A sanctuary for the soul – that’s the best way to describe Bazaruto island. Just think unspoiled beach, silky soft sand, large sand dunes and a bountiful of marine life; Bazaruto is a near pristine tropical paradise. It is one of the five islands found in the Bazaruto archipelago. The other four being Benguerra, Magaruque, Bangue, and Santa Carolina. At 37 km long and 7 km wide Bazaruto is the largest. Thanks to its nearby coral reefs and an array of tropical fish, Bazaruto has been rated as one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world! On my recent girls trip to Vilanculos we took a day trip out to experience the “pearl of the Indian Ocean.” Afterall, you can’t go to Vilanculos and not visit Bazaruto. We took a boat trip out from Vilanculos to Bazaruto for the day, and got to experience this hidden gem.
If you’re looking for a heavenly escape to forget your troubles and bask in the African sun, then Bazaruto is just the place to be. It’s so tranquil and the kind of place that you know you will be reminiscing about for years to come! We stayed in Vilanculos for a total of five days – at Vilanculos Beach lodge – which you can read more about here. My favourite part of our trip was the Bazaruto experience. We booked a day trip through Sailaway Dhow Safaris, and while we didn’t have the best experience in terms of booking (more on that below), the trip ended up being perfect.
About Sailaway Dhow Safaris
If you’re taking a trip from Vilanculos to Bazaruto, you have quite a few boat tour options to choose from. As I mentioned, we booked our tour through Sailaway and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. We did have a few hassles with the booking. They weren’t very helpful when we had questions (one of them regarding the weather). And as it turns out, the weather did not play in our favour. The hotel we were staying at advised that we ask to move it to the following day because going out in such conditions wouldn’t be a pleasant or particularly safe experience. However, Sailaway were adamant that they were still going out. They weren’t very accommodating in allowing us to move our booking to the next day.
But thankfully after much negotiating and some help from our hotel, they agreed to move our booking! We were so grateful that they did because the overcast and windy conditions that we experienced on the day that we were supposed to do our boat trip would have made for a lousy time! Aside from that – Sailaway were fantastic! From the time we set foot in their “office” early morning to begin our trip to a private drop-off back at our hotel later that evening – they went out of there way to ensure that we had a great experience.
Sailaway offers fully catered safari tours that will allow you to sit back and enjoy the islands. The trip includes big meals, snacks, tea and coffee, water, and juice. Their speciality is seafood and you won’t be disappointed. Lateen rigged dhows have been sailing the Indian ocean for more than two thousand years – and a dhow is the boat used for the tour.
What to expect on your trip from Vilanculos to Bazaruto
The tour begins at 8am in the Sailaway “office” – which is basically just a Bush house equipped with a few admin facilities and boating paraphernalia. Once checked in they run over the itinerary for the day and give you the necessary gear; flippers, rock shoes and waterproof bags if needed. From there we walked down to the beachfront, where the dhow was waiting. As we sailed away from the shore I kept an eye on the horizon – there’s something so magical about the ocean.
The trip from Vilanculos to Bazaruto was quite a bit longer than expected – dhows are slow. It took close to three hours – with a 40 minute snorkelling session on route. FYI – I learned the hard way to make sure that you fully empty your bladder before setting sail. I had no idea that the trip was so long and about an hour in I desperately needed the toilet. Needless to say, there’s no toilet onboard and once you get to Bazaruto, the toilet is a long drop (hole in the ground) – there’s even a toilet sign. It’s so disgusting and smelly that you would rather just use the Bush. TMI? Sorry but it’s worth the warning!
Along the way we were given tea and coffee (probably didn’t help the bladder issue) and a few snacks to keep the tummy full. I watched as our chef – Alfredo Boane – boiled the water on a makeshift fire in a sandpit on the front side of the boat. He was using the same fire to prepare our lunch for later that day – it smelled divine!!
We eventually reached Bazaruto at about midday. The boat dropped us off (along with our tour guide JB) on one side of the island and then docked at the beach on the other side. The idea is that you get to experience as much of the island as possible before settling at the beach for lunch. After lunch you stay around the area of the boat before setting sail back towards Vilanculos.
What can you do on Bazaruto Island?
Sand dunes are some of the world’s great natural wonders. When we first arrived on the island we literally hiked up some of the most majestic sand dunes. It was, of course, the middle of the day, so it was exceptionally hot. The sand was burning our feet. But, you kind of forget all about that when you see the view from the top. We then spent some time running up and down the dunes. Going down is fun, but coming back up, not so much – be prepared to sweat!
The beach at Bazaruto is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. In fact, there were two Italian travellers with us on our trip – they’ve travelled to some of the most sought after beach destinations in the world – and they said that it’s the most beautiful beach that they’ve ever been too. Since it’s so isolated there’s very few people here and I guess that adds a truly majestic element. Swimming here is incredible. The water is clear and the sealife is some of the most exquisite around the world.
We actually went snorkelling before we got to the island – a few kilometres off the coastline. The boat stopped out in the middle of the sea and we all jumped out with our snorkels and flippers on. The water was very rough but we still had a great time. We saw some lionfish wafting to and fro, an eel, and there was plenty more colourful life surrounding us. Our time in the water was cut short because the tide started to pick up and they didn’t want us to get “swept away”. But with at least 40 minutes of snorkelling – we had enough time!
The deep channels off the Bazaruto archipelago are fantastic for big game fishing. With fish including barracuda, marlon, and sailfish, this is a great experience for all the fishing fanatics out there. In fact, Bazaruto is ranked as the best Marlin fishing spot in the Eastern Indian Ocean.
Our chef, Alfred, cooked us the most delicious lunch which was set out on the beach for us! With a generous serving of a seafood concoction, salad, and a side serving of Matapa – a traditional Mozambican dish, we sat in the sand, staring out into the open sea, surrounded by sand dunes and boats, as we enjoyed our specially prepared meal.
Other important information
Now that you have an idea of what it’s like to take a trip from Vilanculos to Bazaruto, let’s take a look at the other important things to know.
Bazaruto island lies in Bazaruto National Park and is located off the coast of Southern Mozambique. The archipelago lies 30 kilometres offshore and was once part of a mainland peninsula. It’s a mozambican conservation area found between Inhassoro and Vilankulo districts. The pristine coral reefs found here are home to more than 2,000 species of fish, dolphins and whales.
The Bazaruto National Park protects the five islands of the Bazaruto archipelago, and it’s surrounding areas. Since this is a conservation area, all visitors to the island need to pay an entry fee of 900 meticais. This is approximately 15 USD.
How to get there
Vilanculos is the closest mainland point and the gateway to the Bazaruto archipelago. If you are staying at one of the exclusive lodges on the island, then you will fly into Vilankulo and be met by a Bazaruto representative who will escort you either via boat, helicopter or light plane. If you are staying in Vilanculos, you can take a day trip to Bazaruto with one of the many tour operators in the area.
Bazaruto is one of those places that I will be dreaming about for years to come. There’s something so magical about hidden places that are almost untouched by humans. Have you ever been to Bazaruto island? What’s your favourite place off-the-beaten track?
Love & Light
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