Santorini Mozambique is where Greece meets Africa with its glimmering white villas along a rugged coast.
The idyllic Greek town of Santorini is renowned for its picturesque whitewashed buildings perched atop the cliffs. But you might not expect to see these distinctive white villas along the rugged coastline of Mozambique.
My first glimpse of this African taste of Greece was while sitting at the top of the red dunes in the coastal Mozambican town of Vilankulo. As I cast my eyes across the ocean, the island of Bazaruto was visible in the distance and, along the mainland to my right, a glimmer of white: Santorini Mozambique.
Bem Vindo (Welcome!)
It had been a hot drive, despite the windows being cracked open for the breeze, so I was relieved when we turned off the bumpy African road and pulled onto Santorini’s long drive. Simple white buildings came into view with thick bursts of bougainvillea contrasting the bright white. As I wandered through to the pool area with my similarly brightly-coloured welcome cocktail in hand, the unmistakable blue domed roofs made me feel as if I’d stepped into Greece.
The clean white structures and minimalist designs throughout the Greek-inspired property somehow added to the peacefulness – while this once boutique villa has grown to a larger hotel complex, it still feels like your own private getaway; there are so many little nooks peppered across the property that you’ll always find somewhere to yourself to enjoy a coffee, cocktail or just relax and soak up the atmosphere.
I was staying in the Benguerra Suite, named after Benguerra Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which was nestled away on the lower level of the main villa. Like the rest of the property, the room was sophisticated yet unpretentious with thoughtful little touches throughout to give it a homely feel: a pile of delicately stacked grey pebbles holding up my bedroom lamp and a woven teal thread elegantly draped around my flower vase – not to mention the cashews and miniature bottle of rum which were left for me as a welcome gift.
A king size bed stood in the middle of the spacious room draped with white mosquito nets and, wandering out onto my private patio, I could enjoy a view of the ocean. With such an amazing view, it would have been remiss of me not to get up early to enjoy the sunrise; although, I will admit I went back to bed for a nap afterwards before rising for a leisurely breakfast.
Home Grown Produce
The breakfast at Santorini was one of my highlights of my stay. I settled into a secluded alcove overlooking the ocean where I enjoyed a pot of coffee, fresh fruit, crunchy granola, yoghurt and toast with butter and a selection of jams. Although it might sound strange, the butter is worth mentioning! Taking off the lid of the butter dish, I was surprised to see a picture of a stickman telling me “enjoy your day” carved into the surface of my butter. I later discovered this personalised “butter art” is a daily special presented at every meal and it certainly made me smile.
After breakfast, I visited the hotel’s vegetable garden, where they grow many of the produce used in their dishes. Each of the beds in the garden was filled with different leaves, labelled carefully: herbs, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, pepper and more. It’s even possible to organise a meal inside the veggie garden where you can wander around the beds and pick your own salad! While I didn’t “pick my own”, the vegetables and herbs grown in Santorini’s garden did make an appearance in my meals throughout my stay – as well as some brightly coloured flowers which often adorned the plates as decoration.
As well as growing its own produce, Santorini is working towards sustainability in various other areas. The hotel has implemented an anti-plastic initiative to help guests reduce their plastic waste during their stay. Glass straws, bamboo earbuds and glass water bottles are used rather than plastic and they are also trying to move away from plastics in other parts of the hotel. Like the other guests that visit, I was even given an elegant glass water bottle with my name on to use during my stay and then take home with me.
Supporting the Community
Santorini also support a local non-profit organisation called LUZ, which runs various projects to help the community in Vilanculos. Volunteers have installed bore-holes and water pumps in the area, raise awareness and provide education around HIV/Aids and support people in the area who have albinism. Any guests that have leftover sunscreen or sun hats they want to leave behind can pass them onto the Santorini team to be donated to albinos in the community to protect them from the strong African sun.
Similarly, there is a donation box to guests who are able to leave items for the children of Mucoque Primary School. The school has over 2,000 children, many of whom have to study outside because there aren’t enough classrooms for them. Guests who have enough room in their cases to bring a few materials to donate to the children – this could be things like pencils, pens, (Portuguese) textbooks, games, clothing, art supplies, sports equipment and musical instruments. These types of items, which can be left in the donation box in Santorini’s gift shop, can make a huge difference to the lives of these children and their community.
The New Dhow
During my visit, I was just in time to admire Santorini’s traditional dhow which had been built from scratch by a local boat builder. I wandered down to the beach in front of the property to check out the large, blue and white boat perched on the sand which would be used to take guests on sailing trips and to the nearby islands. The charming dhow was very nearly complete with just the finishing touches, like putting in comfortable seating, being seen to before it would be ready. Sadly, I just missed the launch which was due to take place jsut a few days after I’d left Vilankulo.
Taking Some Community Magic Home with Me
While Santorini Mozambique has its own gift shop, they always encourage guests to visit local handicraft shop Machilla Magic and will drive them there if they don’t have their own transportation. We jumped in the car and were there in a few minutes. The wooden shop, crammed with different artworks, carvings, beadwork and even furniture, was a treasure trove for holiday souvenirs.
Machilla Magic was originally founded in 2002 as a way of helping fishermen who were struggling to make money through their trade find new ways of income. Sandy Somerville – who started the initiative – realised that the knot tying and weaving skills the fishermen used to make and repair their nets, was a talent that could be transferred to making household items such as hammocks.
From there it grew; more and more artists have become involved and the variety of items on offer has grown too. The Machilla Magic team helps by providing tools, materials and training with many of the materials being recycled or reclaimed. The initiative has grown to such an extent that, now, around 60 artists are able to provide for their families through the crafts they produce and sell here.
I wandered through the store, poring over the different artworks to find the perfect carvings to bring home as souvenirs for my family. I ended up with a handwoven straw purse, some brightly coloured bags made of the local Capulana fabric and some adorable miniature humpback whale carvings, which even had removable fins to make them easier to transport home without being damaged. The perfect token to remember my stay at this Mozambican hideaway.
Santorini Mozambique is like a small Greek village in the heart of the raw African landscape. Those staying 3+ nights enjoy a complimentary sunset cruise or snorkelling boat trip and a guided tour of Vilanculos town.