Azura Benguerra: Our full report
Azura Benguerra, or 'Azura Retreat' as it's often simply referred to, lies on the western coast of Benguerra Island. Although it opened in October 2007, it remains the 'newest' beach lodge on the Bazaruto Archipelago. With only 16 individual villas, it is also probably the most luxurious and exclusive.
Azura's owners include both nationals of Mozambique, and Chris and Stella Bettany – who were previously closely involved with the Banyan Tree, in the Seychelles; between them they have an excellent background in both local logistics – and setting up luxurious island resorts. Though Chris and Stella themselves are no longer based at Azura, they are still heavily involved and ensure that standards remain at their best.
Transferring from the airstrip by 4WD, you arrive at the main lodge you'll be struck by the beautiful interior design, wonderful views over the white-sand beach and (if the tide is in!) the turquoise sea beyond.
Azura has a stylish bar area and lounge, and outdoor decks with tables and sun umbrellas that overlook the beach. There is a chill-out room which has internet, a large flat-screen TV and also a library. By the reception you will find a small curio shop with a selection of African artefacts, designer clothes and basic necessities.
Azura Benguerra is not just a very stylish boutique hotel; its owners have also gone all out to make this beach escape as eco- and community-friendly as possible. During building, rather than bring in outside contractors, the owners employed almost exclusively local islanders, teaching them new skills to enable them to find employment after completion of the lodge. In addition, about 90% of the staff now employed at Azura Benguerra are from the islands, or from nearby mainland towns, and all employees are taught English and the skills required to operate in the tourism industry. Many lodges claim such eco-credentials; we've seen those at Azura, and are impressed.
Guests are asked for their understanding and to recognise that English is not most employees' first or even second language, and that many staff had had little more than rudimentary education when Azura lodge opened. Having said that, when we visited in October 2011 we found the standard of English and service was amongst the best we experienced on Mozambique.
Azura Benguerra has 17 villas, all charmingly designed with traditional Mozambican shaggy-thatched roofs and chic interiors, and all positioned along a fine sandy beach. There are five different types of villa:
- 2 x Beach Villas
- 3 x Luxury Beach Villas
- 10 x Infinity Beach Villas
- 1 x Villa Amizade
- 1 x Presidential Villa
The Beach Villa, Luxury Beach Villa and Infinity Beach Villas are all very similar. (Read more about these Beach Villas here... )
The two-bedroom Villa Amizade is perfect for families or two couples travelling together (Read more about the Villa Amizade here... )
The Presidential Villa has three bedrooms so is also perfect for a family
group (Read more about the Presidential Villa here... )
If you tire of dozing on the beach there are plenty of activities on offer around Azura beach lodge. Water activities centre around scuba diving, snorkelling trips, big-game and salt-water fly fishing (catch-and-release policy), island hopping and relaxed sunset dhow cruises. Azura has an impressive fleet of seven boats and so guests who want to head out on an activity can always be accommodated. The choice of activities is discussed with guests each evening ready for the next day.
The reefs are pristine and abundant with a great variety of fish and corals, and dolphins are often spotted whilst en route between dive and snorkelling sites – we spotted dolphins on one of our two boat trips in the area!
Dry land activities might include island drives and picnics on Bazaruto Island, visits to the dunes and to the freshwater inland lakes (where crocodile sightings are possible), and also a massage or treatment in Azura's spa.
An island drive and sunset dhow cruise is included in every guest's stay; other activities are an additional charge.
Our viewThree or four members of our team have now visited Azura on different occasions over the past five years – along with the other beach lodges in the Bazaruto Archipelago. We have consistently found Azura Benguerra to be the most elegant of these beach lodges; the food has been excellent without fail, and the activities well set up. But what really impressed us on our last visit was that the staff always seem to go the extra mile – their many thoughtful touches and attention to detail reflecting the lodge's generally caring ethos.
Ideal length of stay: At least four nights.
Directions: The flight with Federal Air from Johannesburg to Vilanculos takes about two hours. It is then a 15-minute hop on a small plane (or, optionally, a helicopter – at extra cost) to Benguerra airstrip. Azura Benguerra will pick you up in its 4WD for the ten-minute road transfer to the lodge.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food that we had at Azura Benguerra was excellent. Meals are generally based on delicious fresh seafood and you will often see one of the fishermen bringing your dinner up from the sea in the afternoon! (If you don't like fish you will need to let us know in advance so that the lodge can make special arrangements.)
