Miavana by Time + Tide versus Kisawa Sanctuary: which one is best?

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TodayMiavana by Time + Tide versus Kisawa  Sanctuary – which one is best?

I rarely compare luxury hotels on my travel blog. I’ve only done it once last year, by comparing the Four Seasons Bora Bora with the St Regis Bora Bora. I did so because most discerning travelers who want to travel to Bora Bora will be faced with the dilemma of staying at either the Four Seasons or the St Regis, the two most exclusive 5-star hotels on the island. Today, I am adding another hotel comparison to my blog: Miavana by Time + Tida in Madagascar (which debuted in 2017; read my review here) versus Kisawa Sanctuary in Mozambique (which debuted 2019; read my review here).

Miavana and Kisawa are both ultra-luxe properties which rank among the world’s best beach resorts and which share a lot of similarities (spectacular beach setting, enormous private villas, nature-focused excursions, top-notch service, etc …). Moreover, both resorts are regarded as the ultimate beach getaway after a safari in Southern Africa and they are in the same price range (we’re talking here about room rates that start at 5000 euros per night, although that includes all meals, beverages as well as a selection of activities. The question is: which one is best, Miavana by Time + Tide or Kisawa Sanctuary? So, here’s my detailed comparison of both resorts.

Have you ever stayed at Miavana and Kisawa? If so, what was your experience and which resort did you prefer? Leave a comment.

For ease of navigation, I’ll compare the following aspects of Miavana and Kisawa (announcing a winner in each category):

  1. Location
  2. Getting there
  3. Villas
  4. Style & design
  5. Communal areas
  6. Spa
  7. Food 
  8. Beach
  9. Excursions
  10. Weather


Miavana by Time + Tide calls the Indian Ocean island of Madagscar its home. Mysterious and shrouded in myth, Madagascar is one of the most unique, iconic and biodiverse places on earth. The ultra-luxe property is located on the remote island sanctuary of Nosy Ankao, off the north east coast of Madagascar. Nosy Anko is the largest of five islands in the Ankao archipelago, offering turquoise Indian Ocean waters, pristine beaches, and untouched wilderness. Nosy Ankao has an interesting history. A transient location for seasonal fisherman, the island’s one small village lost its entire population (of around 10) after they ate turtle meat which was poisoned by seasonal algae. In the 1990s the island was used by ‘pirates’ as a way to avoid police control on the roads in northern Madagascar. Today, the island is the exclusive home of Miavana (except for the local village whose inhabitants now work at the resort).

Kisawa Sanctuary is located in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, a region which broke away from the mainland thousands of years ago and now harbors one of the planet’s richest yet least explored subtropical ecosystem. The waters that lap the archipelago are filled to the brim with an array of reef fish, sea turtles and game fish. An assortment of endangered marine life have also been documented here such as whale sharks, manta rays, leatherback turtles, humpback whales and the very rare dugong. Declared a National Park in 1971, the Bazaruto Archipelago is made up of 5 islands: Santa Carolina, Bangué, Benguerra Island, Magaruque, and Bazaruto. Kisawa is set on Benguerra Island, the second largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which extends over a mere 11 km (6.8 mi) in length. With just two intimate ultra-luxe lodges adorning its shores (Kisawa Sanctuary and &Beyond Benguerra Island), the island offers an invitation to escape the cacophony of everyday life.

Winner: Miavana (because of its private island setting).



Miavana enjoys a remote setting, which is part of its appeal. That said, getting there implies a long journey: you need to take a flight to one of the two airports in Northern Madagascar (Nosy Be or Diego Suarez), which are only served by a small number of airlines, followed by a 30 min (from Diego Suarez) or 60 min (from Nosy Be) helicopter flight. The helicopter flight itself offers breathtaking vistas though of the wild landscapes of one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, including bird’s eye views of humpback whales in the ocean below if you are lucky. Miavana has full-time helicopter pilots on hand that use the resorts’ privately owned Robinson R66 helicopters, which are painted turquoise with white stripes to match the resort’s interiors.

