journey from Maputo – Mozambique’s capital – to Anvil Bay
can be made in several ways: by helicopter, road transfer or a
self-drive trip through Maputo Special Reserve. All options are
beautiful; some are simpler than others. Ever in search of a
challenge, we opted to go it by road, spending four hours
navigating a rickety pick-up truck through mangrove forests, lakes
and grasslands, and the zebras, giraffes and elephants that call
these endless plains home. They were some of the most memorable
hours of my life, and likely the closest I’ll ever come to feeling
like Indiana Jones.
Anvil Bay is the result of a pioneering partnership between a
philanthropic foundation and the local Chemucane community, which
was granted a landmark ecotourism concession from the government to
facilitate the joint venture. Community-built and run, the
low-impact lodge has created a vital sustainable enterprise for the
area, as well as being a responsible tourism destination that
allows visitors to experience all of southern Mozambique’s best
bits in one stay. Encounters with whales, dolphins, hippos and
elephants are all to be had in a day at this seriously special
barefoot paradise. Get here quick.
Anvil Bay casinhas from above, left, and inside.
Tucked within the canopy of the coastal forest, all nine
wooden-stilted suites (known as “casinhas”) are set right on the
beach, each offering views onto the lapping waves of the Indian
Ocean. Inside, you’ll find an elegant, back-to-basics aesthetic of
hand-whittled wooden furniture (all carved in an on-site workshop),
a minibar stocked with dangerously moreish, homemade rusk biscuits
(refilled each day) and canvas windows that offer complete
immersion in nature. Roll them up to allow a cooling ocean breeze
to drift through the suite at night, then, come morning, wake to
the sound of birdsong under your outdoor shower.
What’s for breakfast?
A healthy spread of fresh fruits, cereals and yoghurts awaits at
the beach bar, plus an array of cold meats, cheeses and
fresh-out-of-the-oven muffins. Hot food like eggs and bacon are
available on request.
How about lunch and dinner?
Both the lunch and dinner set menus are geared around what’s
been plucked from the sea that day. Expect fresh-from-the-ocean
fish and seafood, grilled meats and hearty portions of salad and
fresh vegetables, all served on the beach.
Is there a bar?
Yes – a toes-in-the-sand canvas tent on the shoreline, where
strong coffees and even stronger cocktails are dished out from
morning to evening.
Nature and the outdoors are your greatest amenities here. Borrow
fat bikes and explore the 5km of pristine beach that surrounds the
lodge (keeping an eye out for baby turtles during nesting season as
you go), or grab a kayak, paddleboard, body board or snorkel to
explore the surf and surrounding rock pools at high tide. Keen to
venture further out? Join an ocean safari and take a plunge into
the water – you might be lucky enough to swim alongside wild
dolphins, and you’ll be able to snorkel over immaculate coral
Come evening, join Jonito and Januario – two of the lodge’s
effervescently friendly hosts – on a traditional sunset dhow cruise
across the lake. Keep your eyes on the rippling water to spot its
beady-eyed resident hippos and crocodiles.
How about their green credentials?
They’re impressive. As little as possible has been built, in
order to leave the smallest footprint on the land, and whatever
exists is made from natural materials, such as the reed-and-timber
casinhas. The entire lodge is solar-powered, while outdoor lighting
has been kept to an absolute minimum to avoid disturbing turtles
during nesting season, as well as to keep light pollution down. The
lodge is heavily involved in the coastline’s turtle conservation
efforts, working closely alongside the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine
Reserve to monitor and protect the area’s population.
Anvil Bay’s most commendable effort on the sustainability front,
though, has to be its support of the local community. This has
largely been done through employment (80 per cent of staff who
built and now operate the lodge are from the local area) and a
skills-transfer scheme, as well as through the purchase of local
construction materials and services. In an area that previously had
little economic opportunity due to its remote location, the
creation of such a sustainable enterprise is a considerable feat,
and a flagship example of responsible tourism. It’s a thumbs-up
The hotel sits beside Lake Machai, a focus for
What about accessibility?
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Anvil Bay is tricky to access.
Casinhas are all set along the beach, making wheelchair access near
To get to the lodge from Maputo, you’ll need to either drive or
fly. Helicopter transfers from Maputo International Airport can be
booked for those looking for an unforgettably stylish arrival, but
if the £1000-each-way price tag won’t fit your budget, we recommend
taking to the road. Either book a transfer through the lodge (3-4
hours) or take the adventurous route and drive yourself through the
reserve – just bear in mind that you’ll need a 4X4, a GPS and a
decent sense of humour.
What’s the crowd?
As we visited in low season, we were lucky enough to have the
entire lodge to ourselves during our stay. Friends, honeymooners
and families all seem equally well catered to here – the
forest-covered Library is complete with a strong set of family
board games, and you’ll find plenty of cosy corners for romantic
Things I should know
If you’re keen to watch humpback whales on their annual
migration, visit between late July and November. Prefer to watch
turtles nest on the beach outside your room? Come between October
Within a short walk I can find…
A lot. The lodge is surrounded by endless miles of unspoilt
coastline, and backs out onto Maputo Special Reserve – a 1,000sq km
protected area of spectacular grasslands, mangrove forests, lakes
and wetlands, and of the world’s most biologically rich and
endangered terrestrial regions.
Visit at the right time and you’ll see whales and dolphins
frolicking in the spray from the shore, or take a walk along a
guided savannah trail to witness the reserve’s remarkable birdlife
(encompassing more than 350 species).
Fancy exploring further afield? Head out on a safari game drive
and you’ll spot animals including zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and
reedbuck, as well as Southern Africa’s last remaining coastal herd
of elephants. They can be shy, but if you’re up early enough,
you’ll likely find them at their favourite morning watering hole –
a sighting that’s definitely worth the early start.
in high season. anvilbay.com