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Sat Nov 01 14:32:23 SAST 2014

Spend 25 years on an island

Pearl Boshomane | 14 November, 2012 00:03

A young man, wearing a red T-shirt and striped white shorts, introduces himself to me. "I'm Orr-lahn-do," he says, speaking languidly as he stands next to a blue and yellow dhow.

I'm sure Orlando is trying to seduce me with just those two words. He asks me where I'm from and when I tell him South Africa, he responds with a disinterested "okay". I can't blame him, considering he lives in the most beautiful place I've ever seen .

I am on Benguerra Island, off the coast of the little town of Vilankulo in Mozambique.

Most of the journalists with whom I'm travelling have just been on a sunset cruise, drinking 2M beer (dosh-em, as the locals call it) and soaking up the scenery.

We've been invited to stay at Marlin Lodge, a 14-villa resort which is running a competition. The winner will own a luxury villa for 25 years. Who wouldn't want to leave behind the madness of city life, deadlines, bosses and traffic to live this fantasy?

In a place where time creeps by and the Wi-Fi signal is middling, I have no choice but to put away my smartphone, with the urge to tweet everything cancelled out by the charm of nature and the locals.

From the moment we land at Vilankulo Airport, the warm weather a far cry from Johannesburg's miserable, wet spring, it is obvious we are in for something special. There aren't many cars on the town's narrow roads and it takes our taxi just a few minutes to reach the coast, where we take a boat to Benguerra Island.

As is to be expected in the age of EL James hysteria, the Fifty Shades of Grey reference becomes a running joke whenever we speak about the colour of the ocean.

"It's fifty shades of turquoise," one person or the other remarks. The joke tires, the water's beauty doesn't.

While my idea of staying on a gorgeous island is to sleep in as late as possible, our Saturday starts off criminally early, as we get on the Marlin Dive, one of the lodge's boats. The sea is choppy, giving our journey more thrills than any found at theme parks.

We're going snorkelling and our instructor, Billy, is as enthusiastic as we are. Since this is my first time snorkelling, I can't say whether the marine life is the best I've come across, but it is breathtaking. It feels like I'm in Finding Nemo, but the awkwardness of breathing through the apparatus reminds me I'm not in a movie. We make a trip to Pansy Island, which is populated by the triangular, white pansy shells with the distinct flower mark. The sand is filled with holes made by crabs.

We head to the south point of Benguerra, where the Marlin staff have prepared a picnic for us. After lunch, we sail on a white dhow named the Lambada, headed to the tiny Heart Island, which gets its name from its shape. We walk on shells , most white as pearls, others a soft pink or brown.

I have no intention of swimming, but the shades of blue and green prove too much to resist, and before long I find myself in the water, fully clothed. Later a few of us go to the village. We follow the music to a tavern. We find people jamming, drinking gin and beer.

A man, not older than 20, introduces himself as Daniel. When he finds out I'm from South Africa, he says: "Take me with you when you go back." I'd gladly trade places.

  • Boshomane was a guest of Marlin Lodge

WIN A VILLA

ENTER the Win an Island Paradise competition, a collaborative effort between the Mozambique National Institute of Tourism and Marlin Lodge.

One winner will win the exclusive right of tenure to a two-bedroom villa in the boutique resort on Benguerra Island for 25 years.

The villa has two en-suite bedrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, a kitchen with a bar, beach views and a private pool on the verandah.

The competition is open in 65 countries divided into 15 zones. There will be one finalist per zone when the campaign wraps up. The 15 finalists will head to Benguerra to compete for the grand prize. To enter, answer: What is the capital of Mozambique? A) Pemba, B) Beira, C) Maputo or D) Ilha de Mozambique. SMS 'paradise' and your answer (A, B, C or D) to 39721 (SMS costs R1.50).

Visit www.winanislandparadise.com for information. Competition closes April 30 2013. Visit www.facebook. com/WinAnIsland to enter the Take Me To Paradise competition, starting on Friday, in which three entrants will each win a trip for two to Marlin Lodge for four nights. Terms and conditions apply.

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