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I switch off the last light and climb back into the hammock where I’ve been for the last three hours. Darkness has fallen around my beachfront chalet and I wait for my night vision to come. The moon and a thousand pale points of light come into focus against the pitch black sky before revealing a million more against a deep ink blue. The crescent moon slips towards the ocean.
I’m miles off the coast of Mozambique with zero light pollution and the sky has never looked so clear, so crisp. I can see where it meets every point on the horizon and every star is a sharp white pinpoint.
The silhouettes of a dozen trees dot the shoreline, swaying in the African breeze. Heat lightning flickers in the distance without a sound. There are no cars, no voices, no whir of electronics or appliances. I sit in silence for three more hours with nothing but the slow, steady beat of the Indian Ocean lapping the sand mere feet away. It’s humbling and surreal.
Such is the pace of life on a private island. Although you probably won’t be the only person on Medjumbe Private Island, suffice to say its the next best thing. As one of the few inhabited islands that make up the Quirimba Archipelago in Northern Mozambique, Medjumbe promises the ultimate in intimate, tropical island accommodations – it’s remote, exclusive and as private as one could possibly hope for.
After my relatively brief, three-day stay I have to say that they deliver on their promise. Here’s why …
Save for the occasional airplane landing or taking off from the private runway, the island is dead quiet throughout the day. Coupled with the fact that Medjumbe is only 800×350 yards in size and there are only 13 total chalets, it’s hard not to feel like you have the entire place to yourself.
No matter how frenetic your life is back home, you will slow down at Medjumbe. The silence, the “island time” attitude of the staff, and the constant, quiet rhythm of the ocean mere yards away guarantee it. I’ve never stayed anywhere that felt quite so calm.
The 13 palm-thatched beach chalets on Medjumbe offer “sophisticated simplicity”. Just steps from the Indian Ocean, each of the spacious private patios offers an outdoor hammock, private plunge pool, shaded sitting area in the sand, and outdoor shower.
Inside, the decor is a blend of Moroccan-meets-Middle Eastern – crisp blues and whites abound. All rooms feature ensuite bathroom (with shower stall and separate soak tub), air conditioning, ceiling fans, mosquito netting (though this wasn’t even needed during my stay in April), mini bar (restocked daily), satellite TV and tea/coffee making facilities. There’s also an in-room safe, although I never felt compelled to use it.
It’s kind of all-inclusive – more like “mostly inclusive” as is the norm for such resorts nowadays. Things like chartering a fishing boat, sunset cruises and jet skiing will still cost extra. But all your food, most drinks, and activities like kayaking, snorkeling, hobiecat rentals, etc. are all included.
You’re guaranteed on any dive at Medjumbe that very few people have ever dived here before you.
The waters off Mozambique are a prime destination for scuba diving and Medjumbe is no different. The onsite PADI center offer a wide range of diving courses, such as Discover Scuba, Open Water and Advanced Open Water. Their 12 nearby dive sites offer a range of breathtaking experiences, taking in fringing reefs, coral banks and vertical and sloping reef walls. One important thing to note is that you’ll be guaranteed on any dive at Medjumbe that very few people have ever dived here before you.
Frankly, I indulged in the simpler activities. Swimming in the crystal clear Indian Ocean is fantastic as the water is warm throughout most of the year. Even during my stay heading into the winter season, it was quite comfortable.
Spending my mornings walking the powdery white sands that cover the whole of the island is enough to lower one’s blood pressure. Even the sporadic wildlife here – mostly tiny crabs and a variety of birds – seem to follow the slower island pace. And don’t forget to check out the lighthouse at the far end of the island – it’s worth a look and a photo opp.
If you’re feeling a bit more social, relax in the communal lounge in the main building, check emails (wifi is available although it’s slow and somewhat sporadic – you are on an island after all!), check out a book from the library, or play some boardgames.
To truly slow down, visit Medjumbe’s onsite spa (PDF download). Here, the island’s only resident massage therapist Joanne will immediately put you at ease with her quiet, down-to-earth, soft demeanor. She offers a variety of relaxation and beauty treatments from traditional (Swedish, Shiatsu, and aromatherapy) to specialized (including Moya body wraps and purifying back treatments). They’re all customized to fit your particular needs in a relaxing and completely private oceanside chalet.
The central dining area is where all meals are served throughout the day. Breakfast features a buffet with a selection of cold items like fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc. and hot made-to-order items are available as well. You’ll likely be sharing a table with some of the tiny yellow birds found throughout the island. They spend their mornings looking for an “in” to every guest’s plate (personally I found this charming).
Lunch and dinner are typically served a la carte with a rotating menu of fresh, often locally sourced items on offer. You can’t go wrong with the fish and it was among some of the best I’ve had in Africa. The bar and pool areas are also perfect for relaxing throughout the day, while overlooking the Indian Ocean. (Tip: don’t miss the Caipirinhas – they’re fantastic!)
Light fare is available throughout the day as well, so you never need feel restricted to the “designated” meal times.
Most folks will connect to Medjumbe through Johannesburg. Take South African Airways‘s Airlink from Joburg to Pemba, then a quick 40-minute flight via Cessna charter to Medjumbe. The views on the last leg of the trip over the Quirimbas are stunning!
Things to Consider
All chalets are literally feet from the water throughout much of the day. At low tide however, the ocean recedes quite far – several hundred feet at least. I never found this to be an issue, but it’s worth noting. You’ll still have access to the guest pool, your own private plunge pool, or you can simply walk out along the sand a bit further to reach the water.
If you’re debating whether to take an African vacation, it’s also important to note that Medjumbe is completely malaria free – a rarity in Southern Africa. The island is also sprayed twice a week to minimize flies and other insects – all of which were almost non-existent throughout my stay in April (your mileage may vary of course depending on the time of year).
Any of the private beach chalets is available from around $600-$700 USD (fully inclusive, per person per night sharing), depending on the season. Check out their full rates and specials.