Time takes on a whole new meaning on Medjumbe Private Island.
“We set the clocks one hour forward here on Medjumbe,” Jacqui, one of the ever-friendly management team on the island, had told us. “We’ve declared our own little time zone, so that you have more daylight to enjoy yourself!”
I’ve heard of time standing still when you find yourself standing on one of the earth’s most beautiful beaches, but rarely does it shift into the future!
But with the sun rising early and setting all-too-soon it’s the best form of daylight saving, providing a precious extra hour each day to explore what must surely be one of the world’s most perfect islands; one I’d happily be marooned on.
Cast away in the northern reaches of Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, the island has no fresh water (so no malaria-carrying mosquitoes to worry about) and was uninhabited before RANI Resorts built 13 luxurious chalets here four years ago.
Back then the only visitors were occasional fishermen from the mainland, although they still paddle out to the island most days; their dugout canoes filled with fresh fish, prawns and lobster to satisfy the healthy appetites of the island’s hungry guests.
And it’s surprising how hungry you can get doing nothing. For Medjumbe lends itself to laziness. A hammock swings seductively from the balcony of your chalet, carefully shaded by a palm thatch roof. Sun loungers lie in wait by your private plunge pool, ready to ensnare an unwary traveller. What more is there to do than sit back and order another local 2M beer? Just ask for a ‘dosh-em’.
Not that sloth is your only option, of course.
A walk around the island is a sure-fire way to work up an appetite and feel like an explorer all at the same time. Just one kilometre long and a mere 350-metres-wide when the tide rushes in to cover the island’s fringing coral reef, a circumnavigation takes just over an hour.
It’s also the perfect way to spot some of the island’s diverse birdlife. With few predators and plentiful fish, the island is home to over 50 species of birds, from migratory terns to Grey Heron and Water Thick Knee. Keep a special eye out for the African Fish Eagles that often frequent the island’s rich fishing waters.
And it’s not just the birds that make the most of the marine life. There’s excellent game fishing for marlin, wahoo and dorado to be had in the depths, or simply cast a line straight off the beach and you could hook a pompano, kingfish or barracuda.
Out in the distance the swells of the Mozambique Channel thunder onto Medjumbe’s protective reef, which is also home to some of the island’s top dive sites.
There are a range of spots a few minutes boat ride from the beach, and with no other resorts in sight you’ll have them all to yourself. There are plenty of shallow dives for beginners, but more experienced bubble-blowers get the pick of the crop with majestic wall-dives such as ‘Edge of Reason’ which drops from 16-metres into the big blue, bringing deep-sea pelagics up from the depths.
Robinson Crusoe escapism in five-star style
As surely as the sun drops behind the mainland to the west, your walk will invariably lead you back to your luxury chalet, one of just a handful on the island.
Palm thatch rustles in the wind, while inside air-conditioned luxury awaits on hot summer nights. With outdoor showers and romantic Arabesque furnishings, this is Robinson Crusoe escapism in five-star style and the perfect destination for honeymooners.
But just because you’re marooned on a tiny tropical island doesn’t mean you have to go without. Medjumbe’s all-inclusive rates mean you can indulge to your heart’s content. Fresh seafood is a highlight of almost every meal, whether served in the laid-back dining area or out around the pool with its gorgeous sunset views… and why not another dosh-em to toast another great day of island living.
A dress code for dinner? Forget it… this is the kind of place where you kick your shoes off on the runway and collect them when you leave. You’ll be hard-pressed to leave, mind you, but sooner or later your ride back to civilisation will come dropping out of the sky and down onto the impossibly short runway.
A breathtaking take-off later and Medjumbe is soon disappearing into the distance, a gleaming comma of golden sand silhouetted against the big blue Indian Ocean.
But if you can’t bear the thought of getting back to reality just yet, then speak nicely to your pilot and perhaps he’ll drop you off at Matemo Island en route.
Where Medjumbe is honeymoon heaven, Matemo – a 20-minute flight away – is ideal for families, with a wide sandy beach and safe swimming. Palm trees wave above the 24 bungalows strung out like fallen coconuts across the northern tip of Matemo. Offering the epitome of barefoot luxury, it’s out of your bungalow and straight onto a beach with sand so white you’ll need sunglasses!
There are also activities a-plenty, so the kids will be entertained while you gaze out into the distance and forget all about bills and bosses. Sea kayaks, waterskiing, windsurfers and sailing boats are all on hand to make the days fly by. The sheltered waters off the sand spit north of the main lodge is one of the best places for a dip or a snorkel, offering safe swimming on the sand and coral outcrops a little further offshore.
Like Medjumbe, Matemo also offers excellent scuba diving. No surprise really, as the 1500-square-kilometre Quirimbas National Park provides a welcome sanctuary for sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales, as well as an abundance of fish life.