Live out your 'deserted island' fantasies on Mozambique's Medjumbe
A stay on this tiny island in the Quirimbas Archipelago is about life's last luxuries: solitude, breathing space and spending time with those you love, writes Elizabeth Sleith
"Romeo Killer Golf is ready for lift," he says and flicks a switch.
The voice funnels in through my headphones, far-away and tinny, although I'm so close to the pilot I could reach out and pinch a hair from his leg.
I am, after all, riding shotgun in the helicopter and he is wearing shorts and flip-flops because - well, our destination is that sort of place.
More switches flicked, a joystick eased, and we are up, up and away. The ramshackle roadways of Pemba recede and we pitch forward to play Pac-Man, gobbling up candyfloss clouds.Below us, the Quirimbas Islands off northern Mozambique, 32 all told, drift by.
Stefan Smuts, he of the hairy legs, points some out as we go: that's Quilalea, that's Ibo, those are the mangrove swamps, that's Matemo ... and then Medjumbe shimmers into view.
From the air, it doesn't look like much. A mere 1km long and 500m wide, it is a sandbank upon which you might hope to wash if you ever found yourself lost at sea.
The helicopter wobbles down and Stefan flips his switches to "Noises off". We passengers flip our switches to "OMG".
"Welcome to heaven's gate," he says.
And the slowing beat of the helicopter blades gradually gives way to birdsong.'NATURALLY EXCLUSIVE'
Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort has 12 villas built along the surf in both directions from the "big house". Every one has a direct line to the sea - admittedly, this is not hard to achieve on an island that's two-thirds beach.
In fact, there really isn't anywhere you can turn that you won't see water. From your king-size bed and your bath, your private plunge pool and your lounger on your private deck, there it is, your steadfast friend, that impossible blue.Dashes of brightness in the woven wall art, the cushions and the upside-down basket lampshades remind you you're in Africa. As does the refreshingly informal air - no "must wear shoes in the dining room" rules for Medjumbe's guests.Don't expect the bells and whistles of luxury city hotels either. You may well find ants on your plate of welcome cookies. The bar staff may take a puzzlingly long time to pour your drink. Who cares when the ants are in that room, when the bar is that bar?
What you're buying here is not a concierge or a sommelier. The resort folk call it "naturally exclusive". It's life's last luxuries: solitude, breathing space, time with those you love, and the pinch-me-quick loveliness of this far-flung place.
If you don't feel sufficiently marooned, you can retreat even further into yourself on Quissanga, a brief speedboat hurtle away.
At roughly 200m², Quissanga is an even tinier drop in the ocean, and surrounded by coral reefs. Before we make landfall, we pause to snorkel - just a leap from the boat.
Spotted from above, we could be corpses, floating face down, arms limp at our sides, strange protrusions rising from our heads. Did we die by arrows?Down below, the truth is a coral kingdom, where earthly gardens turn topsy-turvy. Ferns are pink, huge conch shells pulse with razor-sharp teeth, fleshy fingers of green waft in the currents, with tiny, gelatinous mouths. Curiouser and curiouser, as a wise woman once said.Quissanga's only structure is an enormous, thatched gazebo - if Crusoe had had a wish come true (and honestly, who would wish for rescue?), this would have been his beach house, with its lounge areas - yes, more than one - and a bamboo bar and, the pièce de résistance, a bed.
But not just any bed. A four-poster made of carved, dark wood, draped in netting (both romantic and practical). This, they call the Star Bed, and couples willing to pay for the privilege can be dropped here at sunset and fetched only the next day.
Those less brave can lunch here alone in the sunshine, as we do, in a small clearing under the shade of palm trees.Supposedly, it harks back to the days of the slave trade, when stolen people would leave messages for their loved ones here.
His tale is vague and I can't later find any corroboration, but I like the idea anyway, that this flick of sand somehow tied people who loved each other together.
I can certainly see how it still does that now.
WHAT TO DO ON A 'DESERTED' ISLAND
If you're a twitchy sort, fear not. There's lots to do on Medjumbe besides hang out in a hammock:
Watersports include snorkelling, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding.
Walk to the 1930s-built lighthouse.
Go to the spa. Because what's an island getaway without a massage?
Do a sunset cruise on a dhow.
Whale-watching trips are available from mid-July to mid-October.
Dive in the Quirimbas National Park...