If you were to think of an Indian Ocean country to visit for a beach holiday or for some chill after a safari, then countries like Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Maldives would come to mind. I did a straw poll in the golf side of the company and all bar one said one of the above three; the one who didn’t has now been given extra homework with an atlas!
All the main countries above are undoubtedly superb for a beach holiday and I’ve been lucky enough to have visited all of them for either business or pleasure. Kenya and Tanzania also have some lovely beaches as well as beautiful offshore islands – just do an internet search for Pemba or Mafia and you’ll see what I mean.
But all the above locations are well-known and therefore attract a lot of visitors. If you are looking for somewhere a little quieter, somewhere that the ‘crowds’ have not heard of, then I have the place for you…………………………………….Mozambique.
Located just to the north of South Africa and sharing huge land borders with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania (and smaller ones with Swaziland and Zambia), Mozambique has 1,500 miles of coastline, more than Tanzania and Kenya combined. It has a rich cultural heritage having been a Portuguese colony before it finally gained its independence in 1975. A civil war followed (does that sound familiar?) before the current democratic era commenced in 1993.
But enough of the history, where are these beaches.
Apart from the coastline, Mozambique has two archipelagos (group of small islands), that are either UNESCO World Heritage Sites or on the list to become designated as such.
The northern archipelago, the Quirimbas, is accessed via flights into the town of Pemba from Johannesburg or Dar es Salaam, and then by light aircraft. The Quirimbas Archipelago has been awarded National Park status and consists of a string of 32 islands most of which are uninhabited, with a combined coastline of some 250 miles. The southernmost 11 islands fall within the protected Quirimbas National Marine Park in which marine life abounds including sea turtles, dugongs and almost 400 species of fish.
The choice of where you stay will rather depend on your budget – for the highest quality then it has to be Vamizi Island or for a more rustic but still very good quality accommodation I would go to Ibo Island and perhaps experience their ‘dhow safari’.
The southern archipelago, the Bazaruto, is reached by daily flights into Vilanculos from Johannesburg and then short light aircraft flights into the islands. The six islands that form the archipelago are larger and with more topographical features than those in the Quirimbas and all bar two are inhabited. Unlike Quirimbas, the whole of the Bazaruto Archipelago is contained with a marine national park, which offers its visitors superb diving, snorkelling and birdlife.
My favourite two lodges would have to be Azura Benguerra (the sister lodge to Azura Quilalea Private Island) and Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort & Spa. I have yet to see the new &Beyond property but I am told to expect something special.
Whichever of the two archipelagos that you decide to visit, sit back with your sundowner and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this little gem of the Indian Ocean. Cheers.