White sand beaches, warm turquoise waters, palm fringed shores and majestic horses awaited us on the road to Vilanculos….
Vilanculos is a small coastal area situated along the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. The town itself is called Vilanculo and is roughly 5 km long. It’s a bustling little village featuring a large outdoor market, small boutique style shops, little supermarkets, cafes, bakery and surrounding lodges and guest houses. Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony uses the currency the Mozambique metical. Portuguese is the official language but only spoken by about half of the population.
We spent a few months in this area while looking after a beach lodge whilst the owner was out of the country. My son and I along with the chef, maid and gardener ran a busy little Italian style pizzeria that was very popular. The owner had spent time in Italy, learning how to prepare pizza in a stone wood-fire oven. We were using the same type of outdoor oven and it looked easier than it really was to rotate the doughy pizza crust. Large prawn or camarao pizza was a favorite by many South Africans and tourists. The friendly beach dogs would wait for pizza and had to be continually shooed away with water super soaker guns. It was a pretty chilled atmosphere.
The Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of six islands off the coast of Vilankulo, are located off the palm fringed shores. These islands are protected and also give sanctuary to endangered dugong or more commonly known as sea cows. We sailed in dhows to the islands and swam in crystal clear dreamy turquoise waters.
Honey comb rays swam beneath our dhow and warm tea and popcorn was cooked on a little stove. I suffer from motion sickness quite easily and it was on one of these crossings that my son accidentally dropped my medication into the cracks of the boat. Luckily I used the trick of keeping my eyes on the distant horizon of land. It was much more successful than the time I was making a three hour ocean ferry crossing off the coast of Africa. That’s another story!
The shallow sand banks mingled with the inviting turquoise waters making it irresistible to swim and snorkel. My son and I spent one of our days snorkeling with four Catholic Priests from Rome. I kept thinking about the movie “The Thorn Birds,” which I used to watch with my Nan and Mom and now in their memory watch with my son and husband. I know they secretly enjoy it and have become accustomed to watching it every few years as a new tradition.
Another time we had refreshments at a remote lodge on one of the islands. It was decorated with Arab influence and reminded me of time spent on Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. A copper style gramophone sat along the bar and Moroccan style lanterns hung from the thatch. We were told that Harrison Ford and his wife Calista had rented the entire place to themselves. Before sailing back to the mainland I used the restroom and my son pointed out that I got to sit on the same toilet as Calista!
Our journey to Mozambique was brought upon by the welcome we received from a family who had once lived in Zimbabwe but due to instability and land seizures at the time started a new life with 104 rescued horses in tow. They offer beautiful tours of Benguerra Island by horseback in addition to the long sandy beaches off Vilanculos. We enjoyed our time with them immensely and have included their horse safari and lifestyle in our tours.