Magical Mozambique

By Casey Hall

You may have been to Boracay, partied in Phuket, lazed in Langkawi and walked along the white sands of Waikiki, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve seen the best beaches the world has to offer. For this you have to cast your net further, all the way to Africa in fact. If you are looking for the best of the best, it’s time to sneak a peak at Mozambique.

Temporarily lost to the tourist trail by a devastating civil war, Mozambique is now enjoying a sustained period of peace and prosperity unheard of since its independence from Portuguese colonisers 50 years ago. Not only is this good news for the country’s long-suffering population, it also makes this the perfect time to visit one of southern Africa’s best kept secrets.

This seaside nation, with 2,500 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline for beach bums to explore, is about to get a whole lot more accessible for us in Shanghai, with direct flights from China’s financial capital recently approved by the Civil Aviation Institute of China and the Mozambican Transport and Communications Ministry. The result of this is that two Chinese airlines are showing an interest in operating the new route, meaning that Mozambique is more accessible than ever before as an up and coming holiday destination.

Beautiful Beaches

Within Mozambique there are two main competitors for the crown of best beach. Both the Bazaruto Archipelago (in central Mozambique) and the Quirimbulus Archipelago (in the country’s North) have their names whispered in hushed tones of reverence by sunseekers searching out the best island life in the world, and this reviewer can personally attest that they are unrivalled in their natural beauty.

Located in closer proximity to the capital of Maputo (with daily flights to the jumping off point of coastal town Vilankulos taking only one hour), Bazaruto is the more visited of the two, and has become something of a playground for wealthy resort goers, with its islands hosting some of the most upmarket hotels in Mozambique.

There is little in the way of budget accommodation on the six islands that make up the archipelago, but there’s a reason people are willing to pay the big bucks for the Bazaruto experience. The absolute seclusion and unparalleled beauty of the place, makes it the perfect destination for a special occasion (particularly a romantic one, such as a honeymoon or anniversary celebration).

Where to stay

We stayed in the Marlin Lodge, one of three luxurious properties located on Benguerra Island (only 30 minutes by speedboat from Vilankulo), which had received rave reviews on many user-generated travel sites.

It didn’t take long for the place to make a good impression. For a start, the beachfront location was lovely, facing west for prime sunset viewing, with the resort’s 16 individual bungalows spread out along the shore and no other signs of tourist life in sight. Each of the hotel’s 16 bungalows are separated from the potentially prying eyes of the neighbours by hedges, making you feel as though the patch of sand and surf you look out on is your very own.

Thoughtful touches are multitudinous at Marlin Lodge, one example being a large bowl filled with water left on the wooden steps leading to each bungalow, ensuring no sandy footprints soil the lush interiors. Canopied beds piled high with pillows and duvets take centre stage, and there are also two showers: one inside and one out (surrounded by a wall high enough to make modesty a non-issue), and a vanity several metres long, meaning you and your travel companion can spread your daily ablutions far and wide.

Each patch of beach also has its own pair of cushioned loungers and the deck of each bungalow is furnished with a hammock, all perfect for relaxing stretches of sunbathing and reading throughout the day.

Where to Play

If sun-lounger lazing on a pristine white sand beach is not enough action to keep you entertained for the duration of your beachside break, the islands of the archipelago offer opportunities for helicopter joyrides, fishing, horse riding, water-skiing and plenty of diving. Every evening at 7pm, the staff at the Marlin Lodge responsible for the activities wander through the lounge signing up guests for whatever they feel like trying their hand at the following day, and explain what is involved in each trip.

Although diving is a popular pastime in these parts, the non-PADI accredited need not fret too much about missing out on the underwater action, with the Bazaruto Archipelago offering some of the best snorkelling in the world. Only a few minutes by boat from the Benguerra Island, we happened across a two mile long colourful coral reef playing host to a who’s who of tropical fish species (and some mighty ugly octopus). It was a truly cinematic experience with a cast of underwater characters right out of Finding Nemo and your Darth Vadar-esque underwater breathing the only audio accompaniment.

A two and a half hour snorkelling experience arranged through the Marlin Lodge also includes a detour to a lonely sandbar in the middle of the ocean, where the energetic can test themselves against the rather daunting sand dunes, while the rest wade in the crystal clear waters taking photographs of a sky and sea so blue it looks as though they were photoshopped.

Where to Eat

All this activity sure was hunger-inducing and, though it’s certainly not cheap to stay at the Marlin Lodge, the price includes full board, so three very filling meals are on the agenda for guests every day of their stay. The food and beverage people at the resort like to keep guests on their toes and mix up the dining arrangements from meal-to-meal, so one dinner may involve large platters of Peri Peri chicken served in the open-air dining room, and the next time you come down for a meal, you might be seated by the swimming pool, munching on perfectly poached eggs.

Highlights are the occasional beach barbecues or braais as they are known in this part of the world. Candle-lit tables are set on the sand and guests help themselves to a buffet of barbecued fish, prawns, crab and red meat accompanied by salads and local sides, such as cassava (a shrubby tropical plant). Accompanied by a sea breeze and more stars than the Academy Awards, it’s hard to imagine a place further from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai (well, aside from the all-you-can-eat aspect, I suppose).

Getting There

Until those direct flights get underway, you can fly to Maputo via Johannesburg for USD $2,300 (RMB 14,600) return, including taxes. Web:

Staying There

Beach suites at Marlin Lodge are available from USD $395 (RMB 2,500) per night, including full board. Transfers and activities incur an extra cost. Web:


Need to Know

  • Visas: Most nationalities need a visa to travel to Mozambique. One month, single entry tourist visas are available on arrival for USD $90 (RMB 570).
  • Vaccinations: Recommended pre-departure vaccinations include Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid. Mozambique is a malarial country and travellers should also consider taking some kind of prophylaxis, such as doxycycline for bacterial infections.
  • Culture: You won’t be in Mozambique too long before you hear the word pacienca (patience). Most Mozambicans have the quality in abundance, and it’s a good idea to take a little on yourself as Western style impatience is unlikely to get you very far, particularly when dealing with officialdom.