Vamizi is a small island - and a luxurious lodge - in the Quirimbas Archipelago...
Vamizi: Our full report
Vamizi Island is located in the far north of the Quirimbas Archipelago, not too far from the Tanzanian border. The island itself is very narrow and long – you can walk to the opposite side in only 45 minutes. It's also very photogenic. There are a few small fishing villages away from the lodge, but these aren't close and the lodge feels very remote.
The lodge on Vamizi Island (sometimes called Vamizi Island Resort – but it doesn't feel like a 'resort' to us!) has been built with a great amount of style and design, and its construction used some of the local villagers and many local materials. We first visited Vamizi when it was being constructed, and have seen it several times since then.
The main areas include a large lounge area and bar, with wooden decked floors and open sides. These rooms are spacious, open and have a great natural feel to them. There are plenty of comfortable sofas to lounge around on, and light wicker furniture and cream materials result in a cool crisp look. African carvings and wooden furniture add style and a character that is in keeping with your surroundings. With lots of use of wood and thatch it has a rustic feel, but fantastic art and well-made furniture add the signature of an interior designer.
The bar is well stocked and manned by a fantastic barman who can whip up a variety of cocktails to suit your mood. Marine books sit on a book shelf against the back wall – so guests can look up what they might have seen that day when they were out snorkelling or diving.
In a separate open-sided building, a restaurant area is set with tables and chairs. This is a cool shaded place to sit and enjoy your meals – in this unpretentious lodge you can come to dinner barefoot and not feel out of place.
The private villas at Vamizi are widely spaced up the beach, with about 70m space between adjacent villas. Set back slightly into the greenery, each covers a vast 165m², which includes a bedroom, the en-suite bathroom and a private outside deck. In keeping with the main areas, they make great use of neutral colours, wood and thatch. There is no glass in the rooms: the windows are wooden or grass lattice and the doors are woven grass. Because the rooms are set back off the beach, you can open the doors fully and retain quite a lot of privacy. African art is dotted around the rooms, but being large they remain uncluttered, and the result is an almost minimalist colonial feel.
The rooms have large comfortable beds, plenty of hanging space for clothes, a vanity table where you will find a hair dryer and a safe. There are two large fans in each room: one above the bed, and another in the lounge. There is no air-conditioning, but the open nature of the rooms makes the most of any natural breezes.
At the back of the bedroom is the open-plan shower area; the shower itself is built out of a large piece of marble. The marble twin sinks are set in front of the shower and you will also find a selection of lovely complimentary toiletries.
To one side of the bedroom, through a pair of French doors is the outside lounge area. There is a large cane sofa and comfortable colonial-style 'planters' chairs; this is a great place to relax in the evenings. There are also two sun-loungers, where you can sunbathe, and a further two for each villa on the beach itself – which is about a hundred paces in front of the room. Each villa is provided with a small selection of complimentary drinks.
Two of the villas are designed for families. Each of these have two bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. These two bedrooms share a large common lounge area – where there's ample space for four people.
There are a number of different complimentary activities available at Vamizi – including a 90-minute walk to the lighthouse, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, village visits and snorkelling from the shore. If you want to head out by boat, to snorkel on some of the reefs a little further out, then there's an additional cost for this.
The Vamizi Island beaches are numerous, long and often very photogenic – complete with white powder-sand and palm trees. Vamizi Lodge itself stands on a beautiful stretch of beach, from which it's always possible to swim at any time of day.
The lodge has a fully-equipped dive centre. During our most recent visit, in October 2008, a typical (single-tank) dive cost an extra US$60. During that visit, we dived several different sites around Vamizi; this was certainly the best diving we did anywhere in the Quirimbas Archipelago. Several of the dives were quite mind-blowing for the huge number of pelagic fish and various sharks that we saw – including two great hammerheads.
It's also possible to hire boats from Vamizi for big game fishing (on a catch-and-release basis) which, given the abundant pelagic fish, can be very good. You can expect to catch sailfish, marlin, tuna and giant trevally. There is also some great salt-water fly-fishing, but the lodge doesn't currently have the right kit for this – although visitors who are keen are encouraged to bring their own equipment.
