For an island tour, we meandered our way along the sandy island roads on a game viewing vehicle, through indigenous bush abundant with local flora and fauna, as well as several villages where kids waved at us with exuberance and adults went about their daily chores undeterred. Our guide Paulo demonstrated the wonder of the devil thorn plant, which can be used to create moisturising shampoo; showed us how to make a toothbrush from the magic gaurri tree; and explained how fishermen of old used the ‘poison fish tree’ to catch fish. This was done by crushing the tree’s roots and then throwing them into the water, killing the fish by blocking their oxygen. Thankfully, this practice was stopped when the island became part of the National Park and fishing rods and nets became the norm.
We pass the clinic, police station and post office and visit the Benguerra Island Primary School, which hosts 495 kids during the week. Arriving at one of the island’s three lakes – home to large Nile crocodiles – we enjoy a relatively easy hike up the 60m-high Red Dune, where we are rewarded with spectacular views of Benguerra Island and the Indian Ocean beyond, along with an icecold 2M local beer once we’re back in the vehicle. The spectacular Flamingo Bay, with its azure blue waters, resident flamingos and fish corrals, is worthy of a photo stop, as are the beached dhows that dot the shoreline.
The Bazaruto Archipelago is made up of five islands, so it figures that island hopping would also feature highly on a list of possible attractions. Pristine islands, secluded bays, deserted beaches as well as coral reefs and an incredible diversity of marine life awaits. On Bazaruto Island, we hike up a 100m-high dune for unsurpassed 360° panoramic views of the Archipelago. Snorkelling on Two Mile Reef reveals an astounding number of tropical fish species, rays, turtles, coral and invertebrates – and you might be lucky and see a highly endangered dugong. Dolphin sightings are common and humpback whales might be spotted during their annual migration throughout the winter months. Paradise Island, in the far north of the Bazaruto Archipelago, is renowned for its beautiful white beaches and fantastic snorkelling, and is also home to the ruins of an old hotel and a church from the days of Portuguese rule. The snorkelling is amazing, as is relaxing on the deserted white sandy beach, enjoying a picnic.
On an isolated sandbar nestled between Bazaruto Island and the Mozambique Channel, you’ll find Pansy Island, so named for the abundance of pansy shells – which aren’t shells at all, but rather the skeletons of sea urchins. The ‘pansy’ name comes from the five-petal flower pattern on top of their skeletons.