Another holiday (Xmas this time… I know, I’m dragging behind), another destination. It’s a challenge but the aim in Mozambique is to see the whole country with a few additional neighbouring countries too.
When we lived in Turkey, we explored that vast and rich country as often as we could and still failed by 2 places that I really wanted to see but literally didn’t manage to find enough time to squeeze in.
So, when you think about it, our current goal is nearly impossible to achieve as Mozambique is already a tiny bit bigger than Turkey and we also want to drive through South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and possibly fly to Madagascar and Tanzania. It’s a difficult bet to take up but we’re up for it! (There are harder things in life than travelling for leisure).
Back to Vilankulo. Apparently, Vilankulo refers to the town itself whereas Vilanculos is what the district is called (thanks Wikipedia). Anyhow, Vilankulo is a coastal town in the Vilanculos district of the province of Inhambane. It’s 700 km away from Maputo so count around 9 hours if you only stop a few minutes for a wee break. It actually took us 10 hours to get to our lodge as we chose to stay at Marimba Secret Gardens which is about 20 km north of Vilankulo at the end of a very long and bumpy sandy track (but so worth it!). We left Maputo at 06:30 (yes, people, we did it!) and arrived for tea at 16:30. So really, a breeze 😉
We stayed there for a week, which gave us plenty of time to explore the surroundings and do really cool stuff.
Like go to Bazaruto Island for a picnic and dive at Two Mile Reef on the way back.
On our way to Bazaruto, we were very lucky to meet a group of dolphins. Hence the multitude of photos taken! Dolphins look really good and glistening in blue water.
Bazaruto Island is a big sandy island with huge dunes and beautiful clear waters around it. Sunscreen will be your best ally there. After applying generously and on a regular basis, enjoy the beauty of the landscape.
After the picnic, our guide drew a map of Two Mile Reef on the beach with a stick and started to explain to us how we would proceed. He mentioned the strong current and advised us to be super careful especially as we were the only ones with kids. I reassured everyone saying that the kids would stay on the boat. And boy was I right! The location of Two Mile Reef indeed is very impressive and on top of it, the waves were quite rough when we got there.
Two Mile Reef is a barrier reef protecting a narrow channel between Bazaruto Island and Benguerra Island. It is hard to imagine what it looks like until you get there! I felt a bit overwhelmed at first because there is a strong current there and you’re literally in the middle of the ocean, dealing with big waves and thinking you’ll never see anything underwater. But you couldn’t be more wrong! Life underwater is pretty busy and animated but you’ll have to imagine it because I don’t have a waterproof camera.
Another day was spent going to the tiny Santa Carolina Island, also known as Paradise Island. The island is further north of Vilankulo but as we were staying in the north too, we were not very far from it and were offered to go there for the day. It’s the small speck between Bazaruto Island and mainland.
It is just 2 miles by 0.3 miles in size and it is a very different island from Bazaruto. It is very rocky and there are the ruins of a hotel which might or might not have opened and functioned one day. We walked around it in less than 2 hours with our 4-year-old son and it was totally doable. You just need to take your flip-flops with you as the sand gets pretty hot obviously (it is not that obvious apparently as someone tried to do it without and had to give up on the way).
After our visits to the nearby islands, the kids asked to go to a pool so we took the opportunity to go and see Dona Ana Hotel where we stayed for the day. The hotel was originally built in 1967 and was totally renovated a few years ago. It’s totally Art Deco with lovely pastel colours all around and the pool is a beauty.
The rest of our holiday was spent going horseriding with Mozambique Horse Safari. We went with Pat while Mandy babysat Marlowe. Mandy and Pat’s horseback trips are very popular around Vilankulo and their story is well-known too. Mandy wrote a book about their forced escape from Zimbabwe in One Hundred and Four Horses.
The rest of our stay was filled with delicious sea-food meals, reading on our veranda, going on a fisherman dhow for a non-motorized ride, trying to fly our kite and wondering how on earth Father Christmas would come to deliver the kids’presents.
I didn’t talk much about our lodge but we had a great time at Marimba Secret Gardens. There is electricity only for a couple of hours in the evening but that wasn’t a problem at all. No wi-fi makes for the best holidays nowadays and no air-con was needed at night. The bungalows being on stilts, you always feel air coming.
We met the loveliest people there too. Marcel, Viktor and all the others did everything they could to make us feel at home. Marcel is a dynamic young Swiss guy who fell in love with Vilankulo and found the perfect location to enjoy the beauty of an unspoilt nature without being too far from the busy buzz of the town. He lives there with his wife and son all year round.
We were the only ones for the first five days so got the best treatment one can imagine and really appreciated our long conversations with Marcel and Viktor while the kids enjoyed playing games with them too. The food is delicious, the place peaceful and lovely and everything was organised perfectly.
Vilankulo is a place that one cannot miss if you happen to live/travel in Mozambique. Go if/when you can!