Whale-watching by boat is also an option; pay for the hiring of the boat locally. Between the months of August and October, humpback whales migrate up the coast of Mozambique. Head out with the team here to watch them breaching and playing. When we were last out in October 2008, we were lucky enough to see a mother teaching its young calf how to breach and it was a stunning sight.
The service at Vamizi was very friendly. Many of the people employed here are from nearby villages on the mainland; most are still relatively new to tourism and so although the service isn't always polished, it is friendly and they certainly try hard to please. The kitchen do a great job with high-quality food; the lodge is well run and the rooms are beautifully maintained by house-keeping.
Vamizi is certainly a high quality lodge, but its focus is not purely on tourism; it tries hard to benefit the local community and environment. A donation of U$20 per visitor per night is set aside to help the community and environment. Due to the efforts of the Vamizi lodge team, we're told that this area is in the process of being designated as a 'marine reserve'; it already has the biggest turtle conservation operation in East Africa.
Vamizi Island has struck an impressive balance: it's a stylish and high-quality lodge, a class act that has managed to remain unpretentious and in keeping with its surroundings. We view it as one of the best and most exclusive beach getaways on the coast of eastern Africa.
It is certainly currently the top beach lodges in the Quirimbas Archipelago – thanks to its remote location, stunning beaches and amazing rooms.
Ideal length of stay: Because Vamizi Island is fairly time-consuming and costly to reach, and most visitors spend at least four nights here. You could easily spend much longer – 7 or 10 nights to enjoy the superb diving, lounge on the beach and indulge in the good food would be magical!
Directions: Vamizi Island is a two-hour flight from Dar es Salaam, and these flights are not daily, hence your itinerary will need to be planned carefully around the flight schedule. You can also access the island via Pemba which is a 50-minute flight.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast is a buffet served between 07:30 and 10:00. There are a variety of cereals including bran-flakes and muesli, as well as fresh fruit and yoghurt. Continental breakfast goods including muffins, cheese and meat are on offer. As are cooked items such as bacon, sausage and egg which are cooked to your liking at the live cooking station.
Lunch is then a buffet of salads, fresh seafood and sushi, meat and hot options such as pizza, lasagna, prawns and rice. Cakes, fruit, mousse and other light desserts are also on offer. We really liked the variety on offer for lunch which suited those with a lighter appetite and also for those looking for a hearty meal.
For dinner you typically will be offered a few options for each of the three courses. During pre-dinner drinks, Vamizi's chef will usually come around with the menu and discuss with you the two choices for each course. On our most recent visit, Adamo encouraged us to try his fish tartar, sushi, and cream of spinach soup starters. Then the main courses included a large crab salad or fresh tuna served with crunchy vegetables and potatoes. Beef Wellington and grilled chicken with pasta were also on offer. Then for desert you could try a lighter option such as ice cream or fruit salad, or treat yourself with something more indulgent like a cheesecake.
The variety of the food was fantastic – there was always fresh fish and seafood bought from local fishermen. For lovers of seafood Vamizi is very spoiling! However there were also plenty of meat dishes and vegetarian options as well. We were also impressed by the amount of style that went into the cooking – it rivals a top restaurant in Europe.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks at Vamizi are included, apart from Champagne and speciality spirits.
Attitude towards children: Vamizi welcomes children and families.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Vamizi Island
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children at Vamizi Island.
Equipment: Cots, high chairs and also baby-sitting can be arranged with prior notification, but remember that child minders here will be local lodge staff, and so not qualified to European standards.
Generally recommended for children: Yes - Vamizi is relaxed lodge and we don't feel that children would feel unwelcome here; the family chalets are great.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is internet access at the main lodge office, and there is some cell phone coverage available. Internet WiFi is around the main areas and free. You can borrow a laptop or bring your own.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is first aid at Vamizi's dive shop. Flying doctors are also on hand in emergencies.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is a small safe in each room at Vamizi.
Fire safety: There are fire-extinguishers outside the rooms and main areas at Vamizi.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included and retuned within 24 hours when possible.
Money: There are no currency exchange facilities here.
Accepted payment on location: You can settle your bill for extras with Visa, Mastercard or with Travellers' cheques however there is a 5% charge for all of them. You can use cash in US dollars, Euros or pounds sterling.