When confronted with having to buy a gift for that special someone who has everything, the only recourse we've found is a remote, one-of-a-kind family beach vacation on Vamizi, one of 32 islands off the north coast of Mozambique. Once a way station in the Portuguese slave trade, the reef-rimmed mangrove jungle preserve is a World Wildlife Fund turtle and coral conservation area that is privately owned by eco-minded European investors. (Shhhh, word has it they own two other, as yet undeveloped bits of paradise…)
Part of the Quirimbas Archipelago, this 12-kilometer-long breeding ground for 200 bird species is the destination of choice for that "Castaway" experience, and we don't only mean Wilson. It's said that the film's star and his family spent part of their summer at this remote resort enjoying some unplugged together time. Rustic vacation experiences are a family tradition notes Colin Hanks, who told American Way magazine that he and his wife had camped cross country in Utah and Colorado on their way to an acting assignment in Iowa. After countless road trips, posh resort vacations, and outdoor adventures with his own intrepid parents, the dad of a toddler now admits, "Now that I have a kid, I don't know that I'm going to be doing any of this."
Vacations at Vamizi Designed with Kids in Mind
In fact, we think Vamizi's 13 hand-crafted wood and thatch villas are the perfect antidote to the stress of a family vacation. Warm water, the calm Indian Ocean, and white sand beaches that drop little feet softly into the sea make Vamizi a haven for parents with babies and toddlers. Among the most romantic of adult getaways, Vamizi provides respite for new parents who can put their brood to bed and while away the starry nights contemplating the moon's reflection from their villa porches. Or request a babysitter for a tranquil star-lit dinner on the beach.
No web surfing just snorkeling, no WiFi just bird calls, no TV just the aquarium view beyond your dive mask at this ideal eco-tourism resort. Older children will find kayaks to take out into the lagoon, sailboats, fishing equipment and a friendly staff ready to provide instruction. Catch and release is the prevailing fishing policy, but the resort guides keep any tuna or dorado to prepare fresh for guests.
Notable for being near some of the top dive spots in the world, Vamizi is an incredible place to introduce kids to scuba. Their PADI-certified team welcomes children 10 years and older to participate in the diving program. Being on top of the water provides countless opportunities to spot dolphins and flying fish, and even humpback whales in season. A traditional African dhow is used for sailing excursions to introduce guests to the native fishing culture.
On land, Vamizi's trained nature guides — staff working with the WWF's conservation crew to catalogue the island's species — lead walking tours appropriate for all ages to see exotic birds, monkeys and giant coconut crabs said to reach 24" in radius. All around the villas, guests can spot bats, weavers who dangle intricately woven birds' nests from the rafters, and countless unusual plants.
Family Villas & Lodging at Vamizi Island
Most of the stylish villas are one or two-bedroom luxury units clustered at the main lodge to accommodate reunion groups. Special accommodations include three family rooms, with large double bedrooms (pictured above) with space for a rollaway adjoining a central living area. All beds are draped in a sexy way with mosquito nets, yet Vamizi is considered a low- risk malarial area (ask your pediatrician for current WHO guidelines on inoculations and vaccinations at least three months before your trip.)
Nightly rates for villas of all types (luxury, family, main, double) start at $615 per person, and Vamizi Island's Family Promotion, available with a five-night minumum stay, is valid throughout 2013. When you bring two or more children, this Family Promotion permits one child age 15 and under to stay and dine for free.
Vamizi is an Adult Hideaway from Everyday Life
Remote, pricey, unique: all attributes designed to appeal to honeymooners, as well as the notorious and celebrated. The British in particular have seen Vamizi win many coveted European travel awards. We heard that the belle of the "Harry Potter" series recently chose a secluded Vamizi villa — one of three located outside but within walking distance of the lodge — for a mother-daughter bonding adventure. These villas can sleep up to 14 and come with their own chef, housekeeping staff, and private plunge pool, more than you can say for Hogwarts.
After a vacation before his star turn in "Skyfall," the ultimate gentleman Daniel Craig told resort owners, “A piece of my heart will stay on Vamizi.” Perhaps that heart is at Neptune's Arm, the famous expert dive spot where an underwater island combines with a thousand-meter-deep cliff and dense marine life for the scuba experience of a lifetime.
Exclusivity only succeeds with sustainability. Having logged 46 types of coral and more than 400 species of fish including gregorian coral and giant clams, the island's conservators describe it as a refuge for wildlife because of its rich, clean, plankton-filled waters and sustainable development. Despite their large land holdings, there are only four other villages on island with a total population of abut 1,000. Drinking water is suppled by a local desalination plant.
If your gift recipient is a diver or wannabe' consider Vamizi's Dive Package, a seven-night experience that includes an oceanview villa, eight escorted dives, all meals and beverages, a massage and all the on-island activities you can imagine. Priced at $4190 per person from mid-January to late March, or $5870 per person from April to July, September, November and much of December — the resort's high season.
Wellness is Central to the Vamizi Getaway
Seclusion and nature combine for romance and powerful healing, but Vamizi also acknowledges the mind-body enhancement of yoga, taught at special retreats by Claire Finlay. From January 20-26, 2013, Ms. Finlay will lead a week-long retreat that includes twice daily yoga sessions, all meals prepared with local seafood and produce, spa treatments and more, priced at $5895 per person. For the Wellness Retreat Week, airfare from regional African airports to the island is included in rates.
Trip Planning Details & Getting to Vamizi Island
In terms of climate, December to May averages 32 degrees C, has the fewest insects and coincides with turtle nesting season. However, the weather is mild all year round, and the water temperature hovers between 22-28 degrees C.
Learn more about this hideaway at Vamizi.com. All packages can be booked by your travel agent, or by inquiring at [email protected] or + 44 1285 762218. In addition to the package fees, visitors will have to fly privately to the island and pay for any wellness treatments.
From the United States and Europe, several international carriers fly to Johannesburg, South Africa. From here, regional flights serve Pemba in Mozambique, where you can catch the least expensive of the flights, $538 roundtrip. Otherwise, travelers can fly into Tanzania and catch the resort's 2 hour, 15 minute charter flight priced at $824 roundtrip, from Dar-es-Salaam to Vamizi
Photos courtesy of (c) Vamizi Island, Mozambique
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