Mercy me! The lovely Mercy at Avani Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa gave me the best back massage I’ve ever had – nice and firm, working those knots and leaving me wondering how I can transport Mercy to Cape Town, where I live. Afterwards I padded along to the jacuzzi where fellow journalists on this press trip were already drowning in cocktails. I was brought mint tea, which Mercy said I needed for my problematic digestion (how did she know?).
I was in the town of Pemba in far northern Mozambique, no so very far from the Tanzanian border, staying at what most Trip Advisor commentators say is the “best hotel in town”. Pemba Bay is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and there’s a lot of building going on due to increased business from a burgeoning oil and gas industry. I reckon the AVANI Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa is going to stay at the top of the list for businessmen and tourists alike, who want every comfort in a rather gorgeous tropical seaside setting.
Think palm trees surrounding the swimming pools (of which there are 3), sea view hotel rooms or long-stay fully serviced apartments in recently-built blocks that merge seamlessly with the hotel. There’s a restaurant on the beach serving up gigantic lobsters, prawns, calamari and fish on seafood platters to make you weep when you can’t eat it all. The colonial ‘Bar Niassa’ has long-dead stuffed animals adorning the walls and a very Hemingway feel about it. The old lush would have appreciated the barman’s skill at making cocktails…..of which I sampled several (oh alright…many), with caipirinha achieving the most desired affect!
Afro-Arabian architecture featuring Moorish arches, reminds you that this coastline was home to Arab trading settlements for several centuries before Vasco da Gama mounted a Christian Crusade circa 1500 and took control on behalf of Portugal. He may have been able to change their language but not their minds, as the northern provinces of Mozambique remain to this day predominantly Muslim.
What Was I doing in Pemba?
Pemba has a direct flight with Airlink from Johannesburg, from where you need to take a (rather expensive) short flight on a small plane to one of the Quirimbas Archipelago Islands. All 34 of these tropical islands are partially linked to the coast by coral reefs, sand bars and mangrove swamps and have such outstanding biodiversity, habitat for threatened species and authentically preserved pre-colonial Swahili and old Portuguese settlements, that it’s on UNESCO’s ‘Tentative’ list.
The Islands of Ibo, Quisiva and Matemo feature such settlements, but I headed for a previously uninhabited island, now containing just 12 chalets and a staff complement to cater to the pleasures of the select tourists who find their way here. Most people come here for diving or snorkeling on some of the best coral reefs in Africa and a taste of ultimate beach R&R. Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa tops my list as the ultimate beach destination after a South African safari. A Bush ‘n Beach combo with a few nights on 5-star safari in places like; Royal Malewane, Camp Jabulani, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, any of Singita’s lodges, Ulusaba or Londolozi, and you’ll have tasted the best of the best!
I’ve written a review of Medjumbe, but if you get green with envy when reading about a tropical island paradise… don’t read it here!
Have you been to Pemba…tell me about it?
How to Get to Pemba:
Airlink the Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA.
Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights between Johannesburg and Pemba, Northern Mozambique.
Connectivity: Through the alliance with SAA, travellers connect conveniently with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of South African Airways Loyalty programme ‘Voyager’.
Flight Bookings: Online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations on +27 11 978 1111.