What is it about island life that enchants us?
We share our busy city lives with so many other people; and among all the social, political and business clutter, all we have are our houses to escape to in order to catch up and feel alone.
So when you are standing on a pristine private island in the Indian Ocean miles from the mainland; and it’s just you and your own luxury bungalow, and you have the entire uninhabited island to explore, and white beaches to relax on, and remarkable ocean life surrounding you; it brings a sense of freedom and isolation that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
It is as if you have simply disappeared from the world.
This was the feeling that struck me the moment I arrived at Quilalea Private Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago.
The Quirimbas is an undiscovered patchwork of atolls and islands scattered off the northern coast of Mozambique.
I say ‘undiscovered’ when comparing Quirimbas to places like Zanzibar, Seychelles and the Maldives, which already have sprawling tourism industries. It’s not easy to find the authentic isolation that I think we all crave when heading out on an island holiday.
The Quirimbas, on the other hand, is one of the few places where one can still feel alone; a speck in the vast Indian Ocean.
This is not to say that the archipelago is ‘undiscovered’ in the true sense of the word. In fact, the history of this part of Mozambique is full of remarkable human stories; from the earliest Arab traders who sailed their quintessential dhow boats along the coast, trading spices, ivory and materials between Africa and the East; to the Portuguese colonists who set up ports on the larger island of Ibo; to the local fishermen who still use the islands as stop-off points on their long fishing expeditions out to sea.
Many of the islands in the Quirimbas are still uninhabited; either covered with mangrove swamps, or too small for any specific use.
But some are privately owned with small lodges, allowing the lucky few to visit their remote shores and completely switch off from the mainland; that is – disconnect from the world.
This process was already well underway as I washed up on the shore of Quilalea Private Island after a two hour snorkel.
The waters of Quilalea are so warm, there is never any need for a wetsuit, and the fact that there is a colourful coral reef just off the beach means that you don’t even need to go far to enjoy some of the finest snorkelling in the area.
My luxury bungalow was just a short walk from the water, and I felt that two hours of being wet was not enough, so I jumped into my private plunge pool, popped a bottle of complimentary champagne, and watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean as every single care in the world drifted away with every sip.
Quilalea is but one of the dreamy lodge islands you can choose from in the Quirimbas Archipelago.
Out of 32 islands, 12 of them host lodges, and here are a few of the best.
This historic island provided a post for the Arab traders moving up the East Coast, and later became a port for the portuguese slave trade beginning in the 16 00s. The fading colonial buildings remain: some crumbling, others lived in, and a couple being restored. There’s a large church and three forts, and these ghostly buildings are a reminder of the remarkable history of these islands.
Vamizi is found in the far north of the Archipelago, with it’s stunning long beaches, spectacular diving not far from shore. It is also perhaps the most remote, with only 12 beach villas at Vamizi Lodge, and incredible deserted long beaches ready to be explored
Medjumbe is one of the smallest islands in the Quirimbas, at just 800 meters in length, it doesn’t take very long to walk round this island, and on the one tip, at low tide, a long tail of beach extends right out into the ocean, making for a magnificent sundowner spot during the right time. With just 13 thatched chalets at the lodge, this is a remote tropical island paradise that epitomises the Quirimbas charm.
As the sun disappeared over the ocean, and dusk engulfed Quilalea, I finally left the plunge pool and prepared for dinner. After a day of lounging on the beach, swimming in the warm sea, and forgetting just about everything about my real life, I realised why we love islands so much.
It’s the best way to disappear from the world; and the closest thing to magic.