As Mozambique's tourist season gets under way, the industry will be hoping for an improvement in the country's fortune. Visitor numbers fell by 28 per cent last year, after hopes of a boost from the Fifa World Cup in South Africa failed to materialise, the global economic slump dragged on and food riots broke out in the southern African nation.
This ill fortune is particularly raw here – tourism played an important role in Mozambique's recovery, following a civil war that raged from 1977 to 1992. By 2005, the tourism industry was the fastest growing in the world, as visitors began to discover the country's stunning Indian Ocean coastline, idyllic islands, national parks and a heady mix of Arab, Portuguese and African culture.
Dozens of "barefoot luxury" resorts have sprung up in the last five years, to the point that investment is now threatening to overdevelop some areas. But seclusion is still possible: Coral Lodge 15.41 (the numbers refer to the hotel's latitude and longitude) opened last June, on a quiet section of the north coast.
As with many of Mozambique's coastal hotels, Coral Lodge offers low-key luxury in an exceptional beachside setting. However, its location affords it a degree of exclusivity. The only development for several miles, it is situated at the end of a sandy spit that sticks out into Mossuril Bay at the tip of the Varanda nature reserve; its isolation provides real seclusion.
And, unlike other remote resorts that simply offer a good beach holiday, Coral Lodge is also a short boat ride from the Unesco-listed Mozambique Island. Once the seat of power for Portuguese East Africa, it is now an atmospherically crumbling town with a 16th-century fort, churches and mosques.
The pool, restaurant and bar are at the centre of the resort, with half of the 10 thatched guest villas lining the beach on one side with Indian Ocean views, and the others overlooking a mangrove lagoon and Ilha de Mozambique on the other.
The unfussy, contemporary décor – sourced from Europe to Zanzibar – includes wooden sculptures, oversized Moroccan lights and coconut wood furniture. The kidney-bean-shaped villas are stylish, if sparsely furnished, and feature a spacious wooden deck at the front. You won't find TVs or even phones inside – they would be entirely incongruous.
A highlight of my stay was the food. The menus might include tomato tarte tatin with balsamic reduction; lobster and pepper risotto; or poached barracuda in banana leaves. The end result, every time, was a beautifully presented feast.
Producing such consistent quality is no mean feat. Dutch husband and wife team Bart and Alex Otto often have to overcome logistical complications – from the nuances of local politics to a temperamental electricity supply – which many guests are unaware of as they sip their beers and look out across the turquoise sea.
Coral Lodge 15.41, Nampula, Mozambique (00 258 266 600 03; corallodge1541.com)
Double rooms start at $850 (£567) full board.Reuse content