Kisawa: A Sanctuary of Mozambican Design

Kisawa Sanctuary is what one might expect generative AI might conjure when prompted with, “Create an exclusive eco-luxury resort with biophilic architecture situated on a remote verdant palm-fringed island rimmed by a swirling confluence of pristine white sand and azure water.” But imaginary, Kisawa is not. 

Overhead of the two bungalows Kisawa Residence with an open-air deck, situated on white beach sand and coastal forest facing the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Another island is visible in the distance across the ocean.

Kisawa’s landscape offers a diverse mixture of forest, beach, and sand dunes, only gently intruded by carefully constructed vernacular architecture made using local materials, each building positioned to give guests the feeling they have an entire island to themselves.

With an emphasis on privacy, tranquility, and biodiversity, Kisawa is a tantalizingly remote IRL getaway. Located about 12km from the Mozambique mainland, the resort is only accessible by boat or helicopter, the sort of idyllic far-off island destination where sensorial awakenings emerge and the days seem to stretch and merge all at once. Unsurprising, considering Kisawa hosts a mere 11 bespoke one-, two-, and three-bedroom Residences for guests, each is assigned their very own one acre plot stationed to protect privacy across the resort’s total footprint of 300-hectares. This allows the privileged few to explore the island with the leisure of comfortable castaways (and privileged you are if you can afford the starting price of 3600 € or about $3,898 per night for a One Bedroom Residence).

Overhead of a Kisawa Residence accommodations situated on white beach sand with coastal forest facing the azure waters of the Indian Ocean.

The drumstick-shaped island is in earshot of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Marine Park, a richly biodiverse subtropical landmass about 9 miles off the Eastern African coastline of Mozambique renown for azure waters, vibrant unspoiled reef habitats, and verdant dune forests spilling across the island’s flat outreach of sand.

Designed by resort founder and creative director Nina Flohr’s own NJF design studio, Flohr’s team worked in collaboration with Los Angeles-based Plus Design Group to create the property’s distinctive vernacular and harmonious architecture. With sweeping views and inside-out floorpans, the surrounding landscape and ecosystem exist at the forefront of the Kisawa experience, inviting guests to view migrating humpback whales, commune with gently grazing dugongs, and fraternize with cacophonous pink flamingos.

Thatch roof hut structures at the Kinsawa Sanctuary used for spa treatments.

Interior of thatch roof structure furnished with neutral modern furnishings, including sofas, armchairs, and stone coffee and side tables.

Guests might stay and leave completely unaware that Kisawa’s modern interpretation of vernacular Mozambican architecture was partially realized using a patented 3D-printing technology that transformed island sourced sand and seawater into mortar used during its construction. This locally sourced amalgamation of sand and water covers sections of structural facades, tiling, masonry, and flooring across both shared and private dwellings. But instead of bringing this high-tech construction technique to the forefront in form, Flohr’s vision was to magnify the beauty of traditional Mozambican crafts, with an emphasis on weaving, carpentry, and textiles visible surrounding and within every residence.

Organic-modern furnished Residence inside Kinsawa featuring yellow striped floor rug, king size bed, armchair and floor lamp with spinning ceiling fan and arching tall ceiling overhead.

The organic-modern furnishings and color scheme is unique to each room, with the arrangement of furniture, antiques, objects, and ceramics sourced from across Africa.

Open air contemporary style bath tub near open window facing toward ocean

Each of the Residence’s bathtubs and sinks ate made using additive 3D-printing technology.

Vintage style record player with stacks of records nearby

High ceiling Residence living and bedroom with large doors opened to the beach. A light green-yellow daybed sits across a rug with two armchairs and other furnishings visible across in an adjoining room.

Contrasting elements – high ceilings with low furnishings, natural light spilling into shaded interiors, private pools against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean – were all conceived to magnify the sense of the natural world in relation to the supremely private accommodations.

Outdoor kidney shaped pool surrounded by lounge chairs and the looming landscape of beach dunes and thatched buildings.

Two thatched Residences overlooking the setting sun of the Indian Ocean.

Pitched roof restaurant with winding path across sand dunes leading toward its entrance surrounded by palms.

Communal bar area with porthole windows across the wall, 7 stools, four armchairs, and large palms decorating the interior.

The epitome of luxury, Kisawa also hosts its very own in-house wood carver who was tasked to craft statues and carved forms using leftover wood remnants sourced from the sanctuary’s construction. Additionally, a series of undulating biophilic baskets are stationed across the property, each designed to reflect the waves of the Indian Ocean and echo the curved roofs of the Residences and Natural Wellness Center.

Overhead of biophilic woven baskets set in groups across the beach surrounded by local plants.

Overhead of undulating thatch roof design and wood deck with two lounge chairs set in the corner outreach facing the ocean.

What: Kisawa Mozambique
Where: Kisawa Sanctuary Benguerra Island Inhambane, 1304, Mozambique
How much: Starting at $3,898 per night
Highlights: Prioritizing privacy, each of Kisawa’s Bungalow Residences are assigned their own personal stretch of beach, an open-air deck, an infinity pool, and outdoor day area with an outdoor kitchen staffed by a dedicated service team and a pantry stocked to individual preference. Additionally each Residence comes with its own dedicated mini electric-powered Moke. The resort’s Natural Wellness Centre provides spa services and is paired with an adjoining 25-meter central Lagoon Pool.
Design draw: Art and design sourced from local artisans play prominently across the property, including the work of weavers, thatchers, carpenters, textile makers, and artists sourced from the local Benguerra Island. Those with a curiosity about cutting-edge architectural technologies should inquire about the incorporation of 3D-printing technology used to construct Kisawa’s concrete-free foundations.
Book it: Kisawa Mozambique

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Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at gregoryhan.com.

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