We sent four of Go2Africa's most enthusiastic adventurers on a self-drive discovery of Mozambique. The objective? To find new and simple ways to combine a Southern African safari with an idyllic beach vacation.
Mozambique ticks all the boxes of a dream beach escape including footprint-free beaches, pristine coastal forests, crystal-clear waters, colourful marine life and great hospitality. As this beautiful beach destination grows in popularity, gorgeous new luxury lodges and family-friendly resorts are making previously undiscovered regions much more accessible.
To get to the Bazaruto or Quirimbas Archipelago from South Africa’s Kruger National Park, you’d usually first fly into Mozambique and then choose one of three options - boat, light aircraft or helicopter - to the island of your choice.
But let’s say your budget doesn’t quite stretch to air transfers or perhaps you’re travelling with young children and would prefer to avoid airports. The exciting news is that now you can simply hop in a rental car and drive yourself up to Mozambique’s exquisite South Coast, which is just three hours from Kruger.
Our team travelled from the Kosi Bay border between South Africa and Mozambique, exploring new destinations on the South Coast and then moving north to re-visit some of our tried-and-tested partners on the Quirimbas and Bazaruto archipelagos. Here’s what they had to say about their trip.
Tell us all about your itinerary?
Our first night was at the fantastic White Pearl Resort – we all immediately fell in love with this spot! Imagine deserted beaches, tranquil waters and an intimate, small lodge that is perfect for couples. Waking up to the sea in front of us at sunrise was beautiful.
Anvil Bay is a real toes-in-the-sand kind of place with endless beaches and not a soul in sight. We loved the eco-friendly, low carbon footprint of this camp. The main dining area is right on the beach and you sit down with a gentle breeze in your hair and a feast of seafood to enjoy!
We then travelled to Machangulo Beach Lodge, a down-to-earth resort with spectacular views towards Inhaca Island. The rooms are staggered along the sand dune and nestled down in the forest so you can choose between sweeping views or being a few metres from the beach. I loved the colourful décor of this lodge and its friendly staff. It’s a great option for families or groups of friends and is really good value. The real bonus here is that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities: snorkelling, boating, fishing, island visits, SUP boarding, kayaking through mangrove forests and much more.
From the South Coast we returned to South Africa for a night where we stayed at Belgrace at White River. We absolutely loved this little gem just outside of Kruger. The staff treat each person like royalty and the rooms match this – opulent, luxurious and each one is designed with pure romance in mind. This is a great option if you're driving from Kruger and would like to break up the journey to Mozambique with an indulgent overnight stop.
The next day we flew from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to Vilanculos. A short road and boat transfer later we were at Anantara Bazaruto, on a large island in the Bazaruto Archipelago. You could easily fill seven days with dune boarding, snorkelling, horse riding and other great activities, making this a great option for family vacations and active adventurers. For those seeking a magical spa experience in the Indian Ocean, this spa definitely delivers.
Driving south, our next destination was Massinga Beach Lodge. We loved the rooms here with their views over the ocean, and being so far from any city the stars shine super brightly. The plunge pools are perfect for romantic midnight swims with stars overhead and jasmine scenting the air...
We then travelled to Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city, where we stayed at the legendary Polana Serena. We loved the architecture here and we arrived in the middle of a jazz festival so there was a vibrant atmosphere with lots of local and international celebrities! Polana Serena is great if you need to overnight in the city before flying to the Quirimbas Archipelago. For those who enjoy sushi, the Aquarius Bar with its bay views is a must!
From Maputo we flew north to Pemba Airport and then transferred to Azura Quilalea Private Island. This was one of our favourites: the accommodation and food were absolutely excellent, and nothing was too much for the friendly staff. Dinner on the beach under the stars was heavenly and we loved being able to snorkel right off the beach.
Onto Anantara Medjumbe – more private island bliss! We were only two of three guests at the time and were spoilt with lots of lovely little surprises including a head-and-back massage and a private snorkelling trip. The beaches were full of seashells; it was so beautiful.
Our last stop was Coral Lodge, which we absolutely loved! The spacious rooms have beautiful views of the lagoon or the ocean, and there are lovely local touches in the décor. Just a short dhow trip takes you to Ilha de Mozambique where you can spend the day exploring the fascinating architecture, battlements, old canons and cobbled streets. We also stopped in at Diamonds Mequfi which hosted us with an incredible gourmet lunch. This large resort offers excellent value-for-money and a really wide range of activities.
Some of your favourite activities?
We did a short tour of the historical Ibo Island – its famous silversmiths are incredibly talented and we took so many pictures of the amazing architecture there. At Azura Quililea we went kayaking among the mangroves at Sencar Island – you can only do this excursion on certain days of the month so we were really lucky and excited to have the opportunity. Anantara Medjumbe treated us to a private snorkelling trip which included a beach barbeque on one of the neighboring deserted islands. It was a great day where we were able to really ‘switch off’.
What wildlife did you see?
Southern Mozambique is good for turtle sightings at this time of year, although we didn’t see any - that's the unpredictable 'nature' of Nature that makes it so interesting. Nesting season usually falls at the end of the year through to March. We did see a juvenile martial eagle catch an iguana in the nature reserve behind Machangula resort. There was a lot of evidence of elephant too but sadly the elephants were doing their elephant 'thing' somewhere else. We had lots of great snorkelling moments, and we’d like to go back to the Bazaruto Archipelago one day to see the dugong population.
What did you eat?
Some of the best seafood ever! Quilalea has one of the best chefs – the food was outstanding here. Belgrace was another winner – it’s impossible to choose which was better. That said, when in Mozambique it’s all about the prawns and lobster, which we enjoyed a lot of!
Your favourite travel moments on the trip?
The entire trip was magical. We truly loved every moment here and the experience was about so much more than just beaches, snorkelling, diving and fishing – it’s about the history and the architecture, it’s about the friendly people (everyone has a wave or a smile for you) it’s about driving down roads between markets with colourful capulanas (traditonal cloths with bright prints) billowing in the breeze.
Top travel tips?
Go! Just go and experience it yourself. Mozambique is so easy to add onto a safari and the experience is not just about beaches. It has a rich culture that will open your eyes to a part of Africa that you will not find anywhere else. As far as Southern Africa beaches, this is my first choice and as soon as flights are more frequent from East Africa, it’s going to be a good suggestion for an East Africa safari-and-beach combination holiday, too.
Want to know more about combining Africa’s islands and incredible wildlife destinations? Sign up to our newsletter for insider info on African travel. If you’re ready to start planning your dream safari, get in touch with a friendly African Safari Expert today.