Kisawa Sanctuary behind the lens of Elsa Young

Known for diving, snorkeling, horseback riding across sand dunes, pristine coral reefs and dhow cruises, Benguerra Island is an adventure island haven situated 9 miles off the Mozambique coast in the Bazaruto Archipelago.  Here’s where you’ll find the new Kisawa Sanctuary, opened in 2020.  Beautifully built with local sand and seawater the 12 bungalows and the residence were built to minimize the impact on the local ecosystem.  We asked sought-after lifestyle and travel photographer, Else Young, to share her experience behind the lens when she photographed the property after opening.

What was your first impression when you arrived at Kisawa?

I couldn’t believe the spaciousness of the property, quite tremendous. Suites are far apart, heightening the privacy aspect, making the absolute most of the concession.

What was your favorite time of the day to shoot?

There was magic throughout the day, even in the middle of the day which was really great. The sun rises at a rather spectacular hour of 04h50 when we first went which made for an extremely long shoot day. But the dawns are always full of sparkle and that’s my favorite time.

What surprised you about the property?

The island itself is breathtaking and so I’d have to say it’s the beauty of how the architecture sits so quietly on the land that really made me happy. Very unobtrusive and sensitive. The birds calling in the morning. Always makes me stop for just a second and take note of where I am. Also the staff – such a delight to work with. We had a wonderful team helping us dash gear across sand, up dunes and in the rain. Very gentle and patient and giving with their time and energy. A real pleasure.

Some of Elsa’s favorite images and her thoughts about them:

1. Aerial view of the cove side of the island with residences. There is a softness to Kisawa that I feel is important, so the dappled light in this image works well with the undulating forms of the sandbanks and also with the varying colours of the ocean. It would give you a different feeling were it all in the sun, this is gentle and serene.

2. I love the pinky tones of the sand with the turquoise sea. It’s easy to feel deliciously isolated here.

3. Standout for me has always been the discreet luxury of the residences and their architecture, sitting quietly on the land. Aerial view of a two bed residence and pool and day area shot at dusk.

4. A special image because it was the first shot of the property, within 15 minutes of sunrise. It still makes me smile. I love the small Marula trees in the foreground with the other coastal bush.  We often see small red duiker antelope as we beetle around in the electric mokes, browsing in the thickets. There is so much greenery here, so much life.

5: Interior of the residence, view from the living room through bedroom to the bathroom. A real favourite of mine, this particular colour way with the khaki greens, scale of the doors, beautiful handiwork of the panelling on the doors. Elegant simplicity.

6: Early to mid morning aerial image of the Natural Wellness Centre and the gym. Too cute how they sit so snug in the landscape.

7: Interior of the Natural Wellness Centre. Atrium windows creating beauty with the passing sun.

8: The incredible thatch work of the wellness centre has always been a favourite aspect of mine. So beautifully layered and trimmed. The curvaceousness of the shapes make for very gentle distinction in contrast from a light point of view. This again influences the softness of the sanctuary. There are never any harsh shadows, it’s all ombre at the wellness centre!

9: The gym with its magnificent skirt of palm. I adore! Late afternoon sun streaming in the western windows.

10: Enual modeling with the vermillion moke-mobile. Hot midday sun outside the gym and wellness centre. We listened to his favourite local music as we moved from place to place; happy, happy vibes and memories.

11: I love this scene. So peaceful, just predawn, breeze blowing. The magic of the environment.

I worked closely with the indomitable Stylist Sanri Pienaar and the fantastic Kisawa team, and we created these images together.

Be inspired!

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