Sunday Mail: Lie on the World’s Best Beach?
I’d rather work as a brickie!
Daisy Waugh spends a week at Guludo and writes about it for the Daily Mail, UK…
“Imagine spending a week in the tropical sunshine beside what must be the longest, emptiest, least spoilt, most isolated beach in the world, and then never finding the time to lie on the sand and enjoy it.
The Guludo Beach Resort in northern Mozambique is on the edge of seven-and-a-half miles of shell-strewn private beach.
It stands at the end of long, dusty track where monkeys swing obligingly from the mango trees and elephants lurk (disobligingly) behind bushes.
I’ve just spent a week there and yes, I sat on the sand one morning to be taught how to weave bracelets out of coconut leaves; I waded out from the sand one afternoon to board the fishermen’s dhow and ‘help’ them catch our dinner; I wandered the sand at dusk most evenings to contemplate my navel, and I strode up and down it often on my way to a nearby village.
But with so many unusual distractions, sunbathing on the world’s most beautiful beach, in this most beautiful corner of Africa, would have felt just a little bit dull.
Guests at Guludo can go scuba-diving off a nearby reef if they want to, or go whale-watching (in season), or even elephant-tracking. More unusually for a self-styled ‘luxury’ resort, guests at this eco-ethical haven are also invited to help out with aid projects in the area.
Having once lived in Kenya, I have already tracked my fair share of elephants, the whales were out of season during my stay, and scuba-diving terrifies me. I opted instead to hand-press mud bricks for a health centre in the village and help reconstruct one of its walls which had collapsed during recent rains.
I dare say my efforts provided much amusement for my co-workers. Nevertheless, it was certainly an interesting and fun way to spend a day.
Guludo is a resort for the socially conscious, the guilty rich. Of course, if you’re inclined towards guilt when confronted by enormous poverty (and most of us are), making a few bricks between snorkelling trips is unlikely to alleviate it, but it does at least enable you to feel less like a slob with a fat wallet and sunburn, and more like a traveller immersed in the place.
Like the traditional villages surrounding it, the resort has no running water and (except for a couple of hours each morning when the generator is on) no electricity. It was built specifically so that should the enterprise fail, it could melt back into the earth whence it came without leaving any human mark behind.
English owner Amy Carter-James, 33, and her husband Neal founded a charity called Nema at the same time as buying the resort’s land, and the two enterprises, though financially separate, are very much part of the same beautiful dream: to help bring education, medical aid, clean water and employment to this very rural and very poor corner of Mozambique.
The project is an uphill struggle. ‘God, we were naive,’ laughs Amy, reflecting on the couple’s nine years at Guludo. But despite a devastating fire which once burned out the kitchen and dining area, and the last rainy season being the most ferocious on record (three of the bedroom cabanas were washed away), the resort still stands proud. It employs 38 people, all from the nearby village, and it makes enough money to wash its face. Which, according to Amy, is what matters.
I visited Guludo with my old friend Laura Tenison, founder of the baby shop chain JoJo Maman Bebe. Nema is JoJo’s adopted charity and Laura came out from London to audit projects funded by her company. So we were there as not-quite-guests.
It was also a week before the resort officially reopened after the rainy season damage, and just a few days after a new resort manager had picked up the reins, so there were one or two practical issues that needed to be ironed out.
It would be amusing but uncharitable to go into detail. Suffice to say there is now a capacious working fridge in situ. All’s well that ends well.
There are nine bedroom ‘bandas’ stretched out along the beach path (all but two are now fully repaired). Each one was built and furnished by villagers in the local style and using local materials — there are white-painted mud walls, doors and windows of bamboo, and ceilings of woven coconut leaves. Each has a private ‘eco-toilet’ in a separate bamboo hut at the back, and an open-air shower, which consists of an oil drum refilled daily by a maid.
At the tug of a rope, water tumbles from the drum, via a bamboo pipe and through a shower head made of perforated coconut shell.
It sounds ridiculous — actually, it is ridiculous- but it’s kind of wonderful to shower beneath the stars.
Given the resort’s very simple amenities, the good-natured but amateur service and the excellent but plain and somewhat repetitive menu on offer — home-baked bread, fresh fish and rice, bananas and papaya — Guludo does not, perhaps, provide great value for money.
But then again, how do you measure value for money in a place where five per cent of the bill goes directly to charity, and where even the drinking water has to be hand-pumped and brought in via motorbike from two villages away?
This place is also comically hard to reach. Fifty miles south of the Tanzanian border, and a mad and bumpy seven-hour drive from the nearest airport at Pemba, the journey is made all the more difficult by the fact that sections of the road to Pemba collapsed recently during the rains.
At time of writing — and this is set to improve — guests travelling at Guludo had to walk around the collapsed section of road and then change to a second vehicle to complete the journey.
We made the second leg of our transfer squeezed into the back of pick-up truck along with four men from the village, who were needed to push-start the vehicle in case it stalled.
Also sharing the truck was the spare tyre, a box of eggs, and a boulder to wedge behind the front wheel when the vehicle was stationary, due to its handbrake being broken.
When it rained (which it did, hard) we all cowered together under a large plastic sheet. ‘It’s normal!’ our driver said. ‘It’s life on the road!’ And so it is in this remote corner of Africa.
So Guludo is inaccessible, it isn’t cheap, and no matter what the website says, it isn’t luxurious (except for the magnificent shower). But actually it’s better than luxurious — it’s magical.
It is mojo-restoring, life-enhancing and horizon-expanding. It is the most beautiful, craziest, most uplifting place I ever visited.
Guilty rich, listen up! Guludo Beach Resort is what your disposable income was made for!”
Daisy Waugh stayed at Guludo in May 2014
Originally published at https://www.guludo.com on September 2, 2014.