When I was called upon to have a little toddle off to Santorini for a bit of a look-see, I couldn’t help but subconsciously get my Shirley Valentine on. Granted, I’d like to think I’m not quite old enough to pull off a bored Liverpudlian housewife stuck in a matrimonial rut, especially seeing as I’m rather happily married – but just the name (sigh) ‘Santorini’ conjures up tableaus of sun-soaked journeys of self discovery and generally larking about drinking wine by the seashore.
However, my mission was not in the Santorini of the Aegean, but rather its wonderful namesake on the sparkling coast of Southern Mozambique. (Being from South Africa, it would be more Charlize Theron than Shirley Valentine to be honest, but I can assure you, no less gosh darn fabulous – even if my time there couldn’t possibly make for the plot of a West End play made into a movie!)
Be that as it may, the first thing that impressed me with this Santorini was just how quick and easy it was to reach, which is in itself rather a luxury. Being located on the mainland, expensive flights or tedious boat transfers are thankfully avoided and you arrive just twenty minutes after landing in Vilanculos airport, the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Although not far away, the Santorini Estate is remarkably secluded above the cliffs of Kingfisher Bay, a huge and sweeping beachfront with unbelievably beautiful views of the archipelago islands, with the mainland lying peacefully in the distance. One can walk for hours – or thirty minutes in my case (gently does it!) — without seeing another soul on the endless white powder-soft beaches. For those of us used to the densely-peopled urban jungle, this surreal solitude may sound unnerving, but I can assure you that there’s something marvelously relaxing about an undisturbed stroll in such tropical tranquility. Added to that, the beaches have very wide tidal variance which reveals the most amazingly marbled chromatic panorama, coaxing you even deeper in love with this place.
As the name would suggest, Santorini Mozambique is an exquisite African echo of Greece; all whitewashed buildings, cobalt roofs and turquoise seas – but with an unspoiled innocence that is unadulterated Africa at its purest. It offers two perfect plunge pools for the guests and plenty of nooks to hide away and read soppy novels and glossy mags. There is a rooftop bar and lounge area for more sociable imbibing and a TV lounge for that particular breed of sports enthusiast who likes to keep up with tennis tantrums and football fights from afar.
They also have what I like to call an ‘interactive kitchen’, allowing peckish guests to wander in for a nibble on some biscuits and dried fruits. (Not that it is at all likely one might feel peckish, given the delicious feasts on offer at agreeably regular intervals.)
At one stage I padded off to the on-site spa for a foot massage with their permanent therapist, Nela. So relaxing were her expert attentions as I gazed over the endless views that I simply had to haul myself off for a very well-earned nap.
Should I have been feeling more energetic, and it is not entirely unheard of, I could have taken a boat ride out to a nearby reef for a day of snorkelling and an idyllic island picnic – or indeed a guided tour of the rural town of Vilanculos. Although it has an airport and one might therefore think it a metropolis, this is a charmingly rural town of quaint rondaval houses and a vibrant market in which one can buy wax-print, cotton capulanas or even have authentic garments crafted especially for you by the skillful seamstresses and their Singer sewing machines — right there and then!
But alas, I wasn’t feeling energetic at all, and such was the hypnotic indulgence of Santorini that I found it impossibly hard leave the villa. Instead, I Shirley Valentined my days away, half expecting to see the real deal snapping her fingers for another martini.