Nearly twenty years of civil war and a history of famine have kept Mozambique and its Bazaruto Archipelago -- one of Africa's most precious treasures - off-the-beaten-path. Not for long. Backpackers and well-heeled tourists alike are again traveling to Bazaruto to explore the archipelago's many wonders. A marine park since 1971, this chain of islands stretching south from Inhassoro to Vilanculos and situated between 10 and 25 km off Mozambique's coast offers access to Africa's most extensive and unspoiled coral reefs. And scuba diving is not the only family adventure on hand; excellent game fishing, snorkeling, sea life viewing and birdwatching are also to be had.
Settled by the Bantu speaking people around 500 AD and established as a trading post by Arab maritime merchants as early as the 10th century, the archipelago's famed amber and pearls were noted well before the arrival of the Portuguese. While these once sought after treasures have all but disappeared, there is still much for adults and kids to discover. Dolphins, turtles, whales and dugong are but a few.
The sea may be the main reason for a family beach vacation in this tiny corner of Mozambique yet the land-based spectacle is no less intriguing. A walk along the beach is nothing short of a trip to a gallery of shells. And at low tide you need not search far to find a Pansy shell, hundreds of these once fury sea urchins line the sand bars as well as the shore.
Don't forget to take a peek at the island's interior. The sand dunes, mangrove forests and inland lakes are home to 125 species of birds as well as a variety of mammals and even one or two crocodiles. And although it may seem impossible, three of the Archipelago's islands -- Bazaruto, Benguerra and Magaruque - were mainland sand spits less than 6000 years ago.
White sand beaches, towering sand dunes and one thousand shades of blue. Pristine coral reefs and sea life large and small. Yet what makes a family vacation in Bazaruto unique is the total lack of crowds.
Pelican Air flies from Johannesburg to Vilanculos twice daily, direct and via South Africa's Kruger National Park. LAM offers flights from Maputo. Transfers from the Vilanculos airport to the islands will be either by boat or by air and can are arranged through most hotels. For families staying on the mainland, day trips can be booked through your lodge or with Sail Away, one of the few independent operators offering transfers and excursions. Make the necessary enquires before hiring a dhow.
The weather in the Bazaruto Archipelago is characterized by a wet and dry season. The best time to visit is from June to September when the average daytime temperature is between 22-30° C (71-86° F) and the chance of rain is minimal. The weather is hot and humid throughout the rainy season (November-April); the heaviest rains are in January and February. Most resorts are closed for the entire month of February.
Traveler's diarrhea is the most common aliment afflicting tourists in Mozambique. Avoiding tap water is the cornerstones to prevention. Drink bottled water and eat cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables only. Malaria is prevalent throughout Mozambique and is a risk year-round.
A beach vacation in the Bazaruto Archipelago is ideal for families in search of an adventure in the liking of Robinson Crusoe. Aside from accommodation, 4 lodges and one unauthorized campground, there are no tourist facilities in the archipelago; there are no villages nor boutiques.
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