Travel Guide: Uncovering Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago

Bazaruto is an archipelago in Mozambique comprising six islands: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue. The place is everything you might expect from a tropical paradise.

Home to numerous wildlife species, pristine and desert beaches, reefs with a variety of brightly coloured fish, the Bazaruto Archipelago is also a safe haven from mass tourism.

Where is Bazaruto?

The Bazaruto Archipelago is an Indian Ocean retreat, approximately 600 kilometres (about 370 miles) north of Maputo, south of Beira and east of Inhassoro and Vilanculos.

Bazaruto, the largest island, is 33km long by 5km wide. It has huge dunes and several freshwater lakes on the southern tip. To the south of Bazaruto, Benguerra, with 11km long by about 6km wide, is the second largest island, and offers excellent conditions for snorkeling.

To the south, the even smaller Magaruque Island, opposite Vilanculos, offers desert beaches. Santa Carolina Island, a former penal colony, covers 2 km² between Bazaruto and the mainland, and is known as the Island of Paradise. Bangue is not a tourist island.

About Bazaruto

Dunes on Bazaruto

Prior to the Portuguese occupation, the Bazaruto Archipelago is thought to have been the most southerly place in East Africa where Muslims had trading settlements.

The Portuguese occupation effectively occurred in 1855 on Santa Catarina. The island became a trading post of ivory by mainly Indian traders. Later, Santa Catarina served as a penal colony, which was abandoned in the early years of the 20th century. The archipelago’s historic remains include the ruins of a 19th century fort on Magaruque and a lighthouse on Bazaruto.

The Bazaruto Archipelago was one of the few regions of Mozambique that escaped the last years of the 1977–92 civil war, when it developed as a luxury tourist destination, remaining in isolation from the rest of the country.

In 1971, the five islands and the surrounding coral reefs were declared a National Park. The archipelago is protected by a partnership established between the World Wildlife Fund, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Mozambican government, which has restricted tourism developments in the archipelago and charges an entrance fee to visitors (around US$15).

Bazaruto offers unspoiled natural beauty, where local populations live off the Mozambique Channel and preserve their ancestral culture. The biodiversity of Bazaruto translates into about 260 different wildlife species, including endangered marine life. Bazaruto in Mozambique, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a unique place in the context of East Africa.

What to See and Do in Bazaruto

Bazaruto

With white sand beaches and turquoise waters, Bazaruto forms an idyllic tropical holiday setting in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The coral reefs of Bazaruto, with a variety of colourful fish, makes this place a world-class diving and snorkeling destination. There are diving centres on Bazaruto and Benguerra.

Visitors to Bazaruto are likely to spot sea turtles, whales, dolphins of various types, as well as large game fish, mostly barracudas and marlins. Mozambique is also the only country on the coast of East Africa with records of local populations of dugongs, an endangered mammal, that can be seen in Bazaruto.

Moreover, the archipelago is a birdwatchers’ paradise, with about 160 species, including rare and native species and various types of seagulls and waders. Small flamingos can also be spotted.

The freshwater lakes of Bazaruto and Benguerra are the habitat of crocodiles. Among mammals found on the islands, there are small antelopes, gazelles and monkeys.

When to Go

The best time to visit Bazaruto is during the dry season, between April and September. Check out our page on:

How to Get to Bazaruto

Flights to Mozambique connect the country to Europe and neighbouring destinations in Southern and East Africa via the international airports of Maputo and Vilanculos. South African Airways and TAP are two of the most important airline providers to Mozambique.

There are local and regional flights that connect Maputo and Vilanculos provided by LAM – Linhas Aéreas Moçambicanas.

From Vilanculos, most island resorts can be reached by helicopter, shuttle flights and boat. There are some companies that organize dhow safaris to visit the Bazaruto islands.

Where to Stay in Bazaruto

Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort

Luxury island resorts pretty much sum up the hotel offer in Bazaruto (around US$500-1000 a night). Here is a list of the main resorts:

Many visitors choose to stay in Vilanculos and hire dhow safaris to visit the Bazaruto Islands. See the full list of hotels in Vilanculos.

Useful Information

Visitors to Mozambique need a passport valid for at least six months from the date of travel and may need to apply for a tourist visa.