Getting to Kisawa Sanctuary is a lot easier as compared to Miavana. The resort is accessible by helicopter from the nearby airport of Vilankulos, which receives daily commercial flights from Johannesburg (JNB) and Maputo (MPT). After touching down in Vilankulos, a Kisawa airport host meets and assists guests through immigration, and introduces them to the third-party helicopter company. The flight to the resort takes only about 5 to 10 minutes and offers incredible vistas of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Alternatively, guests can also reach Kisawa from Vilankulos by private boat, a journey which takes about 30 minutes and which can also be arranged upon booking.

Winner: Kisawa (because getting there is less time consuming). When your journey originates in Johannesburg, it will take a 90 min flight to Vilankulos followed by a 10 min helicopter flight to reach Kisawa compared to a 3 hour flight to Nosy Bay, followed by a 60 min helicopter flight to get to Miavana. Kisawa also has the advantage that it can be reached without backtracking via Johannesburg Airport after a safari since Airlink offers direct flights from Kruger International Airport to Vilankulos on selected days; getting to Miavana after a South African safari will always involve a bit more planning: Airlink only flies twice a week to Nosy Be and these flights leaves in the morning (so you will have the spend the night prior the flight in Johannesburg).


Miavana features 14 supremely luxurious beach villas, offering one, two and three bedrooms. Space is no issue as these palatial villas are enormous in size. And what’s more, they are dotted on the island’s western side along the magnificent beach, affording spectacular views of the ocean, mainland Madagascar (at the horizon), and the sunset. Each villa features a private pool, lush garden, stylish dining and living area, well-stocked kitchenette, master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, and a study room which can be converted into a children’s bedroom. Each villa also comes with its own bicycles and electric buggy to explore the island.

Kisawa Sanctuary features 12 enormous private residences which are a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom luxury villas. Some of the residences are located on the calmer cove (lagoon) side while others shelter in the dunes on the ocean side, yet all are carefully positioned within their own secluded plot of at least one acre of beachfront, sand dunes and forest. Since there is so much space between dwelling, maximum privacy and optimum appreciation of the natural environment are ensured. Each villa features a living room, bedroom with kingsize bed, two dressing rooms, an oversized bathroom, and a separate pavilion housing a shaded lounge & dining area, outdoor kitchen, and private swimming pool. Each residence has its own dedicated Mini Moke for the duration of the guest’s visit.

Winner: The enormous villas at Miavana and Kisawa are equally impressive, so there’s no clear winner here (although I did prefer Kisawa’s Mini Mokes compared to Miavana’s electric buggies).


Miavana features a glamorous decor and architecture, designed by Johannesburg-based architects Silvio Rech & Lesley Carstens. Literally translating ‘to reconcile’, Miavana’s design blends barefoot beach luxury with mid-century modernism, which is a welcome relief for the heavy Balinese style with thatched pavilions that you find at many other tropical beach resorts. The airy and light, Le Corbusier inspired interiors feature neutral tones of ivory and light brown, matching the resort’s beach, rock walls, and decks. The minimalist elegance is counterbalanced by a few sprinkles of turquoise (e.g. curtains, daybeds, deckchairs) that bring a decisive island vibe.

An African inspired design is one of the pillars of Kisawa. Born out of a desire to blend in, rather than interrupt, Kisawa’s approach to craftsmanship and design mainly involved the local people from Benguerra and the neighboring islands. As a result, the skilled work of local weavers, thatchers, carpenters and textile makers is showcased with pride throughout the property. Celebrating the rich cultural history of Africa, unique art and antiques were sourced from across the continent, ensuring the preservation of heritage artefacts and their remaining provenance. These valuable works sit alongside locally made bespoke furniture, all coming together to provide a thoughtful and authentic sense of place, and a connection with the natural environment.

