Jan 15

Island Hopping in Mozambique

On the Road: Azura Retreats

JG Black Book’s very own Managing Director of Africa, Yvette De Vries, has recently returned from a fascinating visit to two of the Azura Retreats properties – Azura Benguerra Island and Azura Quilalea Private Island. Spending two nights and three days at each allowed Yvette to experience the charm of the hotels and their amenities as well as the uncommon, local activities. We asked Yvette about some of her favorite memories from the trip and she provided us with an interesting first-hand experience and some insider tips. Enjoy the interview below!

Private pool at Azura Benguerra

What were your favorite features of the Azura properties?

My favorite feature of Azura Benguerra was definitely its beautiful décor and pitch-perfect appointments of every room and public space. At Azura Quilalea, it was the accessibility to the fantastic snorkeling on the house reef – just a few steps and strokes from the main beach.

Insider Tip: Ask the staff at either property to leave your windows open and enjoy the ocean air and song through the night.

Dunes on Bazaruto Island

What was the highlight of your stay with Azura Retreats?

At Azura Quilalea, it would be a toss-up between the marine walk to the surreal grottoes and remnants of ancient coral reefs, and my visit to Ibo Island. It is a fascinating place with a tremendously rich, albeit dark, history… somehow forgotten by time, but on the verge of being rediscovered as a tourist destination.

At Azura Benguerra, it was the morning we went snorkeling in the “aquarium” off 2 mile reef, visited Pansy Island, climbed the dune on the southern tip of Bazaruto Island, followed by a private lunch on the beach at the northern tip of Benguerra Island.

Insider Tip: The coral on The Canyon Reef is incredible (think big bunches of bright blue & purple broccoli), but the snorkeling on the House Reef off the beach at Azura Quilalea is even better & more relaxing.

Beach at Azura Benguerra

What was the most significant thing you learned on your trip?

How much there was to do at both these islands, and that one would need to stay for at least 4 nights if you also planned on a day of total relaxation.

Dining area at Azura Quilalea

What was your favorite local activity?

I consider mealtimes my favorite activity anywhere I travel, so in this case it would be the abundance of fresh seafood and the consistently top-notch preparation and presentation.

Marine walk to the grottoes at low tide

What set this trip apart from your previous time spent in Africa?

The fact that I was on a “marine safari” rather than game drives in the bush, so there was no routine and no two days looked remotely the same. Daily activities were planned around the tides, not the temperature.

Helicopter view of Quilalea Island

What advice would you give to someone looking to book travel with Azura Retreats? 
Bring an underwater camera – no matter how rudimentary. You’re likely to capture the most terrific images while snorkeling and diving off either island.

Article Credit: JG Black Book:

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Honeymoon Islands

 

 

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Feb 10

Velaa Private Island Maldives

Velaa Private Islands’ villas, houses and residencesare beautiful, pampering and give a true sense of place. The diningis divine, with three restaurants, two bars, a wine cellar and the largest champagne collection in the Maldives. And the activitiesare varied and numerous, from motorized water sports like over-water hoverboards and a submarine, to a 9-hole golf course and Golf Academy by Olazabal, and covered tennis courts to name just a few. The spa is a big pull, with the first and only “snow room” in the Maldives and six over water treatment villas.

Surpassing the luxury moniker on its way to downright dreamy, Velaa Private Island is that special brand of ultra-select yet warm and welcoming – it is, quite simply, the Maldives’ most exclusive and private of resorts.

Velaa was created to embody the very best of the Maldivian archipelago, its culture and its breathtaking natural beauty – as well as the countless land and water activities available to those who make the journey to the islands. While the Maldives is home to many private islands, very few are owned by one passionate person – yet Velaa is one such case. The visionary behind Velaa had long visited the Maldives and wished for his own private island where he could curate an incredible guest experience, just as he imagined for himself. Today, with azure skies stretching to the horizon over aquamarine waters, Velaa treats its guests like royalty and allows privacy and comfort to take center stage.

To see more of Velaa Private Island, click here.

