Benguerra Island, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

After our time in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, we thought a period of peace and calm was called for.  Accordingly, we decided to visit Benguerra Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the eastern coast of Mozambique.

Before we left the UK, Cyclone Idai had hit Beira – some 250km north of where we were going.  We were concerned that our trip should be aborted but we were persuaded to continue partly, because the storm had not affected the island and partly as a sign of support for the country which outside the tourist areas is poor.  The hinterland and area around Beira was still suffering from flooding when we arrived some 3/4 weeks later and the international relief organisations were struggling to cope.

Our trip was delightful and just what the doctor ordered – one of peace and tranquility and not a little pampering!  The Azura Benguerra site was lovely, being on the beach, and the staff were very helpful and eager to serve.  We were looked after very well!!

The archipelago is an area of beauty but essentially white sand dunes – and counts the highest dune in eastern Africa in its number.  The waters are very clear and warm.  It is a lovely area of enviromental diversity. Google told us what to expect:

“The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of 6 islands off the coast of southern Mozambique. They lie within Bazaruto National Park and are known for their white-sand beaches. Bazaruto, with sand dunes, is the largest island. Coral reefs around Magaruque and Santa Carolina islands protect rare marine animals, like dugongs. The wetlands, forests and grasslands of Benguerra Island’s interior are home to many bird species.”

Whilst there, we explored the island to see the bird life and other fauna and also took a trip out to the reef for some great snorkelling – we saw a large manta ray, a wide range of corals and very colourful reef fish.

The staff always seemed to want to provide a memorable experience for us. So, during the week, they set up lunch on the hotel beach, lunch on a sand dune near the reef (which we had to ourselves) and also provided dinner under the stars.  Cocktails were brought, unbidden, to our chalet each day just before sunset at 5.15 pm ……

Our visit coincided with a full moon and the autumn tides – so we experienced very high tides, lapping the boundary of our chalet.  Low tides exposed a lot of sand too!

The group running the hotel have set up the Rainbow Fund which seeks to help the local islanders with issues such as primary education and healthcare.  Their website states:

Our Azura Rainbow Fund is the first registered charity of its kind in Mozambique. It supports a variety of social and environmental projects large and small, from building schools, to environmental protection initiatives. We have a dedicated environmentalist and community officer at Azura, and we work alongside the National Park and local communities wherever we can to protect and enhance the environments on which they depend.

The island is sparsely occupied and the village very simple – mainly mud and thatch roundavels.  Much of the island is covered in bush or trees – all on very sandy soil base.  Some wetland around the fotball pitches and the Crocodile Lakes attract a wide range of birdlife. There are no tarred roads – only sandy tracks. 

Apart from the fish, we saw a wide range of birds – more colourful than our Kgalgadi trip!

As with other African trips, I was struck by the quality of the light.  Our chalet provided excellent views of the sunset each night and the sun rose over the chalet.

We were very sad to leave and hope we can find an occasion to return!

Cyclone Kenneth

As a postscript to our visit, we learnt that Azura had another resort in the north – in the Quirambas archipelago which, they decided to evacute shortly before we left so as to safeguard their guests from the fury that was Cyclone Kenneth.

This storm also went straight through and razed to the ground another resort which I had had some links to in the past – Guludo Lodge. This also supports the local people through their Nema Foundation (of which I was once a trustee).

The situation caused by this storm is desparate as it seems that all buildings are destroyed and all the investment and good work of the past 17 years or so has been voided. Of course, the relationships remain, but the tangible things have been seriously impacted – food and health are key concerns. Initially, at least, help was difficult to come by and Nema seems to be the only NGO operating in the region – but some assistance is now getting through. Sadly, this all makes little impact on our western news media. They all need our help and prayers.