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Bazaruto Archipelago

Bazaruto Archipelago

The Bazaruto Archipelago lies about 15 to 25 km off the coast of Mozambique, with the nearest settlement being Vilanculos. The islands are small and sandy, and there are five main islands of which the largest is Bazaruto. The archipelago is a national park that protects the diverse ecosystems that the islands support.

The three largest islands are thought to have been a section of Africa that broke off around 10,000 years ago. The five islands are Benguerra, Magaruque, Bangue, Santa Carolina and Bazaruto. Bazaruto is the largest, as mentioned above, and Santa Carolina is the smallest. The islands are comparable to the Indian Ocean Islands of the Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Madagascar, with white palm-lined beaches and plenty of animals populating the land and waters around the islands - if you're looking for beaches and relaxation on idyllic tropical locations, have a look at them...North Island in particular.

Bazaruto has some large freshwater lakes to the south of the islands, as does Benguerra; these support freshwater crocodiles, of which there are small breeding colonies. These are just one of the 45 reptile and amphibian species which live in the islands, of which two of these are endemic to the Bazaruto Archipelago. Three types of turtle nest on the beaches, including the loggerhead, one of the rarest turtles in the world.

Mammals include suni antelope, red duiker and samango monkey. Bazaruto Island also supports an endemic variety of butterfly. Around 150 species of bird have been recorded here, and they are all highly desirable for birdwatching. These include green coucal, sand, crab and Mongolian plovers, olive and blue-cheeked bee-eaters, as well as a variety of petrels, gulls and waders. Lesser flamingos are occasionally seen, and come from a nearby breeding colony.

All of this aside, the main reason for visiting these islands is to observe the life within the waters around them. The water is incredibly clear, and the reefs support many types of bright fish; this is one of the best places for diving and snorkelling in Mozambique. Marine turtles, humpback whales and bottlenose, spinner and humpback dolphins are frequently seen around the islands, and it is outstanding for big game fish such as marlins and barracudas. Dugongs can be found in the waters here; these are related to manatees (which can be found in Gabon) and on land, elephants and hyraxes. These are extremely rare and this is one of the few places in the world they can be seen.

When travelling in and out of the archipelago, Vilanculos makes a good overnight stop. Both are easily accessed from Maputo.

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