Mozambique/Bazaruto Archipelago

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Dec 6th, 2004, 07:18 AM
  #1
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Mozambique/Bazaruto Archipelago

What do people think about these islands? We are planning a trip to South Africa and want to end on a beach-- these have been suggested to us as a cheaper/closer alternative to Mauritius or the Seychelles. I've read some mixed reviews online, so was hoping to find people who have travelled there... We aren't expecting the 4 seasons, but I don't want rats in my room (one reviewer found these at the indigo bay!)
Thanks in Advance!
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Dec 6th, 2004, 02:02 PM
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Hastern: I don't think you will get much feedback on this board for the Bazaruto. I tried with no results -- which to me actually made it a pretty attractive option for a beach escape.

What follows will be a very long and detailed response so in the future there will be at least one review for this area.

I was just there in mid-November and have not had a chance to write it up or post photos yet. It was a belated honeymoon trip and we had 6 nights on Bazaruto and Benguerra Islands following 10 nights in Namibia.

First 3 nights were at Indigo Bay Lodge on Bazaruto Island and next 3 at Benguerra Lodge on Benguerra Island. For starters - it was easy to get to from Joburg. I think it took 2 or 2 1/2 hours to get to Vilanculos. From there it was less than 1/2 hr to get through customs and board a transfer plane that takes 10 minutes to Bazaruto.

The islands themselves are breathtaking. Long stretches of fine, white powder sand (not course coral sand). The water was very warm and enjoyable to wade/swim in. Be prepared, there is a large tidal flucuation so sometimes the water is way up the beach and you can wade right in, at other times you have to walk a good way through the shallows to get waist deep -- at this point its nice to stay where there is a pool. The underwater environment is prisitine with very healthy coral and fish populations. We snorkeled a couple of times and it was outstanding, on par with the best we have ever done along with the Surin Islands off of Thailand. Probably a little better than Oahu or off of Belize. We did not dive on this trip as we are not certified and would have had to take a resort course but the diving is reported to be exceptional as well with many Manta rays and sharks spotted. I was told by other guests that the diving compared well with the Seychelles.

The islands have small populations of people and very little lodging so there is a lot of beach space available. On three separate occasions we were dropped off and had private picnics on beautiful beaches and did not see a sole for a couple of hours, with one time seeing only a fisherman go by in his dhow. Taking a sunset cruise sailing on a traditional dhow was a very nice experience as well.

Interior of the islands contains fresh water lakes with endemic crocodiles. I saw one although he bolted fast when he saw me. There were also flamingos in the lakes and lots of other interesting birds on the islands.

Lodging: Indigo Bay. This was a little hotelish for my tastes but could be what some people would prefer. It is nesteled within nicely vegetated grounds with many bungalows (about 50 maybe), some 20 yards or so from the beach. The accomodation itself has a standard hotelish feel to it (3 star type) - especially if coming from high end safari accomodation. It was perfectly comfortable, just no real wow factor -- most of the time you want to be outside enjoying the fabulous sun, water, and beaches. Things that could be a plus or minus - it is air conditioned, has satellite t.v. and phones. Normally in Africa I would prefer to be without all these, however, after 10 days in Namibia where it was really hot it was kind of nice to have A/C and it had been long enough that it was cool to watch a movie or sports in the evening. There was a good sized pool, with a swim up bar. All in all the place felt a lot like a vacation at a Mexican resort in Cozumel except that its all Europeans and S. Africans instead of Americans and it is in a much more pristine environment.

The exception to this comparison is the food. The food was incredible! Every night there was a spread that rivals any I have ever experienced. Two tables of appetizers, salads, accompaniments. Then a huge braais turning out amazing seafood. All you can eat lobster tails, giant tender prawns, calmari, crab, and fish. They would also throw on fresh chicken and steaks. This seafood was as good as any I have ever had and you ate as much as you please. Breakfeast also had a cook to make egg dishes and waffles to order in addition to the big help yourself spread. I was glad I stayed here just for the food factor.

Benguerra Lodge had a similar island setting and offered about the same exact activities but the lodging was a comletely different experience. There were only 13 bungalows here and ours (#13) had a great view of the sea and was about 20 steps to the beach. Spaced along the beach for each bungalow is a palapa umbrella cover and two lounge chairs. For two of our nights there was only one other couple and they were diving most of the time so we had the whole place basically to ourselves. There is a small pool right by the beach that is very nice. There is an old boat made into a bar also on the beach that was fun for sundowners. You see a few locals fishing in their boats or carrying goods on their heads to their village up the beach.

