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Bond Meets Robinson Crusoe

feb march travelIsobel Abel-Smith says Vamizi Island in Mozambique is a castaway destination where low-impact tourism combines with conservation 

Vamizi Island is a castaway paradise, as romantic as the tale of Sinbad.   Located in one of the wildest places on earth, set among the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique, Vamizi Island has only the occasional whisper of a breeze.  This ivory sliver of an island is just 12km long and 2km wide.  Set in shimmering azure waters under the African sun, this balmy and tropical island has miles of white sand waiting to be explored.  This is an island where Bond meets Robinson Crusoe, where relaxation meets exploration, and where low-impact tourism meets conservation.

The vision of Vamizi’s founders was to combine low-impact tourism with wildlife conservation and community development, to protect this precious environment and improve life for its inhabitants for many generations to come. Heralded as a conservation site, Vamizi and the surrounding islands represent one of the world’s most important regions of biodiversity and a sanctuary for some of the most significant and threatened wildlife habitats in the western Indian Ocean. Over 180 different species of coral and more than 400 species of reef fish have been recorded.

 Guests are invited to become actively involved with projects when they are on the island, a weekly ‘wildlife club’ is run by the conservation monitors to encourage children to learn about the importance of the natural environment in an interactive and fun way. Both adults and children will enjoy helping turtle monitors patrol nests, particularly exciting during nesting season with night patrols to watch turtles laying their eggs on Vamizi’s beaches. The conservation team also encourages guests to record sightings of Vamizi’s ‘Big Five’ marine species all on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (the Green turtle, the grey Reef Shark, the Giant Grouper, the Napoleon Wrasse and the Bumphead Parrotfish) and thereby actively becoming a part of the marine conservation.   The island recently began a new shark-tagging project to learn more about the famous Vamizi Grey Reef Sharks.  The programme presents an exceptional opportunity to both educate guests about the remarkable marine systems and become actively involved in the exciting world of shark research. Guests can sponsor a shark, and directly facilitate important research to help conserve these important reef predators and the fragile coral reef ecosystems that they inhabit.  The Grey Reef Shark tagging project is one of the first initiatives to be launched under a new partnership for Vamizi with the IUCN, the first of its kind in East Africa.

Of all Vamizi’s attractions, its beaches are undeniably one of its greatest, and the simple pleasure of being able to walk for hours along kilometres of deserted wild beach is a rarity. The Private Villa Collection is strung loosely along these pristine beaches and provides enviable privacy.  Each villa, sleeping between 12 and 16, is uniquely designed in its own elegant style with star-gazing decks, private pools, and set in its own three to four acre plot with private beach access (of up to 100 metres).  The design of the private villas has been carefully crafted by South African architects renowned for their commitment to creative design, sustainable development and responsible tourism. Their unique style of architecture draws on the multi-cultural influences of Mozambique, and uses locally sourced materials to ensure complete integration with the landscape.  In total, six stunning private villas will be offered in 2015, and Vamizi Island, which has built a reputation as a paradise for couples, now grows to offer families more, as parents can return with their children to a place they fell in love with.

Whilst the accommodation includes all the perks of a five-star hotel, including a private chef, a chauffeur-driven car and a dedicated private villa manager, adventurous guests can enjoy humpback-whale watching, big-game fishing and diving, as Vamizi is nominated as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. Divers can explore one of the globe’s healthiest coral reef ecosystems, and a plethora of marine life in its crystal blue waters. From luminous patterned parrotfish, scorpion fish and giant clams as well as dolphins, turtles and reef sharks, divers will find an outstanding reef-scape teeming with a bewildering amount of sealife.  A survey carried out on Vamizi’s waters identified 46 genera of coral species with more than 400 species of fish.  Even inexperienced divers or a clumsy snorkeler will be delighted, and for young divers, bubble maker and Seal Team Courses (ages 8-9) are offered, as well as the Discover Scuba Diving (for ages 10-14) and PADI open water Junior Course.

Other distractions include estuary kayaking, hobie cat, dinghy sailing, a sunset dhow cruise, massage and yoga, or a castaway picnic on a very private corner of the island. It is hard not to be amazed by the beauty here. Stroll inland on a nature walk with a guide to see nesting green turtles, giant coconut crabs and rare samango monkeys as well as colourful exotic birds. Vamizi also offers visits to the local mwani people and traditional fishing villages.

Immersed in the Indian Ocean, Vamizi has miles of deserted coastline, a tropical ocean to explore, and getting there is all part of the adventure. For those seeking more than a holiday, Vamizi offers the chance to switch off, check-out, and understand an undisturbed microcosm of the world in which we live. The definitive experience of barefoot luxury in Africa, Vamizi is in tune with the peerless environment which surrounds it, and will remain as unspoilt and beautiful for many generations to come.


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