If your intention of visiting Mozambique is to see the famously pristine beaches with turquoise waters, you should go for the islands instead of mainland Mozambique. There are two main archipelagos in the country – Bazaruto in the south and Quirimbas in the north. Bazaruto off the coast of Tofu consists of six islands collectively called the Bazaruto National Park. These islands are home to not only some of the biggest dunes in the world but also endangered marine species living in the coral reefs of the Mozambican channel. Despite the tourism potential, Bazaruto Islands have some of the most unspoiled beaches in the world. Yet, there are plenty of activities for you, both below and above the surface.
Best Time To Visit
Just like the rest of Mozambique, the Bazaruto Archipelago experiences a subtropical climate. The dry season runs from April to October, while November-March is the wet season. It is possible to visit the islands in both seasons; however, you might encounter afternoon rains and thunderstorms in the wet season. Also, January and February have a high risk of cyclones throughout Mozambique. Although these cyclones mostly affect the northern half of the country, it doesn’t hurt to plan your holiday when the risk is low.
As for the temperature, it is mostly warm throughout the year, and you can go diving or swimming without hesitation.
Although Anantara Bazaruto is the largest of the six islands, it has almost no civilization except for a few small villages and the Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort. It is mostly because of the dunes as high as high rises. The island is particularly popular amongst divers, who come here to explore the world-famous Two Mile Reef and the rare marine species. Because the reef gets protection from the main currents of the Indian Ocean, the marine wildlife here is unique to the reef and is rarely present elsewhere.
The second-largest island of Bazaruto is Benguerra that emerged right by the Mozambique Channel. The channel has the highest concentration of reefs and marine life in the Indian Ocean. So, you can expect a lot of underwater activities, but the island also offers excellent hiking options, and the opportunity to meet the locals of the island.
The other islands are much smaller and are easy to explore on daily boat excursions from Bazaruto or Benguerra. These are Santa Carolina, Magaruque, Banque, and Nyati Islands.
Diving and Snorkelling
Beneath the surface of the azure waters of Bazaruto Marine National Park, there are at least 160 marine species unique to the Two Miles Reef. Among them are moray eels, dugongs (sea cows), reef sharks, and not one but five dolphin species. Besides the regulars, there are visitors to the reefs from other parts of the world, including humpback whales, whale sharks, and manta rays. You might wonder how you can get the best of the Bazaruto reefs. Luckily, both Benguerra and Bazaruto Islands have PADI-certified 5-star diving centers that will help you learn the theory and practice diving at the best spots of the reefs.
The dunes of Bazaruto are not only high but also quite steep, which makes them ideal for sandboarding. The accommodations on the islands offer sandboarding tours with training, as well as refreshments at the end.
The slender and long-hulled vessel called dhow is one of the symbols of Mozambique’s coastline. Dhows used to be a method of transport for traders and fishers. Now, the same boats carry curious tourists like you, who want to catch romantic sunset views while sailing alongside humpback whales.
Bazaruto Islands are not only about the surrounding waters; there is much more to see on land. Guided island expeditions tours will take you on 4×4 vehicles to the villages where you can engage with the friendly locals, buy local crafts, walk around colonial lighthouses, and even watch a soccer tournament between teams of the local youth.
Another way to explore the island is a horse-riding tour. A tour company called Mozambique Horse Safaris organizes small horse-riding tours in Benguerra. With the horses, it is easy to enter the narrow roads and ride on muddy trails. Also, you can even swim with the horses afterward.
There are several options for exploring the Bazaruto Islands, but none of them come close to the thrill of helicopter rides. Organized by AndBeyond Resorts in Benguerra, the helicopters will fly over the islands for you to see even the most isolated parts of the archipelago. It will be priceless to see the shades of blue and gold fuse into each other, not to mention giant whales jumping out of the water in slow motion.
Even when we are traveling, we sometimes need a break from our holiday. A traditional Mozambican spa day amidst Bazaruto’s lush forest is what you exactly need. The award-winning Anantara Spa stands out for its implementation of traditional therapies practiced with indigenous herbs during ancient rituals. The center also comes with a privately-owned beach for maximizing the serenity you need.
Of the six islands, Bazaruto and Benguerra have accommodation options, some of which offer high-end luxurious stays.
Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort
It is the only accommodation option in Bazaruto Island and the main organizer of the activities we mentioned above. Besides its numerous adventure tours, the resort has an award-winning spa, but there is even more. With three fine-dining restaurants, fitness centers, infinity pools, and conference centers, it is impossible not to fall in love.
Among many fun activities at the resort, there is even a cooking class, where you learn to do wonders with the Mozambican spices and essential ingredients.
AndBeyond is the highest-end accommodation option in Benguerra. It stands out for its traditional dhow cruise tours.
Benguerra Island Lodge
This idyllic lodge has a massive acacia forest on one side and a pristine beach on the other. It is especially popular amongst couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Azura Benguerra Island
Built by the local community, Azura Benguerra Island is the first eco-friendly resort in Mozambique. It also won World Luxury Hotel Awards in 2017.
The easiest – and the only way – to get to Bazaruto Archipelago is via the lovely coastal town of Vilanculos. Your entrance to Mozambique will probably be at Maputo, but you can still fly to Imhabane or Beira via domestic flights. These two cities are only a few hours from Vilanculos. Alternatively, you can take a direct flight from Johannesburg to these two cities, but the flights are less frequent.
From Vilanculos, all you have to do is to take the ferry that will take you to Benguerra in less than an hour. If you are staying at Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, you can arrange a transfer, in which case a hotel representative will meet you in Vilanculos and put you on a chartered flight or speed-boat to the hotel.
Tips & Things You Might Need To Know
- Mozambique is in a high-risk Malaria zone, so you should take preventative anti-malarial pills as prescribed by your pharmacist.
- The hotels in Bazaruto Islands offer a limited number of special discounts to newly-weds, families, and those visiting around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
- To visit the small islands, you can join island hopping tours. Paradise Island in the far north is an absolute jewel completely free of civilization. Interestingly, you can still find ruins of a hotel dating back to the Portuguese Mozambican era.