The fluffy and puffy clouds hung up so beautifully from where I watched them in my Airlink flight to Vilanculos. “I could live like this every day,” I thought to myself caressing a glass of wine in one hand while fiddling with my camera on the other hand capturing the cauliflower looking clouds.
I tucked into my yummy Chicken Mayo sandwich, smiled and silently thanked the lovely lady who checked me in at the Arlink counter at the airport. She could not promise me a window seat but luckily the couple next to me wanted to sit together and I ended up scoring a seat by the window. Life felt so good up in the air. The inflight hospitality was in full swing getting me ready for my peaceful holiday ahead.
In less than two hours I was walking along the beautiful beach of this popular destination, looking up at the many palm trees lining up the shore with colourful boats floating on the translucent blue water.I spent 4 days exploring the streets of this small town in the coastal town of Inhambane, north of Maputo.
Here is my guide to a memorable weekend in this scuba divers’ paradise:
Start with a Trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago
The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of 6 islands of the coast of Vilanculos. I walked to Dolphin Dhow Safaris which is on the beachfront to make my booking. It was fairly easy. The next morning, they sent a driver to pick me up at the hotel after breakfast for our one hour trip.
The sea is very friendly and calm, most parts are quite shallow so it’s not scary at all. Of the six Islands, I opted for the closest one to the shore, the Margarique Island.
Expect to be joined by other travelers, I was with two German guys from Johannesburg. It’s a long and slow trip out at sea so the company comes in handy. You can also opt for the more expensive and fastest way to get there by a speed boat but that defeats the purpose of enjoying the sea safari.
Magarique Island is cute, it’s only 1, km long and 1.4 km wide. It is untouched and not commercialized much except for one resort which is closed for most parts of the year. The water is deep enough for snorkeling and diving. I opted for reading and swimming every now and then.
One of the guides took me for a tour of the tiny Island. We went up some picturesque dunes Went up dunes and visited the local school which just one classroom.
The full day trip is complemented with a freshly prepared lunch. We enjoyed Mozambican grilled chicken and Barracuda fish, with a salad and rice.
Browse The Market
Everything in the small town of Vilanculos is located one street only. The hospital, banks, supermarkets and clothing boutiques. The next street has the original church built by the Portuguese in the early nineties.
Unlike Maputo, Vilanculos is very mild. The traffic is not existent. Even the Tuk Tuks are well behaved on the road, believe it or not.The street gets busier towards the T-junction where the market starts. The original structure built by the Portuguese is still standing but over the years the market has grown.
There you can buy anything from fish, to yummy looking Portuguese rolls traditional fabrics and a whole lot of goodies. I strolled aimlessly there just to get a feel of something typically Vilanculos. Not much grabbed my eyes except for a fresh coconut which I asked the lady to cut open for me. I sipped it while I continued browsing the market trying to choose the right ethnic fabric. It gets confusing when there are many gorgeous ones to choose from.
Don’t worry about transport after doing your shopping. Tuk Tuks are always neatly parked outside the market for transport back to your hotel.
Always negotiate a comfortable price for you because they will always push their luck once they realize you are not a local. Unless of course you are white and foreign then the prices immediately shoot up with very little room for negotiating. But unlike other markets I have been to around the continent, the vendors are friendly and they do take no for an answer and they simply leave you alone to do your shopping in peace.
Try Out The Local Food
It is completely sad to go to Mozambique and eat anything else but their sea food. For the best price and fresh fish, I was advised go the beach outside Casa Babi B&B just after 4pm as the fishermen come back from a day at sea. They clean it the fish for you and even give you tips on how to cook it. You most probably will not need to cook it yourself anyway because most hotels are happy to do the honours.
Sometimes the guys have a fire nearby to quickly rustle it up for you. Fresh prawns and squid were also on offer for ridiculously affordable prices.
On the days that you don’t feel like hotel food or experimenting at the market you can also visit Kilimanjaro Café. It attracts a lot of foreigners for free Wi-Fi and socializing. They sell typically South African cuisine which is very diverse and caters for the European market as well.
Choose The Best Accommodation
I was very impressed with Vilanculos’ housing set-up. They have managed to have a mixed housing system between locals and hotels which is working seamlessly. There not many fancy resorts along the beach. In Vilanculos, you will find 5 star resorts that have been built next-door to residential traditional homesteads where the locals live.
My recommendation is the Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel, which is a rustic facility with the most exquisite Spa overlooking the beach. I enjoyed the most beautiful views while you are getting a relaxing full body massage. Another popular accommodation is the Beach Lodge and Casa Babi B&B. There are a few backpackers which are ridiculously cheap for the young and adventurous travelers. Try out Baobab Backpackers and Complexo Elemanha.
Airlink flies directly to Vilanculos from Johannesburg and Nelspruit.