so much stress these past few weeks (joke, no they haven’t).
The rest of my days at Azura were spent drifting between the sea, my bed, the restaurant, and the beach in the evening, where I spent long hours talking to Faizel (substitute brand new husband) and watching boats.
To summarise Azura, and what it feels like to be there, I will tell you about the worst thing that happened to me during the duration of my stay.
It was late at night. I was tired and woozy from all the red wine. I clambered into bed, shifted myself under the Egyptian cotton sheets, scrunched up my nose and muttered, “Bugger. I didn’t wash the sand off.”
That should give it some perspective.