Mozambique 2014: Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Archipelago

Bazaruto Archipelago National Park is a remote cluster of six islands located in picturesque southern Mozambique. These nutrient rich waters contain such a hotbed of biodiversity that they are considered to be the ‘Galapagos’ of the Indian Ocean. I spent a few days in this little piece of paradise sailing through the islands on a dhow.

Lowtide boat resting on the beach in a cloudy day in Vilanculos.

Lowtide boat resting on the beach in a cloudy day in Vilanculos.

Getting to the Bazaruto
The Bazaruto is a group of islands in southern Mozambique known for its incredible beaches and marine life. Getting to the islands is not easy but has become easier recently. Vilanculos, a sleepy town full of South African ex-pats is home base for travel to the islands.

Vilanculos can be reached by flight from Johannesburg via SAA airlink, or driving from the SA/Mozambique border (~10 hours). There are a few backpacker resorts in Vilanculos and from this town, a few companies organize dhow safaris to visit the islands. Because there is a large South Africa presence here, it is more developed and tourism infrastructure is good.

Our little hotel stop, Smugglers, in Vilanculos before heading to the Bazaruto.

Our little hotel stop, Smugglers, in Vilanculos before heading to the Bazaruto.

Part of an overland tour I did with Nomad, this was the highlight of our 2 week trip through Swaziland and Mozambique. We did a 2 day, 1 night dhow safari through sailaway.co.za departing from Vilanculos, a sleepy beachside town full of South African ex-pats and also the gateway town to BazarutoAs this was already organized and we had already paid for it, I didn’t bother asking around for better rates. However, I think these guys are probably the most expensive.

The group stopping for lunch on the drive up from Tofo to Vilanculos.

The group stopping for lunch on the drive up from Tofo to Vilanculos.

Nevertheless, there isn’t much to write about when it comes to the Bazaruto, pictures are all that’s needed. There are five islands that make up this Archipelago: Bazaruto Island, Benguerua, Santa Catalina, Magaruque, and Chizungune. We ended up visiting Magaruque and Bazaruto. These islands are all home to ultra-luxury lodges ($500-1500/night) and some islands can only be visited with a reservation.

Sailing past some really expensive lodges in the Bazaruto

Sailing past some really expensive lodges in the Bazaruto

Loading up our big dhow for the upcoming days!

Loading up our big dhow for the upcoming days!

 

Magaruque Island
Our first stop on our dhow safari was Magaruque Island, a deserted beach paradise. The Bazaruto is famous and particularly unique to me because of its dramatic sandbars that appear and disappear with the tides.  As we sailed towards Magaruque, it was still low tide and we could barely see the sandbars but as we got to the island, the tide was coming in, and a large sandbar appeared in the distance. It looked so beautifully inviting that I felt like I could swim there!

Approaching Margaruque

Approaching Margaruque

We set up camp here for a few hours, while the crew of our dhow safari cooked us up a delicious seafood lunch, and snorkeled. After lunch, we sailed back towards the mainland (they are no longer allowed to set up camp in the Bazaruto as the islands all belong to someone), where we sleep in tents and await the morning.

Our ship captain also preparing our delicious seafood lunch

Our ship captain also preparing our delicious seafood lunch

Beautiful Margaruque island!

Beautiful Margaruque island!

Our campsite for the night.

Our campsite for the night.

Lounging after a long day sailing around the Indian Ocean.

Lounging after a long day sailing around the Indian Ocean.

Bazaruto Island
Day 2 of the dhow safari begins with some snorkeling next to Benguerra Island. The snorkeling was excellent. There is diving available here too as we saw a few dive boats. God, all these islands are just incredible. We sailed past some of the private resorts and my goodness they were incredible, as they should be for those exorbitant prices. Some day!

Approaching Bazaruto Island.

Approaching Bazaruto Island.

Walking up the dunes

Walking up the dunes

Ridiculous views, this picture does NOT do it any justice. The views of the sandbanks up on a huge dune is something else.

Ridiculous views, this picture does NOT do it any justice. The views of the sandbanks up on a huge dune is something else.

Sadly, this sand was not quite as soft as the sand on the dunes of Namibia.

Sadly, this sand was not quite as soft as the sand on the dunes of Namibia.

With all that said however, Bazaruto Island is definitely the highlight. There is a huge sand dune on this island that we could see from a distance. As soon as we docked, we ran straight towards the sand dune. Sand dunes are incredible enough as it is but when it is surrounded by beautiful, tropical colored water, that is something very special. It was like Sossusvlei meets Zanzibar. You can jump around, scream, and yell because there is no one else around!

From talking to the locals, the smaller and less visited islands around the Bazaruto are supposedly even more nice than the two islands we visited of Margaruque and Bazaruto. Thankfully, I would be heading up to the Quirimbas in Northern Mozambique shortly!

Contact Me

Send me a quick email and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! For any travel or itinerary related questions, please leave a COMMENT on the respective post instead of emailing me. Thanks!

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Ilha De Mozambique Dhow