I’ve been exploring the world and its islands for years. The coral beaches of the Maldives are too limited for me; the coves protected by the forests of Thailand are honeymoon brochures; the waves of the Atlantic of Brazil beautiful but cold; the South Pacific lagoons shallow and warm.
On the other hand, the extravagant extension of the wild coast of Mozambique is the perfection with its small, sandy islands like the archipelago of Bazaruto, one of the most beautiful beach destinations on the African continent.
The archipelago consists of five idyllic islands: Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque, Santa Carolina (also called Island of Paradise) and Bangue. The area is now protected and is a national park since 1971, including the coral reefs that surround the islands, becoming the only official marine reserve in the country.
Due to its clear and warm waters these coral reefs provide a pristine habitat for more than 2,000 species of fish, along with sharks, whales and dolphins in addition to offering one of the best dives in the world where you can find whale sharks, giant lobsters, humpback whales, turtles, dolphins and manta rays. The islands also have about 200 dugongs or marine cows, the last sustainable African population of these large mammals.
It is also a paradise for bird watching, attracting a great variety with about 160 registered species including fish eagles and pink flamingos.
The park is one of the largest in the Indian Ocean and a crucial achievement in global marine conservation. An almost intact paradise on earth, the archipelago has earned its reputation as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”.
The coastal city of Vilankulo is 750 km north of the capital Maputo and is the gateway to visit the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Vilankulo is named after the local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, and some of the “bairros” (suburbs) are named like his children. Known as Vilanculos during colonial times, the name was changed to Vilankulo in independence.
Vilankulo has been growing extensively over the past decade. With an international airport and a market where it deserves a visit to see the local products that you can then try in the restaurants scattered around the city where they offer you the freshest sea food at very cheap prices.
Its long beach is a highlight where it is advisable to take a walk before dark watching the children splashing happily in the shallow waters accompanied by their mothers collecting oysters of sand while impatiently waiting for the arrival of fishermen who leave all the fish in the sand and several groups of screaming women try to choose the best one for themselves and their families.
In Vilankulo there is a wide variety of accommodation from camping and backpackers to sublime luxury and private hotels.
I stayed at the Zombie Cucumber. What a wonderful place! The owners, a Belgian-French couple, Bruno and Valérie, made me feel at home. Also with a very attentive staff always ready to provide you information on routes, excursions and various activities.
Located in the center of Vilankulo with easy access to the beach, the central market and the bus station. What I like is how well cared it is, with a large garden where there are 4 cabins, the circular dormitory (the first I have seen in my travels), the reading room, the restaurant-bar with very good food, the pool , all very integrated with the plants, flowers and trees that adorn the beautiful garden make this place a real haven of peace and tranquility.
From these same lodgings, they offered excursions to discover the most beautiful islands of the Bazaruto archipelago, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of turquoise sea, the way to get there with a motor boat or the dhow, the name given to the sailboats of the local fishermen.
ISLAND OF BAZARUTO
The island of Bazaruto is the most important island within the Bazaruto archipelago and the national park. 35 km x 7 km, it is a small piece of paradise, undoubtedly a beautiful and unexplored destination, characterized by its fauna, blue waters and celestial beaches with coral reefs that offer beautiful places to dive or snorkel and enjoy an impressive variety of tropical fish.
My first impact was to reach the southern part of the island and see a large stretch of beach where the tides lowered the water level to let out some small islands where the white color of the sand stood out contrasting with the blue of the little waters deep ones that surrounded them. That made the islands change their shape, being the only witness who walked through these white sands and the golden sand dunes that on one side were the guardians of this wonderful show. The peace of the moment was sometimes disturbed by the flight of the pink flamingos that saw my presence as a danger.
And as a contrast, climbing one of the dunes, there was a lot of vegetation on the other side with mangroves and a dry lake of fresh water where crocodiles abound. This beauty was endless like my eyes that did not stop surprising me from the colors of the water and the magical place I was living.
Apart from the landscape wonders that the island gave me, Bazaruto is an idyllic destination to relax in the sun and disconnect from the world and a perfect place for vip people who want to disconnect and be unknown for a while, so they have one of the most sophisticated accommodations in the country, the Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort & Spa where you can choose 44 rooms between luxury villas and very spacious and bright beach bungalows.
Back to Vilankulo, a stop on the beaches of the island of Benguera. The sand was so white that the reflection made my eyes protect. Another sigh that you are living a dream.
Also called Paradise Island is considered the “jewel” of the archipelago but unfortunately I could not visit it. Just 2 km long and 500 m wide, the island is surrounded by three beautiful beaches and deep channels for fishing. The island was known for its hotel and when tourists and famous people were staying there but since the civil war that is totally abandoned. Today, a millionaire is expected to resurface again.
ISLAND OF MAGARUQUE
The small island of Magaruque of 2 km² of land is located just less than 10km east of the mainland of Mozambique. They had told me about the beauty of its beaches and that in a couple of hours of going around you knew it. Well, I went there with a fast boat and in 15 minutes I stepped on the most populated part of the island where the fishermen live.
I left the “civilization” and started walking on the beach very calmly; I had 4 hours of time and to get away from the “noises” of the three fishermen who arrived with their boats. I step white sand that contrasts with the small black rocks and I find a long deserted beach where the white sand had turned golden. On one side, the sea and the other, not very high dunes that guarded my steps of happiness to be in such a magical and special place with a dead nature of trees and trunks that made my camera work. Suddenly at the end of the beach I saw a white sand tongue without knowing if it was another island or it continued being the same beach until I got closer and suddenly this white sand tongue had been multiplied by hundreds of tiny islands of different shapes of white sand fixed in the radiant eddies of the living blue that surrounded them, incredible!!.
I couldn’t believe where I was but suddenly the picture that made me decide to travel to Mozambique came to my mind and there it was, stepping on these undulating sands of shallow water of emerald green colors. I started jumping from island to island, swimming, jumping and screaming alone, just in the midst of so much beauty, thanking at every moment this vision of fantasy which came true in this magical place that I was not expecting to find in Magaruque. At the end the 4 hours became very short.
My first experience in the Bazaruto Archipelago I could say that it is one of the best African getaways I have ever had, with the permission of the neighboring country Madagascar that I also know, making it one of the best travel destinations in Mozambique that you couldn’t miss.
The sensations that I had treading these virgin places made me pinch myself more than once to ask myself if it was a dream or a reality what I was living, and Bazaruto has been one of these places with dazzling white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, excellent temperate climate throughout the year and the perfect refuge for a vacation that has offered a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.