Dugong Lodge, standing on the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique.
Dugong Lodge: Our full report
On the mainland, just 40 minutes by boat from Vilanculos town, Dugong Beach Lodge stands on a beautiful long isolated beach. Although this lodge isn't actually on one of the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, it's often thought of as an alternative – hence we've included it in the same section. Dugong originally consisted of a handful of relatively simple tents, it was totally rebuilt after the cyclone in 2007, and reopened at the end of 2008 as a chic beach lodge with plenty of style and character.
New arrivals at Dugong jump off the boat onto the beach and up onto a broad wooden deck dotted with tables and chairs. This is Dugong's relaxed al-fresco dining area, which has stunning views past a long jetty and out to sea. The sunsets from here are lovely! At the far end of the jetty are a couple of chairs, and on request private dining can be set up here – great for a romantic occasion.
On this vast deck you will also find the swimming pool – or rather, a number of small swimming pools, with plenty of hammocks and sun loungers. There's a well-stocked outside bar, too, surrounded by high bar stools.
Sliding glass doors lead to the main lounge and an additional indoor dining area for cooler nights. Greeted by a large brass dugong statue, you'll find yourself in a smart, contemporary room decorated with dark wood, coffee-table books, rustic African art and high-quality furniture from South Africa.
Dugong also has a small shop with both branded items and a few pieces of jewellery, as well as essential toiletries.
The stylish bedrooms at Dugong Beach Lodge total 14. Ten are identical in style, then there are two family suites, each with two rooms. All of the bedrooms are individual buildings, with neutral-coloured walls, polished stone floors and sliding glass doors that open onto private decks. Inside, the rooms have either double or twin beds, which we found to be extremely comfortable, a minibar which can be stocked with your choice of drinks, a safe, a tea- and coffee-making station, and a hairdryer.
Equally stylish bathrooms are at the back, behind the bed.. Twin sinks are set upon a marble surface, and there are indoor and outdoor showers as well as a large free-standing bath. Toiletries are provided in all rooms.
A number of activities are possible at Dugong Beach Lodge, many at no extra charge. These include most non-motorised activities, such as sea-kayaking, Hobie-cat sailing and snorkelling from the shore. That said, snorkelling here is not currently that interesting, although the lodge has sunk a small dhow and even an old Land Cruiser just offshore, and they are hoping that over the next few years these will attract soft corals which will in turn attract more fish.
Other activities, such as deep-sea fishing and horseriding, are available at additional cost. It is possible to arrange scuba diving from Dugong, but this needs to be pre-arranged with one of the dive shops in Vilanculos as the lodge does not have its own dive centre. If you wish to dive during your stay at Dugong it is best to let us know in advance.
Also at an additional cost, Dugong Beach Lodge also offers game drives within the reserve, nature walks, sundowner dhow trips and sandbank picnics, snorkelling trips, waterskiing and tubing.
While it is important to note that the lodge does not have a proper spa or well-being centre, a masseuse from Vilanculos can be called in to do in-room massages.
We thought that Dugong was a good option for those looking for a stylish yet unpretentious beach retreat. Its remote location makes it very quiet and peaceful and the strong management team goes out of their way to try and ensure that your stay is very comfortable. Dugong didn't appear quite as smoothly run as some of the operations on the islands but it is also quite a bit lower in cost – making it arguably very good value. Though the lack of a dive center on site makes this less convenient for very keen divers.
Ideal length of stay: With so many activities, you could easily while away five days here, though for a longer stay in the area and some diversity it may be worth combining with some of the islands on the Bazaruto Archipelago such as Azura Retreat; the Portuguese-influenced Bazaruto Lodge; the long-established Benguerra Lodge; or the efficient Marlin Lodge.
Directions: Fly into Vilanculos Airport via Johannesburg, then hop aboard a boat for a 40-minute transfer to Dugong Beach Lodge. Note that you have to walk through shallow water to reach the boat so will need to remove your shoes. It is also possible to arrange a helicopter transfer at an additional charge.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: During our visit, the food at Dugong Lodge was delicious: fresh, with an unpretentious approach and full of flavour.
Breakfast consisted of a small buffet, which included homemade muesli, a fresh fruit platter, yoghurt and some pastries. Should you wish to have a cooked breakfast as well, you can order this from your waiter.
For lunch, a selection of salads and other tasty dishes were laid out buffet style, including tempura calamari, mini quiches, beetroot and apple salad, and coleslaw. There was also some irresistible freshly baked bread.
Between 6.30pm and 7.00pm, guests tended to gather for pre-dinner drinks and snacks at the bar, where we were treated to fresh calamari. This is also the time to chat through possible activities for the following days so that you can really optimise your time at Dugong Beach Lodge.
The three-course dinner incorporates a choice of starters and main dishes. We had the option of cucumber soup or crab paté on toast with a small salad, followed by a choice between a prawn Thai green curry or a steak. Dessert was sweet fried banana and custard.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, beer and house wines are included. All spirits, champagne and cellar wines are an additional charge.
Attitude towards children: Children of any age are welcome at Dugong Lodge but they do not consider it to be suitable for those under the age of seven.
Generally recommended for children: We wouldn't recommend Dugong Beach Lodge for very young children. It has a quiet adult atmosphere and there is a long drop from both the front of the rooms and the jetty onto the beach. For older children who are able to entertain themselves, however, the family suites would work really well.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is WiFi in the main lounge, free of charge, and a computer in the office that guests can borrow.
TV & radio: Dugong Beach Lodge has a TV with DSTV, discreetly hidden in a wooden cabinet in the main lounge area.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Two of the managers at Dugong Beach Lodge are first aid trained and there is a first-aid kit on site. The lodge has boats and vehicles for transport to Vilaculos where there is a doctor, and for medical emergencies they also have links to the flying-doctor service.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are safes in every room at Dugong Beach Lodge and two or three security guards are on duty at any given time.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are located all around Dugong Beach Lodge and the staff are trained to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Dugong will wash your clothes by machine and it is all line dried. The laundry service is free of charge.
Money: Dugong Beach Lodge will exchange small amounts of cash for you.