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June 17, 2018

Africa Part 1: Medjumbe Island

Life is a journey—and sometimes it takes you to Africa. If you haven’t already unfollowed me on Instagram for the gratuitous tropical island and baby elephant photos, then let me tell you about the trip of a lifetime. Africa has been on my bucket list since high school, but never did I think I’d see it this way. Just a few weeks after my old friend, Danny Seo, nabbed me spot on a press trip, I found myself on a helicopter tarmac in Mozambique en route to Medjumbe Island. I’ll never forget flying over the Indian Ocean for first time.

45 minutes later we landed on a tiny airstrip with nothing but sand and sea for miles. If you’ve ever fantasized about running away to a deserted island, I’ve got one for you. Nestled in the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique, Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort measures just one kilometer long and 300 meter wide.

It’s tropical paradise in every sense of the phrase. Meaning no one is on this island but you, a handful of staff who live on Medjumbe full-time, and 12 guest villas. With the exception of a pool, small spa and airy, rattan-filled dining room and lounge, there’s nothing but you and the island. Also: 70-plus species of birds, which I found myself avidly watching because there was nothing else to do. And I mean that in the best way possible.

There’s wi-fi on the island but it was too spotty for me to use. After I got over the initial withdrawal, I was relieved. How often do you get to be distraction-free for days? We talk about “unplugging” but so often that comes with exception. I couldn’t call, I couldn’t post, couldn’t run from my thoughts.

Not that I was thinking about anything but how to stay on Medjumbe longer. I settled into a routine: morning walk around the island, dip in the ocean, book by the pool, and afternoon nap or massage. I devoured and highly recommend An American Marriage. It’s not exactly a beach book, but a much more uplifting than it sounds.

And seafood, so much fresh seafood. I never got tired of tuna tartar or grilled calamari. Or these views. Maybe it’s all of the shades of blue, or the fact that you can’t see land from any direction. Or maybe it’s literally being on the other side of the world, but I swear the Indian Ocean has mystical powers.

One afternoon our group did a snorkeling excursion to nearby Quissanga Island. Though the fish weren’t anything to write home about, Anantara had turned the abandoned island into a magical hideaway. We ate lunch under the mangroves, drank local beer while bobbing in the water, and lounged under the thatched roof. (Honeymoon alert: You can stay overnight on the island as part of the Medjumbe experience. Outdoor bed with mosquito netting included!). It was the perfect day.

GETTING THERE: Airlink airlines offers direct flights from JFK to Johannesburg. From there it’s a quick flight to Pemba, followed by helicopter to the resort. Weeee!

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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