We arrived into Nampula from Joburg, 2 and a half hours saw us go from 5 degrees at 11:30am to 27 degrees at 2:30pm. Arriving into Nampula with the insulbergs in the distance, you were keenly aware that you were entering into relatively virgin territory as far as international tourism was concerned.
We were met by a charming driver sent by our hosts at Coral Lodge. His English was very limited, however the cold drinks and refreshing towels presented with a disarming smile more than made up for the language barrier! Our luggage was piled into the back of a very smart pick up and we piled into the back seat! We were handed a wonderful document that introduced us to our driver, advised us that he was an excellent driver and that he carried a mobile phone, so all eventualities were now covered. Our document then went on to give us an insight into Mozambique. We learnt about the 50 languages spoken here, about the trading customs, the onward sales of the clothes that we have given away to charity shops in Europe and so much more.
Due to the strong winds, we were to drive the full distance to Coral Lodge, rather than the shorter road and boat journey. This 3 hour journey started on a fabulously straight, tarmac road. We travelled through colourful markets and small villages, past mothers carrying infants and balancing produce on their heads and past youngsters selling toasted cashew nuts at the side of the road, which, by the way, you can buy for 4dollars – this gets you a huge bag! After 2 hours we left our tar road and turned onto a road made from the famed red African earth. Now we knew that we were in remote Africa! Houses became more and more sparse and people more infrequent. We passed 2 other vehicles as we travelled further down our road of red earth. After an hour the sea suddenly emerged in front of us, our road turned to sand and our driver advised us that we were only 10km from Coral Lodge, our final destination.
Continuing down our sandy road, we suddenly saw in the darkness ahead a dog peering down the road. This was our welcoming committee – one bark announces the arrival of guests and the lodge are then notified and ready with staff to unload your luggage and to provide you with a refreshing welcome drink and a cool towel. We could hear the waves crashing against the shore however our view was now shrouded in darkness.
After our drink our hosts, Bart, the charming owner of Coral Lodge, and the new British Management couple, Laura and Douglas, showed us to our beautiful rooms. All of the rooms are detached suites with huge terraces. I have a sea-facing room literally on the beach! The rooms are enormous with a double daybed ideally positioned to sit in the shade of your lounge whilst gazing out to sea. The lounge leads onto the bedroom which is dominated by a huge four poster bed with this amazing air conditioning designed to filter over just the bed. So clever! There is no need for aircon as there is a cool breeze that blows through the lodge all year round. I however have spotted the bathroom, my favourite room! The bath is too inviting to ignore with the bowl of local sea salts, so I start running it immediately and have a long relaxing soak to ease very tired limbs. A quick change and then it is back along the wooden pathways to the main lodge for drinks and dinner.
Dinner is taken in the main restaurant area. If the winds are not too strong then you can choose to eat inside, outside or down on the beach. For more privacy and romance you can also have a private meal on your terrace too. Our menu was then presented to us by a very charming Mozambican chef who had been trained in The Polana in Maputo and had spent time in Europe developing his skills. Our starter was tuna carpaccio (as I am not a fan of raw fish, I had a perfectly cooked tuna salad!) followed by barracuda cooked with ginger and lemon and served with fragrant rice and batons of carrots and beans. The meal was finished with a wonderful fruit sorbet. All ingredients are locally sourced and the chef will go to the fishermen daily to look at their catch and buy for the evening menu.
Over dinner we heard the fascinating story of how Doug and Laura ended up in Mozambique. Laura has a physics degree, ran a planetarium in Ghana and worked for the British government in Brazil where she taught herself Portuguese. Doug comes from a family of adventurers. He has lived in 11 countries and speaks 5 languages. Their love of travel and adventure has now bought them to Coral Lodge where their skills, vibrant personalities and excellent approach to customer service and guest hosting is the ideal fit for this laid back, authentic lodge.
Now it is off to my enormous bed, through the beautifully arranged mosquito netting making for a truly romantic setting. My turn down gift is a small sachet of salts to take home. Enough for a refreshing foot spa. Hmm – looking forward to that already. Tomorrow we will be up early to see what delights Coral Lodge has in store for us! We have been promised snorkelling, canoeing, a walk along the beach and a possible trip to the oldest Catholic Church in the Southern Hemisphere. Will we have time for all that plus a spa treatment? Find out here.