Set at one end of the island, in a mature garden built from local rock, found woods and jecca thatching, Azura at Quilalea consists of a main lodge and 9 villas: 4 Kaskazi, 4 Kusi and Villa Quilalea. The shared areas include a lounge, bar, library, dining room, pool and veranda. With a walled exterior similar in style to a large English cottage, the interior is welcoming, relaxed and marked by comfortable seating, low tables and sensible lighting.
Food & service
Much is made by returning guests of the food, which is not limited to just set meal times, and appears – on the bar, at one’s table – in the form of delicious, savoury and sweet, snacks. The service is also excellent.
Made of the same materials, and occupying either a sunrise or sunset view, the villas are situated discretely to the rear of the main lodge. Kusi villas have the premium locations, with an additional outdoor shower and beach sala. Some of the rooms open out directly onto the beach and one has a ladder leading straight down into the sea.
The villas are a good size, with a large double bed, veranda, plenty of space within which to sit, and a separate bathroom. Simple and thoughtful, the interior design of each villa empathises function over frill, and the furniture is solid, the fittings attractively useful. The cliff-top Villa Quilalea offers the most astounding accommodation for a couple in the whole archipelago, with a private plunge pool, feature bathroom & dressing room, an outdoor shower, and its own separate sitting/dining area. Of course, the island may also be booked out in its entirety for a complete private island experience.
Activities at Azura at Quilalea include a cliff-top African Spa experience, beach picnics and island Baobab nature walks. The island specialises in providing water sports, such as mangrove Kayaking on the nearby Sencar Island, scuba diving courses, snorkelling and guided snorkelling trips, deep sea fishing, sea kayaking and dhow sailing.
Cultural visits offer tours of the nearby historic Ibo Island, and the working coconut plantation on Quirimba Island and the local village. Please note some activities will be charged at an extra cost.
Azura’s biggest asset is its pristine location, and therefore safeguarding it is essential. As such, to keep from contaminating seawater, all ‘grey water’ from sinks and showers is used to water the retreat’s indigenous gardens, saving precious water as well as keeping the sea free of pollutants. All other waste water goes through the state-of-the-art treatment plant, and all washing is done with eco-friendly chemicals.
In-shore fish stocks and dolphin populations have been revived through Azura’s No-Fish Zone: an area of water where locals have agreed not to fish, in return for financial compensation
The owners have meticulously made sure that every phase of the lodge’s construction promotes the local community’s social and economic prospects, and they also came up with the idea of using the construction of Azura as a hands-on method of training the locals in essential skills.
An environmental expert and a community specialist were on the ground before the first hand-made brick was even laid, and such effort was made to use local materials that the sea was scoured for coconut trees blown over by a recent cyclone for use as beams and frames. Local women were invited to provide the Jekka that forms Azura’s iconic thatched roofs, and local dhows were used to bring in anything that did have to be imported, such as the water treatment plant, which ensures the surrounding seawater remains unblemished.
Funds collected from the lodge’s registered charity, The Rainbow Fund, have been used to build the area’s first school; increasing the amount of local children in education tenfold, from 40 to 400.