Honeymoon Haven: Exclusivity, Elegance and Romance: Santorini Mozambique, in Vilankulos, Mozambique

Honeymoon Haven: Exclusivity, Elegance and Romance: Santorini Mozambique, in Vilankulos, Mozambique

The main villa at Santorini Mozambique is painted chalk white, reflecting the bright sunlight in Vilankulos. Carefully selected objets des artes - in wood, soft white stone or glazed glass - as well as the cupolas and roof tiles are offset with accent hues of pastel blues and greys. The effect is spacious, clean and lustrous. As the Greek-inspired building is set on a hill, when I enter the portals of Santorini Mozambique, I can see through the Main Villa, right down to the azure Indian Ocean in the distance. This feng shui design adds to the airiness, peace and expansive feel of the central communal area.

Villa viewImage by Gillian McLaren

My personal host welcomes me warmly and during my stay ensures that I have everything I need, with the best of unobtrusive, professional service. I select from the activities on offer and an individualized itinerary is designed for me. There is no timetable here, it is up to guests when they wish to participate in meals or activities. For meals, my table is set in a different space daily, each with sublime views of the fishing-boat- bobbing sea*, or the swimming pool in the courtyard. With delicate attention to detail, my table is set with a white linen cloth, bearing a single gray stripe, that matches the creatively folded fabric napkins. Fresh flowers are placed in a transparent glass bottle, with glass beads hanging around its neck. In the mornings, we are presented with a menu of the meals for the day. Tastefully done, lunch is three courses and dinner comprises four courses, all immaculately served on designer crockery or on wooden boards or boxes.

Freshly caught seafoodImage by Gillian McLaren

Freshly caught seafood is available daily, with an alternate choice for those who enjoy a prime cut of steak, vegetarian and vegan fare. Excellent South African, French and Portuguese wines - like Vino Verde - are paired with the courses. Premium wines are available, stored in a temperature controlled cellar. One lunchtime, my host escorts to Santorini’s neat herb and vegetable garden, where a barbecue has been set up. The chef grills a skewer of seafood for me, presented with creative salads. Sunset Canapés are available on a dhow cruise. Dependent on wind in the furled sails, being aboard this traditional boat creates a quiet, meditative and romantic atmosphere.

Sala barImage by Santorini Mozambique

In the evenings the rooftop Sala Bar reveals spectacular sunset views of the beach and ocean below. A sociable area, it’s a place to interact with fellow guests. Cocktails are shaken and stirred and of course the quintessential African gin and tonic is mixed. Music is up-beat, yet unobtrusive.

bedroom suiteImage by Santorini Mozambique

My suite is ultra-spacious, with an extra-large king-sized bed that has pillow slips of 100% pure white linen. To my joy, there is a verandah with an open-air bathtub, with Charlotte Gray amenities. From the capacious tub, I gaze at the ever-changing colors of the ocean, the dhows that resemble butterflies with closed wings and the shifting cloudscapes. My indoor bathroom has twin basins and two rain showers. Fluffy cotton towels are in shades of blue.

breakfastImage by Gillian McLaren

Each morning, coffee in a flask and cookies are left outside my suite in a wooden box. Soft sunlight on the beach below Santorini Mozambique lures me out at sunrise, to stroll for miles. I discover live molluscs on the tide line, scurrying crabs escaping into their holes, patterns in the sand from the ebb and flow of tides and warm sunlight shining through empty shells. Shards of sea shells from the eons glisten on the sand and crunch beneath my feet. Local Mozambicans go about their daily activities, preparing to head out to fish in their colorfully painted boats. Where fish have been caught in nets during the night, women - dressed in vibrant kapulana, the local term for sarongs - help to pull in the booty.

After a breakfast with tropical smoothies, muffins and pastries straight from the oven, plus a choice of cooked items, I linger in one of the lounges to peruse the coffee table books and to laze on a couch facing the expanse of ocean, with a range of colors from white, through turquoise to cerulean, depending on the depths of water.

Mozambique water viewImage by Gillian McLaren

Ready for adventure, I head off in a meticulously kept speed boat, to nearby Ilha de Magaruque, in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which sports pristine beaches and sandbars. As the island has a permanent deep water channel on a coral reef, the snorkeling is exceptionally rich. A gentle current moves me along the reef, so I hardly have to fin, except when I free dive down for a closer view of a Honeycomb moray eel, a few sizeable parrotfish, or smaller critters that attract my attention. Pansy Island nearby is strewn with Pansy Shells, also known as Sand Dollars. Pretty and unusual, they are flattened, irregular shells of a type of sea urchin. My guide finds some tiny Hermit crabs, that live temporarily in a sea shell until then grow too large for it, when they abandon the home to find one with a more suitable fit. As the tide comes in, the sand is inundated with sea water and is rapidly completely covered. En route to a picnic spot in a remote part of the Magaruque Island, a flock of flamingos takes off from the waterline on the beach. We spot Humpback dolphins sporting on the waves, then a bobbing Green turtle. Dugongs, an endangered marine mammal, are occasionally found here. A relative of manatees, in the order Sirenia, they are a prized sighting.

picnic tentImage by Gillian McLaren

Simple but elegant, my picnic shelter in blue canvas, is ingeniously structured structured like a chuppah at a wedding, with 4 poles. It’s quickly assembled. Comfortable in a low deck chair, with my toes in the fine sand, I am served a lunch of prawns and salads, accompanied by Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc. Left alone, I gaze at the paradisiacal scene and savour the ozone scent from the sea, the sound of gulls and the tropical warmth of a sun high in the sky. I enjoy the pineapple flavored dessert, innovatively served in a clip-top jar.

After my fulfilling expedition and an invigorating shower, I indulge in a foot massage in the Spa, a sensual pleasure that takes me close to snooze mode. Ambling back to my suite, I look up to a glistening heaven. Stars are clear and abundant, as lights are low at Santorini Mozambique, on the mainland of Vilankulo.

Mozambique childImage by Gillian McLaren

Mozambique womanImage by Gillian McLaren

One of the many highlights of my stay at Santorini Mozambique is an excursion into Vilankulo town, to mingle with Mozambicans. The vehicle is customized with open air seats of blue canvas. I’m taken to the mercado, where basic provisions are available, plus clothes in distinctive local fabrics and authentic items that make great souvenirs. The market is vibrant, with an energizing bustle. We drive through the town to see the homes, small stalls next to the roads and local people strolling in the streets.

Mozambique souvenirsImage by Gillian McLaren

With its subtle opulence, finely tuned attention to detail in the villas, dining and activities, Santorini Mozambique is unique in their level of excellence, a perfect choice for a special celebration.


* Dylan Thomas

Getting There:

airlinkImage by Airlink

Airlink is a privately-owned, premium airline in South Africa, serving the largest network of 47 destinations in 15 African countries and St Helena Island, with the largest fleet of 68 commercial aircraft. 
Airlinks on-time performance is consistently better than 95%, a clear indication of their commitment to service excellence, and reliability.

Direct Flights to Vilanculos from Johannesburg and Nelspruit. The coastal town of Vilanculos (or Vilankulo) is a popular tourist destination. Vilanculos is a top-class snorkeling and scuba-diving spot, and the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago. Travel on direct flights from Vilanculos to Nelspruit or Johannesburg.


cenic flights in the Bazaruto Archipelago

For transfers from Vilankulos to the islands and for scenic flights in the Bazaruto Archipelago, fly with Wildlife Helicopters, over the aquamarine Indian Ocean. https://www.wildlifeheli.com/

Text by Gillian Mclaren (@Jetset_Gillian)
Images by Gillian Mclaren and Santorini Mozambique