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Sarah Birkett & Adam Humphreys

The owners of the just-opened Sussurro hotel in Mozambique have created an off-the-grid oasis

Sarah Birkett & Adam Humphreys

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With their innovative Mozambican property, Sussurro, owners Sarah Birkett and Adam Humphreys have created a completely off-the-grid oasis, utilizing sustainable systems since its inception. Everything from solar generated power and an organic permaculture garden, to zero single-use plastics, Sussurro has AHL’s Future Forward stamp of approval. With summer being the perfect time to visit Africa’s southeast coast, Cape Town-based contributor Carolina Ramirez Herrera headed over to chat with the power couple behind the sustainable and swoon-worthy hotel.

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Inside a bungalow at Sussurro Boutique Hotel
Inside a bungalow at Sussurro Boutique Hotel

Carolina Ramirez Herrera: How did you two meet, and how did the idea for Sussurro — or better yet, a hotel in general — come about?

Sarah Birkett and Adam Humphreys: We met back in our home country Zimbabwe, in the capital city Harare. Adam had moved back to Africa from Europe — a return to conservation and the bush. I had come back to Zimbabwe from London on a short trip to visit family and to write an article on traveling through the country. We fell in love, and both wanted to make a home where we could reconcile our respective work while creating something together. Sussurro naturally took form around our combined backgrounds in hospitality and wildlife conservation [Adam] and African material culture and design [Sarah]. But more so, through the contribution of our team: a small rural community of fishermen-turned-carpenters-turned-builders-turned-hospitality. Their work in creating Sussurro and welcoming guests into the spaces that they personally created is what makes Sussurro what it is.

Carolina: You are both the masterminds behind the design and jaw-dropping interiors, yet you didn’t technically study architecture by trade. Tell me your secrets.

Sarah and Adam: Firstly, thank you! We are a team of three including our master builder Shumba, he has been Adam and my mentor. He is our secret.

Carolina: What was one of the biggest challenges when building?

Sarah and Adam: Definitely the logistics of getting everything here, because Sussurro is only accessible at low tide. In this way it also makes perfect sense to source everything as nearby to the property as possible.

Sussurro lounge with a view of the dhow
Sussurro lounge with a view of the dhow

Carolina: And the biggest lesson from a sustainability front?

Sarah and Adam: The value of fresh water.

Carolina: Your favorite spot on the property and why?

Sarah and Adam: The food garden because it’s where we all end up when we know we need to work, but also need to just hang with the chickens for a bit.

Carolina: Favorite time of the year on the island?

Sarah and Adam: We love it when it’s extremely humid and hot, so October and November in Mozambique. Everything moves super slow; we have to start the working day at 5 a.m. to avoid the heat. Three hour siesta periods spent in the shade are mandatory, and balmy red sunsets begin at 4 p.m.

The pool overlooking the waterways
The pool overlooking the waterways
Sunset over the Mozambique Channel
Sunset over the Mozambique Channel

Carolina: If Sussurro had a sound, smell and taste, what would they be or how would you explain them?

Sarah and Adam: Rustling of the palm trees that sway with a sultry East African beat, smell of the simbiri woodsmoke (our carpentry hardwood off-cuts give an aromatic scent as they ember). Tastes like crayfish and piri piri or baobab bourbon sours.

Carolina: Everything on the property is 100% African sourced and made. Can you tell us about some of your favorite items?

Sarah and Adam: Our Kenyan loomed kikoys (East African cotton beach wraps.) The textile industry in Africa is constantly marginalized by machine-made factory imports and traditional, breathable and chic unisex kikoys are the perfect utilitarian item. We’re sampling seasonal weights and colorways in Nairobi for this coming summer.

We also like the woven Mozambican esteiras (traditional sleeping/communal eating/portable shade mat). We use them across the property and on excursions with guests. They’re brilliant.

Architecturally, the palm woven makuti roof lining still has us lying in wonderment under it each night — from deeply beautiful Mozambican craftsmanship.

African-crafted pottery by the poolside
African-crafted pottery by the poolside
Carlito weaving
Carlito weaving

Carolina: Is there any other specific destination or hotel that is also paving the way for mindful, responsible travel that you would recommend?

Sarah and Adam: Great question. Not a city but the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique have taken a hard and beautiful line in their impressive community and wildlife projects. We can’t say enough about them, they are very inspirational.

Carolina: What advice would you give our readers looking to make more responsible decisions re: travel?

Sarah and Adam: Stay for longer in one destination (country). And be willing to go off the beaten track to support less scripted experiences that benefit communities unaffected by over-tourism that need patronage the most.

Carolina: What keeps you up at night?

Sarah and Adam: Mosquitos 🙂

The open kitchen
The open kitchen

Carolina: What are you currently reading?

Sarah and Adam: Adam is re-reading “The Wheel of Time” high fantasy series by Robert Jordan and Sarah has just begun “The Beautiful Things are Not Yet Born” by Ayi Kwei Armah.

Carolina: If you could pick three guests dead or alive to visit – who would you pick?

Sarah and Adam: British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, the late Zimbabwean musician Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, we cry to his music and the good that he did for young artists in this region. And Mozambican painter Cassi Namoda.

Dhow hero Olivia McMurray
Dhow hero Olivia McMurray
Luca the dachshund on the beach
Luca the dachshund on the beach
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