By Sabine Behrmann
Sabine Behrmann visits Vilanculos after Mozambique’s recent visa changes and falls in love all over again with this still “off the radar” sand swept paradise…
In April, I had the opportunity to visit Vilanculos (also known as “Vilankulo”) in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique. Known as the the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, the coastal town offers excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities.
With visas now being made available on the border, this spells good news for anyone in favour of “hassle free,” last minute travel, and from June through October the weather conditions along Mozambique’s southern coastline are ideal for diving – the country an under the radar, secret scuba mecca offering spectacular underwater safaris.
On arrival in Mozambique, the cost for a double entry 30 day tourist visa is now US$50 per person and the visa is accessible to all tourists who wish to enter regardless of whether or not there is an embassy in their country of origin.
Vilanculos has certainly grown since I last visited over 10 years ago, and there’s more of a buzz surrounding this once sleepy seaside haunt. Many of the roads are still sand tracks so getting around is mostly on foot or by 4×4, the town retaining its rugged, non-touristy appeal, and the bay itself is fringed by a few rustic eateries which are perfect for sundowners. You should definitely, tuck into a plate of the fresh seafood caught right from Indian Ocean and simply take five as you watch local life drift by – the fishermen bringing in the day’s catch and the women cleaning the fish while their children splash about during low tide.
I didn’t dive, but I did snorkel at Magaruque – the island forming part of a protected marine reserve. There’s a stone reef (not coral as with Zanzibar), which has an excellent drop off and you can happily drift along with the current – minus the need for fins.
We walked out onto the reef from the beach (they provide all the necessary gear on the dhow safari including snorkel, goggles and wet-shoes) and our guide assisted in ensuring everyone was geared up and comfortable in the water before we headed out. The windy weather from the previous day affected visibility, but we were able to see plenty see of marine life including surgeon, parrot, trigger, angel and box fish, but it’s wise to keep your eyes peeled as these waters are also home to rare Dugong. Back on the sands our guide took us up to the central dune where we were treated to some mesmerising views.
There are some great activities in and around Vilanculos itself. Some friends I met on the dhow safari had been horse riding on the beach the evening before and loved it. The local operator caters to both experienced and inexperienced riders and the equine adventure takes you along parts of untouched beach for a real ‘island hideaway’ feel. Fishing and kite-surfing are other popular pursuits, but its the combination of pristine, palm-fringed beaches, azure blue waters and amazing under water safaris, that make Mozambique truly compelling, and for now at least, the country remains virtually crowd free.
The 14 day Mozambique & Zimbabwe Explorer camp