The gal spoke about modern luxury hotels only the other day, far away in England. Now the story continues, at Medjumbe Private Island in the Quirimbas, northern Mozambique. Until April 30th, 2014, it is run by two very special people, Karen and Jason du Plessis (their many fans will be relieved to know they will be running Montpelier Plantation on Nevis when it reopens early October). Karen, a Brit brought up in Hong Kong and Brunei, is the office and people management side of the pair. Jason, a South African brought up in Botswana, runs all the water sports, and heads engineering, IT and finance for the all-island resort, to become Anantara shortly.
You quickly get into a no-stress way of life, here at the 12-room – sorry, thatched villa – resort. There is every water-sport under the bright Indian Ocean sun, and the savvy head to Joanne for first class facials and knot-finding massages (when Anantara arrives she switches to Elemis products). For the ultra-fit, villas have wicker baskets with weights, stretch bands and skipping ropes. Whatever your daily routine has been, make sure you are looking west to watch the truly amazing sunsets, different every night, and every ten seconds of whatever night. I found the ideal vantage point was to do early-evening laps in the hotel’s main swimming pool, next to its lodge.
Every night the sky was shades of oranges, often with searing straight lines like a sword. As I lapped I thought of other great sunsets, especially those at another Anantara, in Phuket, a favourite with Kate Moss, Kevin Spacey and Spanish celebrity footballer Raul (Gonzalez) who undoubtedly all, like me, sat in the Sea.Fire.Salt open-air bar drinking Champagne as the sun went down. Here at Medjumbe, the sun actually goes down so quickly you would not have time to drink a thimbleful, let alone a proper flute. Blink and you have missed the sunset, tonight, so wait for tomorrow. But your evening continues.
After their daily time-together break, Karen and Jason du Plessis re- emerge about 6.45pm and guests tend to gather in the Bahari Bar, at one end of the open-sided main lodge – this is an adult hotel, by the way, no kids under 15, and many are honeymooners. Drinks are included in the all-inclusive rate, but a little flexibility might be needed. Gordon’s is the included gin (pay extra for other brands). Why? Appalling difficulty of getting supplies, and the cost of so doing, makes a nightmare of operating on an airlift-only island off northern Mozambique, over two hours’ flight time from Maputo. This week, as often, there is no tonic. The Mozambique factory sent a shipment of empty cans… I discover that Gordon’s goes quite well with ginger ale.
Imagination is the name of the game, and somehow the chefs produce amazingly attractive, and tasty and healthy meals, and they are really flexible. They made me a couple of great Greek salads, not on the menu, which I drizzled with olive oil, on tables with balsamic. Tables are lit by solar-powered lights, on the inside of lids of jam jars: one day I watch Karen du Plesis unscrewing all the tops, putting them on a tray and taking them out to the sun for half an hour. You can do that here in the Indian Ocean. Catch of the day, and lobster and prawn, have been brought in by fishermen a few hours earlier. A chocolate birthday cake is carried through the restaurant and up 13 wood stairs to the lodge’s mezzanine library, strong on Jeremy Clarkson, Santa Montefiore and Danielle Steele. One couple is celebrating diner à deux up there.
I head to bed, and find a gold card, with a farewell poem from Karen du Plessis, a reminder that I have to leave tomorrow:
Farewell dear sea, Farewell dear stars, Our toes will miss you sand and shells. Farewell little island, Farewell paradise,
We will hold you dear in our hearts. And from us here, We wish you farewell, For, in truth, it will be we who miss you most. There are no mosquitoes on this island so the bug-spray, and my bed’s mosquito net, are not required. At five o’clock the sun rises, for yet another glorious sky picture. Yesterday my pre-breakfast workout was up and down the landing strip. Today I do a water’s edge circuit of the luxury resort’s island – 1,000 by 300-max metres. It takes 40 minutes, and my blood sugar is down (yes, I have run round an island before breakfast, before – Serge Zaalof, now President Atlantis The Palm Dubai, took me out to Greenland, one of The World’s islands, and he sat smoking a cigar while he watched me run round that island ten times). At breakfast, here on this paradise island, the tables are now decorated with shell collages, Bento asks if I have had a good night. He brings plain yoghurt and perfectly fried eggs and home-made white toast. How do they do it? Island wild life includes crabs galore, cranes and egrets, and the occasional spider, but not a cow or hen in sight?