Winner: Miavana. I preferred the modernist style of Miavana as compared to the rustic African design of Kisawa, but that’s just a matter of personal taste of course.



Miavana features a beautiful beachfront public area, referred to as the ‘village’ or ‘piazza’. The piazza’s central stage is an open-air lounge and dining pavilion under an intricate palm-leaf-woven roof. Seemingly floating on a clear-blue water pond, this pavilion is flanked on one side by a bar which mimics a ruined fort (with rooftop terrace) and by a glorious, curved infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean on the other side. The piazza also boasts a beach pizzeria and a chic indoor restaurant with well-stocked wine cellar. The latter is crowned by four domes, each pierced with a circular glass skylight, allowing celestial beams of light into the space.

Except for a beautiful pool area, which is located right next to the spa & gym in the dunes overlooking the Indian Ocean, Kisawa does not have a communal guest area. Most guests of Kisawa will stay at their villa during their holiday, only venturing out for dinners, spa treatments and excursions (but that’s also the case at Miavana).

Winner: Miavana (because Kisawa doesn’t have a communal area)

6. SPA

Located amongst the dunes at the heart of Kisawa, is a wellness center dedicated to relaxation and wellbeing. The spa – which goes by the name Natural Wellness Center – offers individual treatments or personalized programs rooted in Ayurvedic medicine – one of the world’s oldest forms of holistic medicine, combining massage therapies, energy and sound healing work, meditation, acupressure, yoga, reiki and breath work. For treatments, the spa makes use of five signature essential treatment and blended massage oils that have been developed in collaboration with certified organic therapeutic oil specialists in Thailand. A state of the art Japanese Iyashi dome sauna uses gentle infrared heat to promote healing. Next to the spa is a fully equipped gym, where Pilates reformers are available for guests to use alone or with expert tuition.

Although there is an onsite spa, Miavana by Time + Tide lacks a spa facility. Spa treatments can be provided though by skilled therapists in the privacy of your villa.

Winner: Kisawa (because Miavana doesn’t have a spa)



As you can expect for a resort of this caliber, food at Miavana is delicious (with all meals and most beverages included in the nightly rate). Every day, the resort’s outstanding culinary team creates exquisite meals that bring together the finest local ingredients with world class skill. Dishes range from light and fresh to indulgent and delectable, with flavors pulled from around the globe. Daily menus are designed according to the latest island harvest and special consideration is given to any dietary requirements you may have. Guests can choose to dine in the privacy of their villa or under the stars in the resort’s stunning main piazza.

All-inclusive Kisawa Sanctuary has four on-site restaurants, which is insane when you realize that there are only 12 villas. However, not all restaurants are open each night, although that’s not really an issue (the staff will propose a meal plan for each day according to the opening times of the restaurants). At the four culinary locations, the ethos remains the same: a commitment to locally grown produce, the practice of organic, seasonal gardening methods, operating a zero-waste policy and using no processed ingredients. Kisawa has built a network of farmers and fishermen from within the Inhambane province, ensuring fresh local produce daily. Led by Culinary Director Jospeh Moubayed, the multiple venues offer a wide variety of dishes, with a focus on Mozambican and African flavors.

Winner: Miavana. Although Miavana has only one restaurant compared to the four dining venues at Kisawa, I did prefer the food at Miavana (which is truly fine dining and sophisticated). While food at Kisawa is incredible good, the resort’s cuisine focuses on healthy and locally-inspired home-style cooking but I would not describe it as truly fine-dining (except for the main dining venue, which serves a more sophisticated cuisine).



Fringed by an exceptionally beautiful white sand beach, Miavana represents an insanely beautiful island haven where guests can enjoy unique bespoke experiences in ultimate privacy. The endless, untouched, pristine beach is lined by a background of palm trees and offer views across the Indian Ocean towards the mainland of Madagascar. The beach here is protected by a sprawling coral reef, so it makes for gentle waves and tranquil waters which are perfect for a swim. The island on which Miavana is located is flat, except for a few dunes at its center (which are not visible from the beach).

