A party. A few drinks. A wild idea. Nearly a year to get organised. Some drove in and took lots of supplies and a boat. Others flew in. They came from Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa and England. One way or another, we all got together to enjoy Christmas and New Year on the beach at Vilanculos (Vilankulo) in Mozambique. And met up with a few other friends we had not seen for years.
So why Vilanculos? Unspoilt beaches, beautiful sea views and boat trips make for a great holiday without the hustle and bustle of a tourist city. An for the Southern African born, UK living members of the group an opportunity to enjoy some warm seas and hot African sun. Look at some of the highlights of the trip.
Archipelago Resort, Vilanculos
The resort offers spacious casas sleeping six to eight people. These are thatched wooden and reed structures with large verandas, allowing the occupants to sith in the shade on hot days, and it does get hot! You can choose to self cater with supplies from the local town (taxi services are available), or visit the Sand Dollar – Archipelago’s restaurant and bar. We tried a fair selection of the menu, from full English breakfast to peri-peri chicken or seafood. Service was very slow, but we couldn’t fault the quality of the food. On Christmas day the restaurant delivered a good Christmas lunch too.
Two Mile Reef and Bazaruto
Two Mile Reef offers sheltered snorkelling on the coral reef. A visit fits well with breakfast and lunch stops on the beach at Bazaruto, with a visit to “Pansy Island”, littered with “pansies”, aka sand dollars. These are the skeletons of a very flat, burrowing sea urchin, which make very decorative ornaments.
Part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, Magaruque is a popular spot for a day trip. A pretty, unspoilt island with a a few luxury lodges, the reef provides a gentle sea area for snorkelling and swimming, and a picnic on the beach. More energetic visitors can take a couple of hours’ walk around the island which is reminiscent of a desert island.
Boat trips were provided by Dive Bazaruto, based at Archipelago resort, on a semi-rigid inflatable “Buksie”. 19 plus two crew easily traveled to Magaruque.
Two members of our group used the trip as an opportunity to gain their PADI scuba diving certifications with Dive Bazaruto, joining two others already qualified, to have a look at the deeper waters in the archipelago.
Perhaps a shock to travelers used to first world shopping malls, but nothing unusual in this part of Africa. Between the supermarket, various bottle stores, wholesalers and the market, we were able to buy all we needed. Fresh produce is available once a week.
Members of our group visited the Casbah bar in town and reported terrible food service but an enjoyable bar. We had some good reports about the Kilimanjaro cafe which provided a tasty, beautifully iced chocolate cake for a birthday celebration.
Local SIMs are available, and the service, including data, is good. My roaming data package worked well, better in fact than the resort WiFi.
The local currency is the Metical or “Met”. We found that Mets were needed in town, but many places accepted payment in US Dollars. With long queues at the bank in town, the airport proved to be the best place to change money.
There are daily flights direct to Vilanculos from Johannesburg on both the local LAM service and South African Airways.
A risk in some African countries is redirection of a flight by a government minister at short notice. We were caught by one of these incidents, flying on LAM, and being re-routed via Maputo to Johannesburg. The result was a missed flight from Johannesburg to Harare by one of our party. Although the LAM staff in Vilanculos worked hard to resolve the problem, in the end LAM refused any responsibility, and the alternative was for that person to stay a nigh in Johannesburg and buy another ticket to Harare the next day. For future trips I would fly SAA.
Would I Go Back
Our couple of weeks in Vilanculos was fantastic. A superb break from the every day stresses under an African sun. Without doubt Vilanculos is on the list for a possible re-visit. I would have no qualms about arriving with a suitcase and being confident in staying in either self-catering or catered hotel accomodation.