Bazaruto Island, Heaven on earth?

Bazaruto Island, Heaven on earth?

Bazaruto Island, located approximately 80 kilometers southeast of the mouth of the Save River in Mozambique, is a beautiful sandy island that serves as a haven for biodiversity and as a coveted destination for tourists. The island is the largest in the Bazaruto Archipelago and lies within the Bazaruto National Park. It's accessible from the closest mainland town, Inhassoro, and administratively belongs to the Vilankulo District and Inhambane Province.

The island's geographical features contribute to its unique beauty. Its coastline sees continuous buildup thanks to the warm, southward-flowing Mozambique Current. The waters along the coastline are incredibly clear, revealing much of the sub-surface channel pattern around the island. The island's coastal plains boast numerous lakes and a swampy environment indicative of karst topography. The area is underlain by limestone rock that has eroded into a pockmarked landscape, creating water-filled sinkholes. The island experiences a humid tropical climate with around 850 mm of rainfall annually, largely concentrated in the months of December to March.

Bazaruto Island and the surrounding archipelago are an important marine sanctuary along the East African coastline, home to a wide array of endemic species. The marine life in the archipelago is diverse and includes 500 species of marine and coastal molluscs, 2,000 fish species, and nine species of marine mammals. These include whales, dolphins, and the endangered dugong. Migratory species such as whale sharks, great white sharks, manta rays, and several species of whales also inhabit the park’s marine environment. Notably, Bazaruto is home to the last viable population of dugongs in the western Indian Ocean, with a herd of over 55 seen in December 2021.

The archipelago is also rich in birdlife, with more than 180 species having been recorded. The avifauna is strongly influenced by coastal birds, such as waders and especially terns. Rare birds, including pratincoles and ospreys, have been spotted in the park. Greater and lesser flamingos, great white and pink-backed pelicans, along with five kingfisher species, are among the park's most special birds.

Turtles also have a significant presence in the area. A turtle-nest monitoring program documented 55 nests across all five islands in 2021, which resulted in the birth of 2,019 live hatchlings.

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a fantastic destination for tourists. The clear, turquoise waters filled with colorful fish make it an ideal spot for diving and snorkeling. Birdwatching is also a popular activity due to the variety of species present. The archipelago consists of five main islands, and since 1971 much of it has been protected as Bazaruto National Park. For those on a budget, a dhow cruise from Vilankulo is a great option to visit the archipelago, or one could visit during the low season when some lodges offer special deals.

The Bazaruto National Park protects the five islands of the archipelago, along with surrounding waters, which contributes to the preservation of the island's biodiversity. It also houses a picturesque lighthouse, a renowned landmark on the island.

Bazaruto Island holds some interesting records too. A 7.90 kg Brassy trevally and the world record Blacktip trevally were both caught off Bazaruto Island, indicating its richness in aquatic life.

In terms of popular culture, Bazaruto Island was the location of Prize Island, a British television game show produced by Endemol for ITV, which aired from October to December 2013.

Overall, Bazaruto Island is an outstanding example of a biodiverse, ecotourism destination with a rich array of wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and intriguing cultural history.