A touch of Greece in Mozambique - a stay at Santorini Villa
Relaxing in Greek splendour on the stunning shores of Mozambique
Managing Director of Small World Marketing
12 Nov 2018
13 Feb 2023
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On visiting a new client property for the first time senses are heightened; acutely aware that you will rely on every little detail and experience to bring the property to life in the many future conversations and presentations that you will undertake on its behalf. This was exactly how I felt on setting out to visit our new client, Santorini, in Mozambique.
I consider the Mozambique coastline to be the best in the world, having been lucky enough to visit it often, and to get to know it very well, during the 7 years representing Azura Benguerra, and so I was excited to be returning.
Day 1: Getting acquainted with Santorini
Whilst Vilanculos was unseasonably grey on arrival from Jo’burg, the smile that met me could not have been bigger or brighter, as Tatenda, the Santorini driver, greeted me holding a beautifully carved ‘Santorini’ sign.
As we meandered our way through the sleepy mainland town, Tatenda enthused about all we passed bringing to life the 20-minute drive North up the coast. The tarmac road gave way to a sandy track for the last few minutes as we approached our destination.
Santorini is positioned on top of the red sand cliffs of Kingfisher Bay with a stunning view of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Walking through the arched doorway with its heavy carved doors, the sun was shimmering on the courtyard pool, which then gave way to a large, lofty lounge area of the villa with a backdrop of the incredible view.
I drank all this in whilst sipping a deliciously refreshing Virgin Mojito. The team were keen to show me my room, so I prised myself away, reluctant to leave such a panorama. I needn’t have worried, as I quickly realised that every room in Santorini is designed to allow guests to enjoy this incredible view, with floor to ceiling windows.
There are many times in this job that you wish your loved ones could be with you to share the experience, and walking into the Villa da Praia, where I was staying, was definitely one of these! I could just imagine my children jumping for joy at (and into!) the infinity edged plunge pool, my husband making himself comfortable on the deep sofa… and all of them raiding the pantry stuffed with help-yourself-treats.
Villa da Praia offers three spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. I was staying in the master suite which has a beautifully designed and tiled outside shower and outdoor terrace overlooking the view.
Santorini was built initially as a private house and still feels more like a home than a hotel. The architecture pays homage to a love of Greece, with its white-washed, thick walls and Cycladic structure. The tasteful, cool and calming interiors have been discerningly selected from Africa, Europe and Bali. The ‘home-from-home’ feel is conveyed in the large, deep, sofas, banquette seating and woven rugs; as indeed, it is through the wonderful staff, who encourage their guests to feel completely at home and relaxed.
The architects have created private spaces dotted all over the villa including coolly designed bar areas, open lounges and a tv room. Guests can drink & dine al fresco in the roof top bar next to a lounge with shutters flung back to let the sun in (or shuttered down to stop the rain coming in as in my case). Each of these spaces is cleverly designed so that your eye is constantly drawn to the ever-changing view of the Bazaruto islands. The impressive management team and smiling supporting staff gives a very ‘family’ feel to the property.
The vision for Santorini was to create somewhere that would appeal to everyone: families, couples or individual travellers – all of whom could come here and fall in love with the area. As the sty regaled me with stories of the journey to create Santorini, of the area around Vilanculos and the characters that lived there, I couldn’t help feeling that the Bazaruto visitors who fly straight to the islands miss this ‘colour’ and insight into the local area.
That evening we sailed along the coast and as dusk settled we moored up for a sundowner at the local bar ‘Casbah’ for a cool beer and a chat with the bar owner, whilst appreciating deliciously stewed octopus tapas. Tearing ourselves away from this characterful place we headed back to Santorini for showers and dinner.
The daily changing 3-course feast is inspired by local produce and is overseen by General Manager Wynand’s keen chef’s eye and I enjoyed a delicious dinner of freshly made tortellini, melt-in-the-mouth langoustines and blueberry cheesecake. With biblical style rain pouring outside, I chatted further with the team about Santorini. It is evident that Santorini is far more than just a business for them….it is a true venture of the heart, with their involvement in all details, even down to personally designing and carving the (very cool!) wooden bar stools.
Day 2: Setting Sail
I woke up to a blue sky and the beckoning islands, and watched the dhows zig zag slowly across Kingfisher Bay over a delicious breakfast of smoothies, home-made yoghurt and fruit. The beach is a 30 second walk down the hotel path and my captains, Paulino and Laurenco, were there to greet me. Paulino has been working with the team for many years now and reading the sea is second nature to him.
We set off in ‘Aphrodite’ and sailed out to the beautiful Bazaruto islands. Santorini has three different boats: a catamaran, and a small and large speed boat. They are also currently finishing off their traditional sailing dhow, which they will use for sunset cruises. All three boats are used for island hopping and dolphin spotting in the marine-rich waters.
The Bazaruto Archipelago was once part of a peninsula connected to the mainland and at low tide lots of small sand spits and tiny islands appear. Pansy Island is one of the most beautiful and well-known of these soft white sandy spots, named after the sea-urcin skeletons with a distinctive pansy-shaped imprints. I spent a very happy hour wandering around admiring these beautiful shells.
Next stop was snorkelling in Magaruque. The current was so warm and powerful you just had to lie in the water and the current would take you along the coral reef. Whilst the visibility wasn’t as clear as normal due to the rain and winds, I could quickly see how incredible this snorkelling experience would be. Especially as it included a beach picnic full of home-made goodies. Dolphins and flamingos are frequent sightings on this trip, although I didn't see any on this occasion.
Back on the mainland I had been booked in for the Santorini Signature treatment, a full body treatment with hot stones and a mini facial…..Sometimes this job is just too tough! The spa was – quite literally - a haven of calm against the storm that was brewing all around!
Day 3: Summing up
The following morning General Manager Heidi gave me a full site inspection and talked through the future plans for Santorini. They have purchased the land next door and want to bring their guests closer to the nature surrounding the property so are planning to create tracks around it so that guests can go walking and cycling. A wellness centre perched on top of the highest cliff is also in the future plans.
I was especially impressed with their gardens. The many raised beds were overflowing with vegetables, salad crops and herbs. The boma with a fire pit was also a lovely area to gather around at the end of the day.
Santorini has a really strong team of staff behind the scenes with the service being friendly and super-attentive and with a real commitment to meeting every guest’s individual needs. Family groups wanting plenty of activities? No problem; head down to the beach and make the most of the SUPs, kayaks & snorkelling equipment. Honeymooners wanting privacy and space? No problem; find one of the many secluded, private spots that are dotted around the property where you can while away the afternoon.
Having spent quite a bit of time on the islands of Bazaruto Archipelago, I was apprehensive about what the experience would be like when staying on the mainland. The beauty of Santorini is that you have the best of all worlds: with the island experience, the beach experience and the local culture experience co-habiting and complementing each other perfectly.