Kisawa Sanctuary is 300-hectares of beachfront calm and coastal forest on Benguerra Island, Mozambique and a combination of cultural celebration and environmental conservation. This astonishing retreat has 22 luxurious bungalows spread across 12 residences and will open fully this month. In this travel feature, we look at what visitors to Kisawa can expect.
To be frank, we don’t write nearly as much as we should do about Africa’s incredible hospitality industry, and it is no one’s fault but ours. The African continent is vast and is home to some quite extraordinary experiences. We’ve decided that enough is enough and will now be featuring the continent as much as we can, and for this travel feature, we’re looking into something quite spectacular, the Kisawa Sanctuary on Benguerra Island in Mozambique.
The Kisawa Sanctuary is 300-hectares of beachfront calm and coastal forest on Benguerra Island, Mozambique. The Sanctuary offers guests the utmost privacy across 5 kilometres of the Indian Ocean coastline and enables them to support marine research and conservation via its sister property Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, Africa’s first permanent ocean observatory. Africa is home to magnificent properties contributing to discovery and conservation; however, none of this calibre by the ocean.
This November, Kisawa launches 22 spacious bungalows across 12 residences that reflect the beach haven’s philosophy of forming a bond between people and place. Some of the bungalows sit on the calmer side of the cove, others in the dunes, oceanside. All the properties benefit from a secluded beachfront, forest and sand dune plot that extends to more than one acre.
The properties are all said to offer maximum privacy and have been designed with an appreciation of the surrounding natural environment. Each bungalow sleeps, two people. Some stand-alone, while others are positioned in groups, so family or friends can enjoy a balance of privacy and togetherness.
A 24/7 personal service team, plus a colourful fleet of electric Mini Mokes, mean the Kisawa experience is intuitive and self-directed. Visitors can choose complete privacy within their bungalow and surroundings or head off on an adventure at their own pace and rhythm. Benguerra Island and the Bazaruto Archipelago offers some of the richest, least explored areas in the whole of the Indian Ocean.
Design and influences
Kisawa is the first hospitality project by creative director Nina Flohr. It is a design-led project that has been founded upon Mozambique’s terroir and heritage. Nina put an enormous amount of thought into the design of Kisawa, seeking to protect the natural surroundings. Her goal was to blend in, rather than interrupt, even forgoing the use of heavy machinery to ensure the lightest possible footprint was left on the land.
Instead, patented 3D sand-printing technology replaces less sustainable commonplace manufacturing practices. The printer uses innovative sand and seaweed mortar to build design elements, from flooring, countertops and tiles, to stools, tables, vases and vessels.
Kisawa’s approach to craftsmanship and commissions involves and creates work for as many people from Benguerra and the neighbouring islands as possible. The skilled work of local weavers, thatchers, carpenters and textile makers is showcased with pride.
In celebration of the continent’s cultural heritage and history of antiques and unique art were sourced from across Africa. This move also ensured that important heritage artefacts remained within the continent. The rare and valuable works are accompanied by bespoke, locally made furniture, which helps create an authentic experience while still connecting with the surrounding natural environment. Colours and patterns also play a significant role, and the contrasting textures provide layers of tactility and patina.
The bond between people and place runs intrinsically throughout Kisawa, where Nina and the team have invested significantly in the community and looked to them for guidance and inspiration at every level. 80% of the construction workforce were from Benguerra Island, half of which were women, and today, Kisawa is run by a passionate team of 220 staff, with 90% of the operational team from Africa and the remainder combining various expertise from around the world.
Dining and Wellness
Communal areas sit at the heart of the sanctuary and include dining spaces, a Natural Wellness Centre and areas dedicated to relaxation and wellbeing. The Natural Wellness Centre, located amongst the sand dunes, offers a range of individual treatments and personalised programs rooted in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine backed up by the Kisawa team and the guest’s private chef. In addition to the treatments, there is a state-of-the-art infrared heated Japanese Iyashi dome sauna to promote healing, and Pilates reformers are available for guests to use within the fully equipped gym alone or with expert tuition.
Throughout the seven culinary locations at Kisawa, the ethos remains the same; a commitment to sanctuary-grown produce, the practice of organic, seasonal gardening methods, operating a zero-waste policy and using no processed ingredients. Kisawa has built a network of farmers and producers, ensuring fresh local produce daily. The multiple venues, including the Main Terrace, Baracca and two Mussassas, offer a wide variety of dishes, focusing on Mozambican and African flavours, including an ever-changing array of seafood inspired by daily conversations with local people fishermen.
Resort to Research
In addition to founding Kisawa Sanctuary, Nina launched its sister property, the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS – also located on Benguerra Island), Africa’s first permanent ocean observatory. Their parallel operations create a symbiotic business model whereby (for-profit) hospitality contributes directly to (non-profit) marine science and research.
The data and knowledge output of BCSS informs the environmental decisions of the Sanctuary, ranging from design choices and ocean awareness to meaningful guest experiences – such as spending the day tagging sharks from the deck of the research vessel. Coined ‘resort to research’, this is an active and authentic day-to-day relationship that allows for the harmonious existence of Kisawa Sanctuary and BCSS.
In the southern third of Mozambique, Benguerra Island is part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, home to some of the least explored and richest subtropical ecosystems in the Indian Ocean. More than 150 bird species, including flamingos and parrots, as well as the rare dugong (cousin of the manatee), Nile crocodiles and Samango Monkeys, call this island home. Humpback whales, orca, several species of rays and sharks, including whale sharks, five species of sea turtles, marlin, tuna, groupers, and an assortment of dolphins are either regular visitors or permanent
How To Get There
Benguerra Island is on the Eastern coast of Africa, 14 km from Mozambique. The nearest airport is Vilankulo (VNX), with commercial flights from Johannesburg (JNB) and Maputo (MPT). Private travel arrangements are also available for guests. Personalised helicopter charters from Vilankulo Airport to Kisawa can be easily organised by the Kisawa team. The flight time will take approximately 5–10 minutes, while transfers to Kisawa from Vilanculos by private boat take around 30 minutes.
The Kisawa Guest Experience
Each residence hosts its own stretch of beachfront, a private swimming pool, shaded day area with an outdoor kitchen, and pantry stocked to guest preferences. Throughout guests’ stay at Kisawa Sanctuary, transactions and in-room charges are not required. The intention is to enable guests to enjoy their Mozambican home and fully recharge and reconnect without worrying about daily expenses.
Rates start from 5000 EUR per night for two adults and include:·
- Luxury accommodation in a private residence on an acre of land
- Interior space ranges from 200m2 to 600m2 depending on the number of beds required
- More than one bungalow may be reserved together and form a group residence for larger parties
- A dedicated service team including private butler and chef, complimentary laundry and unpacking services
- Personalised arrival & transfer service from Vilankulo Airport (VNX) to Kisawa via boat
- A 24hr Jet-lag recovery treatment at the Natural Wellness Center including a 90-minute massage
- All culinary experiences across five Kisawa onsite dining venues, two bars and in-bungalow dining, soft beverages, curated house wine menus and cocktails
- Private use of a dedicated Kisawa Mini Moke vehicle
- Kisawa excursions and experiences such as Benguerra Island exploration and sunset sailing on the Kisawa Dhow
- Water sports including sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and snorkelling from the beaches and reefs of Benguerra Island
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