And for inquiries and reservation requests, contact Teresa Belcher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +1.703.753.8115.

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Oct 31

Beauty of St. Lucia - by Tony and Natalie Brown

Hi Teresa,

I want to first thank you for all your efforts for coordinating and scheduling both halves of this wonderfully unforgettable honeymoon. It was exactly what we needed after all the planning and celebration of our wedding. A combination between Sandals Grande (romantic and social) and Jade Mountain (unique) was the luxurious romantic fairytale we were looking for.

Upon arrival to St Lucia, you can tell that Sandals has the market cornered and they do a great job. They have a welcome lounge for their (3) resort locations (The Grande, Regent La Toc, and Halcyon). It was great to have complimentary snacks, waters, and soda etc., while we waited for our luggage to be loaded into the taxi-vans. I must share that if someone is prone to car sickness they might want to arrange another mode of travel at an additional expense.  Natalie and I don’t have any issues but another couple struggled during the ride as the roads have a lot of twists and turns over hills and in valleys. The trip was roughly a 1 hour and 40-minute ride to the Sandals Grande. (We did learn that there is a 10-minute helicopter ride that is quite beautiful – might be something you could suggest to others).  Note: Cost is approximately $400+ one way.

We were very impressed upon arrival to the Sandals Grande. You know it is primarily a “honeymoon” destination. I would say that 90% of couples we spoke with were celebrating their honeymoon, which made it fun to bond over, but sometimes you wanted to feel extra special.

The resort itself was in great condition, you can tell they do a great job of landscaping and keeping it clean. The layout is perfect and quite romantic. They have lots of little places with fire pits, hammocks and chairs spread throughout. Our favorite romantic spot was on the left-hand side of the property. The dock there has ample places to take in the sunset over the water and Pigeon Island peaks. We loved spending time in the lounge chairs or even just hanging our feet off the dock – watching the sun disappear.

At Sandals Grande you can be as social or quiet and romantic as you chose to be, it is very good setup for activities around the pool, pool par and the beach bar. The best thing about Sandals Grande is that they have the traditional water sports for free (snorkeling, HobieCat, kayaking, etc.) but the best thing is the FREE motorized sports!! You can water-ski and wakeboard for free. There are also vendors who offer Jet-ski’s for $20/30 minutes - not bad at all. I read on Trip Advisor that all beaches in St Lucia are public space. We did encounter several vendors engaging us about their excursion trips, but after the first day they all become friends you joke with.

We booked a St. Lucia excursion which included an amazing boat ride to Margot Bay then on to Soufriere and then a quick van ride to (Zip-lines, Volcanic/Sulfur Mud Baths, an amazing Waterfall and a home cooked meal from the guide’s aunt - the creole dishes were great). I felt this was such a great tour of the “real St Lucia”. We never felt unsafe at all; you can tell they are a well-organized outfit.

We did enjoy some quiet time at one of the side pools for half the day and then went down to enjoy a relaxing time on the beach. The top two things we can share about Sandals Grande was 1) The food is great at each restaurant. We have been to 4 different all-inclusive Caribbean/Mexican properties and we can say that the quality of food at each restaurant overall was well-balanced. Some places we’ve been to, they have their top restaurants were the food is great, but not all eateries are great. 2) The live entertainment during the dinner hours was exceptional. From the steel drum band, to the individual singers, to the 8-piece band; they all were top notch at setting the mood and getting folks up to dance or just allowing folks to enjoy a quiet soundtrack on a moon filled romantic evening. Also, the English Pub was the late-night place for drinks and dancing.

We took a helicopter ride from Sandals/Castries to Anse Chastnett/Jade Mountain to get there faster..it was only 7 minutes compared to the 2 hour twist/turn van drive.  Viewing the island up so high was well worth it!!

