Southern Mozambique Under Canvas

6th February 2018

Skirt the shore from the east coast of South Africa up into southern Mozambique, scoot past touristy surf-haven Ponta Do Ouro and you’ll find yourself in Maputo Special Reserve. It’s here that Anvil Bay rises from the dunes on the coastal boundary of a rolling, grassland-and-forest wilderness.

Getting here is an adventure in itself. You’ll either drive up two hours from the South African border of Kosi Bay or catch a helicopter from the capital Maputo – but whichever way you come the approach is magnificent. Sand roads give way to meadows dotted with ancient marula and cashew trees, and the occasional tiny village. Those lucky enough might spot a herd of elephant that call this place home, alongside zebra, wildebeest and reedbuck.

A cool sea breeze curdles with the simmering heat as we pull into the lodge. Leafy paths lead to 7 miles worth of untouched beach, and glossy emerald waves curl on the horizon. Anvil Bay is built in such a way that it could be entirely packed up and you would never know a soul had set foot here. The social areas are formed of canvas and rough eucalyptus posts, casting shade on loungers, chairs, and tables hand built by local carpenters. Accommodation is divine too; just nine private casinhas with thatched roofs. Each one is cocooned between forest and surf, with a king-size bed draped romantically in netting, an open plan bathroom and an outdoor shower.

Dining at Anvil Bay is similarly footloose. Meals are served under canvas with our feet in the sand, and there’s a restaurant hidden in the forest with a little more protection when the wind picks up. Despite the far-flung setting, we’re always exceptionally well fed with tasty, locally inspired dishe, featuring plenty of fresh fish caught daily by the staff. It becomes pretty standard to spend an hour or more after mealtimes wandering up the huge stretches of open beach, watching the tide shift in and out.

Humpback and Southern Right whales migrate along the coast and chunky sea turtles return year after year to lay their eggs in these protected sands. It’s a place where getting in touch with nature takes little more than rolling out of bed to the sound of birds and cicadas, and the glimmer of sunlight through the canopy. The lodge is equipped with fat-bikes, kayaks and paddleboards, while guides are on hand for nature walks around the nearby lake inhabited by hippos and crocodiles. Out to sea, there’s snorkelling, fishing or an ocean safari when the weather complies.

Anvil Bay is owned by the community and operated by a trust established for the benefit of the community, though Paul and Ricky Bell oversee operations. The lodge was Paul’s vision; he grew up camping in this very spot, where pearly pink crabs cluster like surfers at the foaming shoreline, yellow-billed kites swerve overhead and the only footsteps you’ll find are most likely your own.

Despite my affinity for sun-kissed days, I find Anvil Bay most enchanting at dusk. Sundowners are served at secret spots way up in the dunes, and afterwards, we gather around the campfire beneath an explosion of stars. When my journey comes to an end, I catch a 25-minute helicopter ride to Maputo. The land melts into an abstract painting of vivid colours as I bid farewell to an extraordinary gem in Mozambique, where luxury is etched in low-key delights and hinges on the wonders of the wilderness. For more information on Anvil Bay, see here.
Read more of Annie Biziou's features here.
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