WHY TRAVEL HERE?
Considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Africa, Bazaruto was declared a national park in 1971 – the entire area between the mainland and the 150-fathom mark is a protected world-class conservation area.
The Bazaruto Archipelago consists of six idyllic islands off the Mozambique coast between the towns of Vilankulo and Inhassoro: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina (Paradise Island), Bangue and Pansy Shell Island.
The Archipelago boasts 180 species of birds, various endemic butterflies, freshwater crocodiles, Samango monkeys and the Suni antelope.
The waters surrounding the islands are home to more than 80% of all marine fish families of the Indo-Pacific – around 2,000 species including the largest fish in the world – the whale shark, (in fact, not a whale). The protected reefs also support dolphin, the endangered dugong, game fish, marine turtles and giant lobster.
The eastern seaboard of the islands (apart from Santa Carolina) face onto the deep waters of the Mozambique Channel, which is rich in game fish, including marlin, barracuda and sailfish.
Minke and southern right whales are resident species, while humpback whales can be seen from September to November when they migrate up the coast to Madagascar.
Birdlife includes the Madagascar Squacco heron, Narina trogon, Nyasa seedcracker and green Coucal, while lesser flamingos visit the islands, as well.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the South African Nature Foundation and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) all fund conservation projects on Bazaruto Island.
In 1989, the EWT, in agreement with Mozambique's DNFFB (Direcção Nacional de Florestas e Fauna Bravia), employed ecologist Paul Dutton as warden of the archipelago.
He initiated the "Mungonzices" community game-guard programme to promote sustainable utilisation of resources through interaction and regular communication between the various stakeholders of the archipelago.
The three larger islands were originally part of an extensive sand spit peninsula that was attached to the mainland, but separated as the continent of Africa sunk further into the Indian Ocean over millions of years.
Santa Carolina is the only true rock island and is surrounded by deeper water than the other three – it is only 3 km long and less than a kilometre wide.
The island of Bazaruto is 31 km long and just over 6 km at its widest; there are massive dunes on the seaward shore and freshwater lakes in the southern part.
Benguerra Island is 11 km long and 5 km wide. Most of the tourism facilities are located on the landward (lee) side of the islands to avoid the infrequent bad weather, such as high winds and strong currents.
Bazaruto and Benguerra are structurally very similar and consist of dense, tangled forest-covered sand dunes, marshy grassland and quite a few freshwater lakes. The beaches are lined with palm trees.
The islands experience a humid tropical climate, January and February being the wettest months with about 120 mm falling in each month. The rainy season is also the hottest period, with average temperatures around 30 C (85 F). The best months to go are the cooler drier months may to October with little or no rain and temperatures rarely below 20 C (68 F).
The fantastic beaches and superb weather are prime conditions for all the activities one can partake in whilst at one of the islands: snorkelling, scuba diving, windsurfing, deep sea fishing, dhow day trips, beach walks and other hiking trails. Several resorts have yachts available for charter, while a number of companies offer live-aboard packages. Island cruises are ideal ways to explore the stunning ocean off the islands of the Archipelago.
The airport at Vilankulo has International status and it is here that most of the guests to the lodges on the islands clear customs. There are airstrips for light aircraft on all of the islands.
Most of the lodges arrange return crossings from either Vilankulo or Inhassoro by speedboat if one is staying with them and this is the safest and best option of crossing. Dhows can be arranged and although it sounds like a romantic option it is actually cramped, unpredictable, slow, very exposed to the sun, and can take any number of hours depending on the wind and the tides.
From the south via Maputo and Inhambane the road to Inhassoro and Vilankulo is in good condition. From the north via Chimoio, Inchope and Rio Save the road is in poor condition but passable.
If travelling by car there is secure parking available at the Hotel Dona Ana in Vilankulo, and at the Seta Hotel in Inhassoro.