Set within a massive protected conservation area, Kisawa Sanctuary straddles 5 km (3 mi) of unspoiled coastline featuring a glamorous white sand beach that is lined by huge sand dunes. In the eastern, ocean-side part of the estate, the wild beach features a powerful surf and crushing shorebreak, while the southern and western lagoon-side part of the sanctuary features a more calm beach, lapped by gentle waves. When walking on the beach, only a handful of Kisawa’s thatched roofs are visible amid the African bush, creating an almost surreal castaway experience.

Winner: Kisawa. The beach at Kisawa ranks among the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen at a resort during all my years of traveling around the globe. The beauty of the estate’s dunes, white sands and indigenous forest is jaw-droppingly spectacular.



Nosy Ankao – home of Miavana – forms part of nearly 15,000 hectares of marine space that along with the adjacent mainland makes up the Loky Manambato Protected Area. It means that activities at the resort are endless. There are opportunities to snorkel or dive the surrounding reef or venture out deep-sea fishing beyond it. Guided boat tours around the bays, lagoons and beaches provide valuable insight into this stunning and diverse ecosystem. Dolphin watching is possible from October to May, while humpback whales can be spotted between July and October. Four species of turtle are found in these waters and they can be seen nesting between May and mid-July. Another highlight not to be missed is a guided trek in Miavana’s local forest in search of the highly-endangered Crowned lemur, a primate known as Madagascar’s most iconic animal.  If you feel the need to ‘get off’ the island, helicopter trips to the mainland can be arranged at an additional fee. This includes excursions around northern Madagascar, which is home to fabulous landscapes and two famous National Parks.

Set amid a national marine park in the pristine Bazaruto Archipelago, Kisawa has access to some of the most  in the world. The resort’s schedule of guest experiences – which changes monthly to reflect the season and visiting wildlife – ranges from adventure and water sports to conservation and community building focused activities. For example, Kisawa offers different levels of PADI certified private and group diving experiences that range from bare skin snorkeling with turtles and reef fish to deep sea diving with black, blue and striped marlin, sail fish, yellowfin tuna, bull and tiger sharks and manta rays. Also from July to October, the Mozambique Channel becomes the ideal breeding and nursing ground for humpback whales, and guests can witness these majestic mammals breaching & rolling in exclusive expeditions. Another highly recommended tour at Kisawa Sanctuary is an exploration by private boat of the Bazaruto Archipelago, which includes stops at idyllic beaches and towering sand dunes.

Winner: Miavana. Both Miavana and Kisawa offer a wide range of stunning excursions, but it’s hard to beat Miavana’s private helicopter tours (Kisawa also offer a limited range of helicopter excursions, but these tours are contracted to a third party helicopter company).



Whilst a holiday in Madagascar – home of Miavana – can be enjoyed year-round, the principal wet season is from December through to the month of March. Often involving cyclones, it is probably best avoided! The best time to go to Madagascar is therefore between the months of April through to November, with July to September considered the prime months to visit with dry, sunny, albeit often windy weather.

The best time to visit Kisawa Sanctuary and the Bazaruto Archipelago is during the dry season, which runs from April to November. These are the cooler but drier winter months, with sunny weather and pleasant temperatures during the day (nights can get a bit chilly though in July and August). From December to April, the Bazaruto Archipelago is quite hot, which may make traveling uncomfortable. From February to March is hurricane season, so if you do visit during this time, be prepared for occasional downpours of rain.

Winner: Miavana and Kisawa enjoy a similar climate and seasons, so there’s no clear winner. During the drier and sunnier winter months (June to September), temperatures can be a bit colder at Kisawa, especially at night (since the resort if further away from the Equator as compared to Miavana), while Miavana may occasionally suffer from extremely windy conditions during the Southern African winter months.


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1 Comment

  1. Before reading this, Miavana hands down Kisawa too plain, too colorless. Maybe this review will change my opinion.

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