The Anantara brand has been synonymous with luxury and bespoke travel experiences since its inception in 2001, from booking an entire island resort for your wedding, to organising an exclusive picnic on an elusive island. Starting off with one luxury seaside resort in Hua Hin, Thailand, Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas can be found in wanderlust-inducing locations such as China, Indonesia, the Maldives, Portugal, Qatar, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and Zambia. Anantara Spas in particular, have become sought-after destinations for relaxation and one-of-a kind sensory treatments: they possess the unique ability to completely immerse you in the soul of a destination.
Anantara Bazaruto, named Mozambique’s Best Resort Spa at the 2016 World Spa Awards, was our taste of the Anantara experience. It’s a just over one-and-a-half-hour flight from OR Tambo International Airport to Vilanculos Airport, and descending on the Mozambican island, the lush greenery, vast fields of palm trees, and crater-like pools of water look like the perfect establishing shot from an adventure film. The resort is nestled off the coast of Mozambique on Bazaruto Island, which can be reached by a 45-minute boat ride.
The first thing that strikes you about this island, apart from the enveloping, humid weather, is the overwhelmingly warm and humble, yet reserved disposition of the Mozambican people. As our island arrival time approached, our home for the next few days emerged from the topaz Bazaruto waters, revealing a pristine shore complete with local inhabitants performing songs and dances to introduce us to the Anantara spirit. After a few days of enjoying the activities available on the culminated in a visit to the spa for a day of the luxury pampering the resort is famed for.
Anantara Spa is situated at the highest point of the resort to capitalise on the coastal view, and it feels as if you have blinked for just a second and landed in Thailand.
While letting the stillness of the spacious, Eastern-inspired surroundings, the warmth of the spa therapists, and that heart-stopping view wash over you, you are treated to a welcome drink of fresh lemongrass steeped in warm water, and a hot hand towel.
“The whole Anantara brand really comes from Thailand, so we have the influences from the East,” says Anantara Bazaruto Spa manager, Natasha Kennedy. “It’s also right where you are: you have to create treatments for the location and have everybody experience something indigenous to the island or to the area where you are. That’s the whole purpose of the treatments that we have here.”
I was a bit sceptical as to how these spa treatments would be any different from any other treatments I’ve experienced. But as well as creating luxurious treatments, Anantara Bazaruto strips the spa experience to its most basic core, removing the fluff of forcing a relaxed response at a spa. The idea is that its spas provide a space filled with raw elements and tactile stimuli. This creates a sanctuary that leaves you no other choice but to surrender.
“For Anantara, when you start a journey here with us, we want you to have an endless journey: it shouldn’t just end here,” Kennedy says. “Everything — like the foot ritual — is not just to humble yourself in front of somebody but the whole purpose of the ritual is to show the other person respect: that’s how they do it in Thailand.
From the refreshing towel to the tea and the garments that you change into, everything is to take you on a complete journey.” The first treatment I experienced was the spa’s signature 90-minute Mozambican Sand Compress, a combination treatment that consists of Thai massage techniques with dry pressure points, an African oil massage, and a hotsand compress to relax stiff muscles. “We get the sand for the sand compress from the dunes and we take it through a disinfecting process before putting it into a steriliser, and then placing it into the local capulana fabric from Mozambique,” Kennedy says.
A huge trend in spa treatments right now is including nature and making the experience immersive, rather than focusing on quick, on-the-go, hi-tech treatments.
Whether using natural products that are unique to the area or tapping into techniques that will simultaneously energise and relax you — the luxury of contemporary spas is in their ability to reconnect you to a better quality of life and a sense of true stillness. “I read about this treatment somewhere in Mexico,” Kennedy says. “What they have started to do is have a spa and a sauna right by the river and what they want people to do is to connect with nature. It’s all about that — you start to listen to the sound of the water and you hear the birds. It’s not just about being in a closed room with air-conditioning and music playing. If you are outside, you become more in tune.”
Anantara Bazaruto took inspiration from the current trends to birth its most unique and prized treatment: the African Traditional Beach. The treatment — conducted on the beach, with the warm sun on your back — is a three-part journey starting with a full-body massage, using pure coconut oil, followed by a body exfoliation with coarse sea salt. The therapist then welcomes you to take a dip in the ocean to cleanse the salt from your body, as well as enjoy a short afternoon swim, if you wish.
Lastly, your body is massaged using freshly squeezed Aloe ferox to soothe the skin. “The 60-minute African Traditional Beach is more of a body and spiritual treatment,” Kennedy says. “It is literally all the elements that we can find on the island. It’s very raw: you have the locally extracted coconut oil, the raw sea salt and freshly squeezed Aloe Verox. You don’t need a lot. You go into the ocean and it’s not only about washing away the salt: it’s literally cleansing your body and your spirit.”