 

What I'm about to share about Jade Mountain doesn't do it justice. From the moment we arrived the service was top notch - exactly what we were looking for. At Sandals Grande everyone there was on their honeymoon there. At Jade Mountain, they had folks there to carry our personal bags upon arrival and served us a cold beverage and towel. They also gave us a cell phone to call our "Major Domo" for anything that we required. Because we arrived early, our room wasn’t ready so we were taken to the beach were we relaxed in our own hut with waiters set aside to assist with anything we needed (towels, beverages, and food). We did a little bit of snorkeling in one of the marine reserve areas just off the beach. Once we got back and had a little lunch, we received a call that our room was ready. The Major Domo sent down a shuttle to pick us up at the bottom of the hill, as the beach is located below the resort down a steep incline. When we arrived to our room I think we both almost cried when we walked into our "Sanctuary.” To walk in to this spectacular 3 wall space with an amazing view – just takes your breath away. We scurried around the room like kids on Christmas Day.

Our Sanctuary was a "Star" level with an infinity pool that was at least 20' x 6' and the water was the perfect temp. The bed was comfortable and the fridge was stocked with beers, water, and fruit juices. The Major Domo welcomed us with a bottle of champagne and they even had a complimentary bottle of white wine. We were lucky we did the all-inclusive plan. I would suggest this to anyone as it is quite pricey to eat there. The FOOD was amazing at the beach restaurant and phenomenal at the main restaurant. We had a 5-course meal the first night and a 8 course meal the second night...both were world class meals. At the table behind us during the 8-course meal there was a well-known food critic who spoke with the chef throughout the meal – it was a very interesting experience. All while eating in the open-air restaurant we had a perfect night with moon-light shining over the Pitons – breath taking views!!

There are no words to explain how truly amazing it was. The second day Natalie woke up early for a complimentary Yoga class on top of the resort. We then took the snorkeling tour offered through the scuba center located on the beach. It was just amazing snorkeling underneath the Pitons. It was so hard to have to leave the resort on Sunday after having breakfast in the room and one last dip in the infinity pool. We feel truly blessed that we had an opportunity to stay there - even for just 2 nights. I believe the balance of being at Sandals for 4 nights and being around other newlyweds and then having luxury private time for the 2 of us was just a true fairy tale experience.

We cannot thank you enough for booking us into two great properties. I'm so glad we connected with you and selected St. Lucia over our other choices. THIS REALLY was a trip of a lifetime.

Sincerely,

Tony and Natalie Brown, USA

 

 
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Aug 26

Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton

Phulay Bay, the world’s first Ritz-Carlton Reserve, gets social with a new Facebook page. The platform will serve as an apparatus to further connect with guests, provide news and live updates directly from the resort and for guests to share their own #RCMemories while at Phulay Bay.

Tucked along the scenic shores of the Andaman Sea in Krabi, Phulay Bay overlooks the glistening Phang Nga Bay, with karst rock formations sprinkled along the horizon. The refined, casual setting pairs a lush tropical landscape with gracious Thai hospitality.

Opened in 2009, the resort boasts 54 spacious villas, five dining venues, an infinity swimming pool, a spa and a selection of activities for adults and children, such as cooking classes, Thai boxing classes, yoga, crafts and plenty of relaxation. The destination allows for endless pursuits, with kayaking, snorkeling, island-hopping, elephant treks, ethereal beaches, virgin rainforests, clear waterfalls and much more.

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Jun 9

Jennifer & David Review on Hermitage Bay Antigua

Hillside Pool Suite Hermitage Bay Antigua

 

Dear Teresa,

We had a blissful trip.  Hermitage Bay was the perfect venue for our honeymoon. It was quiet but not boring, beautiful, friendly. It’s geared towards couples but not sappy.  The food was delicious with an array selection of fine wine. Antigua offers plenty of things to do so we were not bored.

We visited the spa a couple of times and played a round of golf a few times.  We took a helicopter tour of the volcano which was FANTASTIC.  We took in Antigua’s history at English Harbor one day which was an enjoyable way to spend our morning. It was the ideal way to kick off our marriage.

Thank you for your help.

Jennifer and David

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Email:
Travel Inforrmation:  info@honeymoonislands.com
Teresa Belcher: teresa@honeymoonislands.com

Telephone: (703) 753-8115