After our wicked stay in Kruger National Park we flew out of Nelspruit into the fishing village of Vilankoulos in the northern part of the Inhambane province. This small town is growing in popularity with backpackers because it is the step off towards the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Various companies operate the waters with day trips or multi day excursions to the islands. Although tourists can visit the islands by other means of transport, the best way to go and see the islands is, in our opinion at least, by a doing a safari in a traditional dhow...
We were planning to do a multi day safari as we were already impressed by the pictures on the internet So, on day one we packed our backpacks to meet up early with the crew from Sail Away at their base near the beach. Once all gear and supplies were brought to the dhow we set sail for the islands.
The scenery during our safari was simply breathtaking. The artisanal fishermen fish in the shallows in the early morning sun with their long nets. Fishing the sandbanks is often done in waist deep water so many of the fishermen were wading through the warm, blue seawater. The sea was flat calm and mirrored the whole scene beautifully. Along the sandbanks different types of birds fouraged, like flamingo's and egrets.
Slowly we moved through the lagoons towards the island of Magaruque, one of the smaller islands in the archipelago. It took the crew a bit of effort to navigate through the channels. At least once we had to move back to be able to reach our destination.
Arrived at the island we donned our masks and snorkels since it was time to discover the local underwater life. We snorkeled along the bedrock of the island, which in essence is just fossilised coral and shells. Among the different treasures we find is a big purple octopus, which I barely can make out from the rocks. I nearly put my hand on its head to slow myself down in the current!
As soon as it was discovered, the octopus moved quickly into deeper water and vanished from our field of view. Other coral fishes moved closely around us curiously as they were..
Lunch was already prepared by the crew when we arrived back at the dhow. They cook dinner inside the boat where a firepit is created in a big wooden box filled with sand. On top of the sand charcoal is fueling the fire. This method has been used for thousands of years, from as early as the earliest days of trading in this region.
It is impressive how much the crew is able to do with the little resources they have. Today we eat the most delicious barracuda ever.. Having lunch in the powdery white sand, while sitting in the bright sun was a welcome warming experience. Even more so because we wanted to leave the winter weather behind in South Africa. :-)
After lunch we set sail to our camp on the beach where we would stay for the night. Slowly but steadily we moved along the big Bazaruto Island towards a secluded beach along the mainland. Staying on the island is not allowed since the whole archipelago with 1400 square kilometer is a National Park. As it was low season we had the whole camp to ourselves, what a luxury! For dinner we were extra spoiled since the crew cooked another delicious meal: kingfish.
As night fell we returned to the campfire and watched the stars and the incredibly bright moon in the sky. The Bazaruto archipelago truly is a magical place to be in....