The bungalow itself was very nicely appointed with east African style. It should be noted that the bungalows are open sided, although you can drop blinds -- so you will see geckos and millipedes in addition to moths and other bugs in your room. I had a millipede relocation program every evening where I would transfer them with a piece of paper from the walls to the outside. The mosquito net kept all the bugs and geckos out from our sleeping area and in daytime there were no bugs around. There is plenty of hot water and the ceiling fan was sufficient to keep us cool at night even though it was the start of summer. The main lodge and eating area are similarly open and have east African flavor to them. Basically they have created a safari style lodge on the islands. Personally I really like that feel but I'm sure its not for everyone. Plus, you have to realize Mozambique is a young country at this point and the tourism is developing. They are trying to follow Botswana's model of high end, low volume to protect their environment which I think is awesome -- however, they are still in a growing process. Therefore, accomodation and service is not at a Botswana or Sabi Sand luxury safari standard. At Benguerra it definitely has a rustic safari level of lodging and not an exquisite world class feel. We thought it was quite handsome though and enjoyed the outdoor/beach feel. Food here was plated meals usually with two choices to order from. Again, seafood was the specialty and the food was very good.

Summary: The beaches, island beauty and underwater envivronment were as good as any we have experienced. As for island paradise with a lack of people this area is exceptional!

Accomodation is the tricky part. We experienced the standard resort type accomodation and then a safari style but more rustic and open to some outdoor critters which may not work for some. Finally, it is not cheap as each activities and your alcohol all cost additional $ on top of lodging. Bazaruto Island Lodge and the Marlin Lodge would be the other two options in the area -- which may offer something different.

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Dec 8th, 2004, 06:35 AM
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Thank you so much!
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Dec 29th, 2004, 12:39 PM
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I too am considering Bazaruto for post-safari honeymoon retreat and am a little bit nervous after reading the "rat review" from Indigo Bay. It looks like the hotel was rennovated in 2001. Does anyone know if a rodent problem really exists? Also - any other recommendations for a post-safari beach spot for my honeymoon?
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Dec 29th, 2004, 12:57 PM
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I can only comment on my experience in November but there was no sign of rats in my bungalow or any of the other facilities. Small mammals is one of the groups I do a lot of work with so I usually spot droppings if they are around. Indigo Bay went to the trouble and expense to bring over horses my guess is if they had rat complaints they probably embarked on an eradication program.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 07:17 AM
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Thanks for such a rapid response! You've definitely eased my fears about the rats. Perhaps the review was very old - pre rennovation. I understand that the place was completely rennovated in the past few years. In any case, I am going to keep looking around for more info / anecdotes. If you know of any other good sources (books, websites) please let me know. Happy travels and best regards.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 07:36 AM
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bbaris: It was hard to find info about this area. I read about it in the Brandt Guide to Mozambique and then looked at lots of websites but they are all done by tour operators so of course they only show you paradise. On this board it seems no one has really been to the area. To be honest one of the real appealing things is that it is so undiscovered. It might be worth searching for some diving oriented travel boards as many people come for the diving. I hope to post my photos as soon as I can free up some time -- maybe next week. I will link them here when I have the chance.

Where else will you be travelling -- safari in Botswana or South Africa?
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Dec 31st, 2004, 10:42 AM
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We are planning to be in Africa for approx 2.5 weeks and the itinerary will include capetown, safaris in S. Africa and Botswana, victoria falls, as well as a "beach destination" to wrap things up. I might try and check out the Brandt Guide - thanks. And I would definitely love to check out your photos when you post them. The other beach place we are considering is Zanzibar, although it might be far from Victoria Falls, our second-to-last destination. We're just looking for a pretty high-end, relaxing way to end the honeymoon. It also occured to me that some of these coastal resorts may have been affected by the tsunami, something i need to look into...
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Jan 10th, 2005, 04:26 PM
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I am planning my honeymoon and am
trying to decide whether or not to go to Indigo bay or like you
suggested: Benguerra Lodge. Have you heard of any other resorts on the
Mozambique Islands? We would like to be in a remote, beautiful place
(nature is key) and we love bungalow romantic style rooms. We have
been to Thailand's islands and love that style. What would you
suggest?

Thank you so much for your time,
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Jan 11th, 2005, 01:02 AM
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Just wondering but... is Brandt guide another series or is PB perhaps referring to the Bradt guide?
Only asking because if people are intending to buy the guide and do a search it's worth clarifying?
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Jan 11th, 2005, 07:37 AM
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Kavey: Yes - I was refering to The Brandt Travel Guide Series: Mozambique

Manond: If you liked bungalow style accomodation in Thailand than I think you would prefer Benguerra Lodge to Indigo Bay. It is much smaller and more intimate with natural surroundings. Marlin Lodge would be another option to explore that I heard good things about but I have no first hand knowledge. There is also a Bazaruto Lodge that is supposed to be similar to Benguerra Lodge but not quite as nice from what I read. As long as you don't mind the open sides on the bungalows (didn't bother me but its not for everyone) I think you would really enjoy Benguerra Lodge.

