At the pinnacle of Vilankulos' archipelago shoreline, stands an art-deco masterpiece where sands meets the sea. Her name is Dona Ana, a vestige of a history long lost post civil war. She stands tall, a compliment to the postcard vista to which a fair few can say that they have personally appreciated in the marvelous thriving travel gold mine on the east coast of Mozambique.
Dona Ana is a hotel that once sat as a prestigious celebration of the beauty of a lady who bears the same name. The story goes that, over 60 years ago, a man named Senhor Alves was so captivated by Ms. Ana, that he created the building in appreciation of her genetic mastery. An enchanting anomaly on what was an otherwise thatched and sandy space, that alluded to what modern civilisation might have been at that time.
She stands tall, bright swashed with pinks and blues. Pillars poke at the sky, hoisting the name of the ancient beauty up and into the heavens, as if Egypt were transporting their queen. The interior is flush with the modernity that resembles the needs of a western traveller. From air conditioning, to the most incredible 5 metre bar adorned with mirrors, marble and tvs fixed on VH1 - which becomes somewhat of a blast into the past itself - fantastic waiters, barmen, chefs and receptionists all greet and serve you with smiles and fascinating stories, as you sit back sipping a long island ice tea, watching the dhows and sailboats pierce through the ocean with ease, against a backdrop of some of the finest islands you could ever be so privileged to be in the presence of. How life could get any better?
This beauty also has a rich history, you see, the Dona Ana became a dilapidated squatter that went from an ode to a beautiful maiden, to becoming an unused heap of mass. The colours of pink and blue faded to grey, and passers by were left wanting as to what this concrete slab might be doing occupying the most precious space in the most precious little village.
This went on for years, and as far as I can remember, my first trips to Vilankulos in the early 00's left me with a saddened impression of lost potential - potential for the people of the village to make a living, potential for the hotel to make a mark on the tourists and just a very soured potential view of what the Portugese's scorched earth evacuation actually did; it left them with nothing, and their abhorrent behaviour might have taken the Mozambican's magic away if they didn't have so much magic to give.
But alas, the potential was finally realised a few years on. The hotel was revamped, refurbished and re-energised. The defibrillators were fastened onto the chest and the beauty breathed life once again. The greys turned back to the azures and luminescent pinks, history was awakened and Dona Ana stood tall, welcoming incomers to Vilankulos again with grace.
How did this happen? This is where the story turns. A Mr. Bredenkamp, bought it, invested a heap pf money into the hotel and after years finally propped it up, ready for business and ready to allow for the desperately needed capital to flow back into the area - tourism is their only real trade. (Mr. Bredenkamp also owns Margaruque, one of the four incredible islands that sit offshore from the archipelago).
The Dona Ana is perfection. Millions must have been thrown at the art-deco masterpiece to allow it to reclaim its former glory in a modern time. They have a full staff contingent that works everyday, and into the night. You can go to the bar at what would be Friday rush hour for a perfect pina colada and prawn rissole, only to find yourselves hosted by the most incredible wait staff, enjoying the most incredible food with the most delicious peri-peri.
Before we left Vilankulos at the beginning of last month (November 2017), we stopped by the Dona Ana for our final cocktail, VH1 hit session and chats to the local staff. The kitchen guys had made us a massive batch of peri-peri as per our request, to take back with us to South Africa; fun fact, Dona Ana was the one who introduce peri-peri into Mozambique, which the country is now famed for. It was a welcomed goodbye celebration.
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The Dona Ana is the most incredible place, and this is mainly because of the people who work there, the location and the most beautiful building. You have to make the mission to go, because her deco supports more than the structure, but really drives the economy of a people I feel so lucky to have met and continue to meet many years on. And when we return to Vilankulos, which has become some what of life-blood in our lives, we always go back to that little glamorous beauty, that welcomes us all to her shores, enchanting us with her stories, her history and her loyal friends and family, that make these trips worth it, every time.
So next time you're planning a trip, make your way to Vilankulos, the almost-centre of the Mozambican west coast, and pop in to meet Dame Dona and gaze freely at her marvelous exterior and dine on her lavish tables as a welcomed guest. Speak to the incredibly warm people who could make this place a home. And bear witness to what happens when people, passion and perfection meet in paradise. Oh, how incredible this continent I call home truly is.
All photos, except for the last and second (from bookings.com), are from hoteldonaana.com