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 20 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 20 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:
- 3 x Beach Villas
- 3 x Luxury Beach Villas
- 10 x Infinity Beach Villas
- 1 x Villa Amizade
- 1 x Presidential Villa
- 2 x Royal Beach Villas
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... )
The Royal Beach Villas are the newest, largest and most luxurious villas and are also the most private. They are great for a couple wanting to indulge or a family with young children, who can sleep on the sofa bed.
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.
Three 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.
Country manager: Mozambique
- Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
- Ideal length of stay
- At least four nights.
- The flight with SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Vilanculos takes about two hours. It is then a 15-minute hop on a helicopter to Benguerra airstrip. Azura Benguerra will pick you up in its 4WD for the ten-minute road transfer to the lodge.
- Accessible by
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
- Further dining info, including room service
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 ideas for Honeymoons
- 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 ideas for Beach holidays
- 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 ideas for Diving & snorkelling
- Wildlife safaris
- Azura Benguerra offers some of the best marine wildlife encounters in Mozambique, be it diving and snorkelling with a multitude of fish, finding Dugong in the mainland's mangroves or getting up close with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- The spa at Azura has been finished recently and offers 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 ideas for Wellbeing
- Private villas & houses
- The Presidential Villa and Villa Amizade 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 ideas for Private villas & houses
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Room types at Azura Benguerra
There are three main types of Villa at Azura Mozambique: the Beach Villa, three Luxury Beach Villas and ten Infinity Beach Villas. All share positions along the beach, with a private sala on the beach itself and the lovely shaggy-fringed thatched roofs typical of Azura.
The Beach Villa is the most affordable of these, but also the smallest. That said it has all the key features of the other villas. The bedroom is stylishly decorated, bright and fresh in cream, white and turquoise, and furnished with a kingsize bed, comfortable sofa and writing desk. To the side is the en-suite bathroom with twin sinks, toilet, indoor and outdoor shower. Then at the front is a wooden deck and plunge pool. This is the last in the line of villas, so far away from the main areas and very private. Although it is quite a bit smaller than the other villas, it is good value and can be configured into a twin if parents want a lower cost option for their children.
Apart from the price, the only real difference between the Luxury Beach Villas and the Infinity Beach Villas is the size of their pools, the inclusion of a bath, and their location (the Luxury Beach Villas have slightly smaller pools, no bathtub and are nearer to the dive centre and bar). Both of these standards of villa are the same size and have the same stylish interior décor, with local carvings, driftwood and nautical paintings.
Inside, they are open-plan with their bathrooms at the rear – these are luxurious and spacious with double sinks, large mirrors, a wet-room-style shower, and separate toilet. There is also another, outside double shower, and the Infinity Beach Villas also have a bath.
The bedroom and lounge area are nearer to the sea, with comfortable beds positioned so that you can gaze out over your pool to the beach and water beyond. The beds are made up with white linen and striped duck-egg blue throws; the intricate wooden headboards were carved locally and there are bedside tables, reading lamps and an effective four-poster style mosquito net.
The lounge area has a comfortable sofa, armchair, and coffee table as well as a bookshelf and desk. From here, sliding glass doors lead onto your veranda, where there’s a private infinity pool (which varies in size according to the villa), as well as an outside sofa, garden, sunbeds and thatched sala. The Luxury Beach Villas and the Infinity Beach Villas are reasonably close to one another along the beach at Azura, but privacy is maintained by bamboo screens positioned between each.
Every room at Azura is equipped with towels, dressing gowns and slippers, plus Molton Brown toiletries including bath salts, a vanity kit, shower gel, body lotion, soap, shampoo and conditioner. You will find a hairdryer and 115v/240v shaving socket in each bathroom, and insect spray and repellent are also provided.
The Presidential Villa at Azura Mozambique, which can accommodate up to six people, is located 150m down the beach from the main area of Azura and is designed to be quite separate and self-sufficient. It has its own dining area and comes with its own butler-host and private chef.
This villa really is vast, with 1,075m2 of space. It is stunningly decorated and designed, yet although the white, cream and turquoise colours still dominate throughout, there is a slightly more modern edge to this villa – with pieces of art that hark of really stylish minimalism.
The split-level master bedroom has the kingsize bed up a few stairs and the lounge area slightly lower. It has its own en-suite bathroom with toilet, twin sinks, indoor and outdoor shower and a huge free-standing bath.
The second bedroom in this Presidential Villa is also large, and is identical to Azura's Infinity Beach Villas in layout and design. It can be either a double or a twin-bedded room and has its own en-suite bathroom at the back.
The third room is much smaller and really only suitable for children. It has two single beds and little space for anything else, although it does have an en-suite bathroom with a shower.
Azura's Presidential Villa boasts its own media room with a TV and DVD player. There is a private dining area and a wine bar, and a vast infinity pool spanning the front of the whole villa. This is surrounded by a broad wooden deck, on which there are plenty of sunloungers for the whole family as well as a number of sofas. Those seeking some shade may prefer to sit up in the 'treehouse' – a sheltered deck elevated a few metres off the ground, which catches a lovely breeze coming off the sea.
What really struck us is just how much space the Presidential Villa has. There are so many different places to relax that all six guests could sit in total isolation if they wanted to. This really is a great spot for those seeking space and exclusivity.
Villa Amizade at Azura Mozambique is decorated in much the same style as Azura's various Beach Villas. Lovely pieces of local African art and driftwood are mixed with cool white, cream and turquoise colours. The result is contemporary, fresh and perfect for this seaside location.
This villa has two equally attractive bedrooms and so is perfect for friends travelling together or a family. The master bedroom of Villa Amizade is extremely spacious and has a kingsize bed. Doors leading out to wooden lounge decks open up on two sides of the room – in the daytime if you open these right up it makes the room feel huge and very private. The en-suite bathroom has a large free-standing bath and indoor and outdoor showers.
The second en-suite bedroom can be made up with a kingsize or twin beds. There is also a lounge area in this room with a couch that can pull out to be an additional single bed. This room also has a large en-suite with toilet, sinks and an indoor and outdoor shower, though it doesn't have a bath.
Both rooms share a sitting area with flat-screen TV and DVD player. This leads out on to Villa Amizade's broad wooden deck where you will find a substantial ten-metre private swimming pool. The large beachfront garden is furnished with daybeds and a hammock, making it a wonderfully relaxed spot to enjoy the uninterrupted views of the sea.
As with all the rooms at Azura Mozambique, Villa Amizada is air-conditioned and comes complete with towels, dressing gowns and slippers. Molton Brown toiletries are supplied including bath salts, a vanity kit, shower gel, body lotion, soap, shampoo and conditioner. You will find a hairdryer and 115v/240v shaving socket in each bathroom, and insect spray and repellent are also provided.
Other lodges in Bazaruto Archipelago
Alternative places to stay in this same area.