There are other island areas in Mozambique but I don't know as much about them as my research showed this was the best natural area and the Bazaruto Archapelago is easiest to fly directly into.

I will try and get my photos posted on the web this week since there are a couple of people interested. I'll post a link on this thread once I have them up.
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Jan 11th, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Thank you so much. We are also staying at Singita for Safari and we think Ellerman house in Cape Town. Any other hotel recs for Cape Town? What other guide books would you suggest? Thanks again for your advice.
Manon
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Jan 11th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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Manond: You are welcome. In Cape Town we stayed at Kensington Place which I highly recommend! That said, I looked at the Ellerman House and if that is in your budget I thought it appeared to be the best place to stay -- I would love to stay there in the future. Although, a nice thing with Kensington Place is you can safely walk to Kloof Street which has lots of restaurants/shops etc. where as Ellerman is a little more out of the way I believe. Cape Grace is also always rated as a top luxury hotel but I like the smaller botique experience that Ellerman and Kensington Place offer.

Just a note: Singita and Ellerman House are travelling in a realm of the absolute best service and most luxurious stylings in the world. Mozambique is wonderful and in my view well worth the trip but be aware that it will be a step down in luxury and service from your other stops. To me the insanely gorgeous island/water surroundings with comfortable lodging is fabulous but it is a different travel level from those.

I got most of my Cape Town info from this board and doing website research so I don't have any guide book recommendations. For your safari portion I would recommend a book called The Safari Companion by Richard Estes. It gives brief descriptions of all the mammals and their key behaviors. Your guide will be telling you everything you want to know but if you are keen to learn more about the wildlife it is a great book.
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Jan 26th, 2005, 12:59 PM
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Here are the promised pics of the area. I will make a separate post for all to see but wanted to put it here too for future researchers.

http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=jjigq2q...e&x=0&y=xaabw9
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 05:12 AM
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PredatorBiologist,

I was thinking of staying at Kensington place in Cape Town. Could you please tell me more about it? Is it a guest house? small? would it be nice for a honeymoon? does it matter that it is not on the water?
Thank you for all of your help.
manond
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 06:11 AM
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has anyone stayed at / heard of marlin lodge? how would it compare to indigo bay?
thanks!
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 08:12 AM
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Manond: I think Kensington Place is an excellent choice. It is a small botique hotel -- 8 rooms I think. A wonderful decor of modern African flavor. We were very pleased with our stay there! It was our honeymoon as well. There was a nice champagne bottle chilling at the end of the bed on our arrival. Room was warm and well appointed. The bathroom was unique with an open shower and a wood slot floor with a sunken tub. The tub was against a glass wall with a little fish pond and garden on the other side. We also had our own little patio with canvas privacy walls. The common lobby and eating areas are beautiful as are the hotel grounds. The service is exceptional -- will help you with any arrangements necessary. I had them set up a tour of the Cape of Good Hope and call ahead to reserve us tickets for the Robben Island tour. Also, they arranged taxis for times we needed them. Nice touch - they have a complimentary internet connection in the lobby.

As for not being on the water I thought the location was excellent. It is located about a 3 block walk to restaurants and shops on Kloof Street. This is an area that is perfectly safe to walk at night and it gives you quick access to a cool urban experience of a real neighborhood as opposed to the waterfront which is dominated by shops and eats for tourists. You will want to go to the waterfront and its a neat place to be but it is only about 10 minutes by cab to do it. There are great places to stay there but mostly big hotels. If you were coming from a long in-land safari I would think its maybe more important to be right on the water but since you will be coming from Mozambique I think Kensington Place will vary your experience better by giving you time in a city area (though the hotel itself is very quiet) tucked against Table Mountain in a beautiful neighborhood. Let me know if you have any specific questions but I have no hesitation in highly recommending Kensington Place.
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 08:59 AM
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Manond: I just up loaded a couple of pics of Kensington Place for you to check out.

http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=jjigq2q...&x=1&y=-nklomo
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Feb 2nd, 2005, 10:31 AM
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thank you so much. we have also heard that les cascades was nice in cape town. It is on the water... near ellerman house...

have you heard of marlin lodge? would you reccomend a particlaur room at indigo bay? did you see the honeymoon bungalow?
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Feb 20th, 2006, 05:08 AM
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Predator Biologist,

I'm considering Benguerra at the end of my honeymoon & have just posted re this. My main concern is not the bugs or any other wildlife, I'm worried about choice / standard of food. As someone who is not so keen on seafood am I going to starve? Also was breakfast / lunch a buffet or plated?
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