For breakfast you will be offered tea and coffee, and the smoothie of the day. There is a selection of cereal and yoghurts available, as well as a full cooked breakfast.
Lunch is usually very relaxed and often served on the beach. Typically there is a light starter such as soup (we had a delicious sweetcorn curry soup one day) and fresh bread, then a choice of two mains: generally a fish option such as calamari or catch of the day, and a non-fish option. There's also a pudding!
Dinner is slightly more formal with guests asked to dress smart casual. Once again you will be treated to a three-course meal: there is a choice of starters and again a choice of two main courses. One night at Azura we enjoyed a tasty lobster terrine to start, then curried prawns with coconut rice for main and tiramisu for pudding.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, local spirits and beers, house wine and bottled water are included at Azura. Any other wines, premium brand drinks or specially imported items will be charged for. The tap water here is drinkable and purified on site but bottled water is also provided in the villas.
Further dining info: Each villa at Azura lodge is allocated its own Mozambican host. Being honest … before we arrived, we were dubious about having a 'butler', with all the word's colonial overtones. However, the reality was José – who was great! We got to know him, and he looked after us really well: bringing us drinks, organising our activities, and generally making sure that we had what we wanted. José was in his early 20s, spoke good English, and was pleased to be here after previously working at a lodge on the mainland. There is a phone in each villa connected to the main lodge in case you need anything, and it's possible to arrange meals in your room (at an extra charge).
Honeymoons: Azura Benguerra is a wonderfully luxurious lodge, perfect for honeymoon to Mozambique. The villas are private and have big bath tubs and outside showers. Thoughtful touches like candle-lit dinners and activities such as day trips to deserted beaches promise a very romantic stay.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Mozambique
Beach holidays: The beaches on Benguerra Island are beautiful: fine sand sprinkled with thousands of shells. Tidal variations are considerable – at low tide it may be a couple of kilometres to the sea!See more ideas for Beach holidays in Mozambique
Diving & snorkelling: Azura has a PADI Dive Centre with new, top-of-the-range 'Scubapro' equipment. The reefs are rich in a variety of fish and coral species, and offer a range of depths and reef topography to suit both beginners and experienced divers, and snorkellers too.See more ideas for Diving & snorkelling in Mozambique
Wellbeing: The spa at Azura lodge has been finished recently and offers very high-quality treatments in a cool and relaxing treatment room looking out over the sea. The lodge employs a professional therapist, who offers body rubs, body wraps, a variety of massage treatments and aromatherapy baths.See more ideas for Wellbeing in Mozambique
Private villas & houses: The Presidential Villa and Villa Amizade at Azura Benguerra are stunning private villas in Mozambique. Located on a pristine beach, they offer great beach and water activities. Both private villas sleep a group or family of up to six people each and come with private staff and a pool.See more ideas for Private villas & houses in Mozambique
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Azura Benguerra.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: Childminders are available for a nominal fee, but will be from the housekeeping and so will not have a professional qualification in childcare.
Equipment: Cots and spare beds can be set up in the villas for parents with young children.
Generally recommended for children: Azura Benguerra is designed primarily as a honeymoon lodge, and for couples. So although families are welcome we don't feel it is very well suited for children unless parents splash out and stay in Villa Amizade or the Presidential Villa' where they will have their own space away from other guests.
Communications: Azura usually has cellphone reception. Telephone calls can also be made from the lodge's telephone for an additional charge. Free internet is available and there is WiFi in the main lounge.
TV & radio: There is a television room and satellite channels are available. There are no televisions in the villas.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers and diving instructor are first-aid trained and medical supplies are kept on site. Medivac can be called out in an emergency.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Azura has five guards on site 24 hours a day.
Fire safety: There are extinguishers on the balconies of all rooms and in the common areas. A fire evacuation procedure is in place and the lodge tries to practise a fire drill once a week.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Azura, and is machine washed and line dried.
Money: Laundry is included at Azura, and is machine washed and line dried. There are electronic safes in each of the villas. Azura is not able to offer any currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location: Azura will accept credit cards in the form of Visa and MasterCard – with a 3.5% surcharge. Amex is not accepted. Guests may also settle their bills in US dollars, euros, Mozambican metical, South African rand and British pounds.