Have you ever been to Mozambique? I’ve been four times now and each time I fall more and more in love with one of the most underrated countries in Africa. Mozambique is a popular destination for South Africans since the countries border each other. But to many international tourists, Mozambique is still just a place on the map. I first visited this paradise on a family trip when I was 14. We stayed in Tofo which is a coastal town in Southeastern Mozambique. We loved it so much that we went back to the same spot a few years later. Recently I got to experience a different part of Mozambique while staying at Vilanculos Beach Lodge on a girls trip. The reason for our trip? One of my best friends bachelorette parties.
Vilanculos Beach Lodge is situated in the small coastal town of Vilankulo which lies in the Vilanculos district of Inhambane Province. Vilanculos is the gateway to Bazaruto Archipelago. The archipelago is a cluster of six islands immersed in the cerulean waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. It’s a tropical paradise for beach lovers, scuba divers, fisherman, and seafaring holiday-makers.
From lounging around the pool at Vilanculos Beach Lodge to taking a Tuk-tuk out to the local Vilankulo market, a boat trip to Bazaruto island, attempting to paddle-board out in the middle of the sea, and sundowners at the local beach bar just about every night, Mozambique was yet again a dream. But this time it was all about the bride-to-be. There was, of course, a lot of R&R (the local drink), tequila, and one late night partying at the local bar/club involved. Vilanculos beach lodge had everything to offer for a fabulous girls trip.
Day 1: Arriving at Vilanculos Beach Lodge
We had a much longer trip than expected. Mozambique is not far, it’s right next to South Africa. But getting to Vilanculos wasn’t easy. We had a layover in Maputo and then had to take the smallest plane I’ve ever been on (25-seater) to Vilanculos. To add more time to the trip, this plane stops in Inhambane to drop off other passengers along the way. Our flight left Joburg at 06:30 in the morning so we had a very early start. We eventually landed in Vilanculos and were transported to Vilanculos Beach Lodge at about 14:30.
Within the first few minutes of our arrival we knew that this was going to be an amazing trip. We were greeted with nothing but smiles and courtesy. Our bags were carried down to our rooms for us and we were given welcome drinks while checking in and recovering from our rather long journey. We felt like royalty! The staff here are some of the friendliest and happiest that I have ever come across.
It was a little overcast the day we arrived but we didn’t waste any time and started exploring almost immediately. Vilanculos Beach lodge is situated on the beach front – the swimming pool overlooks the sea. For me, there is nothing in this world that beats being on the beach. After settling into our rooms and having a quick change of clothing we set out along the beach to explore the area.
We strolled along the beach, snapped a few selfies (obviously), took in the wonderful fresh sea air, and not far from Vilanculos Beach Lodge we came across Casbah – a fabulous little beach bar set up under the structure of a sun hat! It has a great vibe and lively atmosphere and became our local hangout spot for the duration of our trip. We sat down to enjoy a cocktail with our feet in the sand and were soon greeted by the cutest little puppy – Iwe. He’s the managers puppy and a Casbah attraction. Needless to say we didn’t make it any further down the beach on Day 1! Instead we spent the next couple of hours playing with Iwe, ordering more drinks and watching the sun set over the ocean! It was the perfect first day!
Once we finally managed to get ourselves out of Casbah we made our way back to Vilanculos Beach Lodge for dinner. I got my first taste of the traditional Mozambican dish – Matapa – and it didn’t disappoint. I must confess, I’m not the most adventurous person when it comes to food. In fact, I’m well known in my circles as being a very fussy eater. I often stick to what I know in terms of food, but luckily I was feeling extra bold and decided to give Matapa a try. It was delicious and quickly became my new favourite dish. Matapa is prepared with young cassava leaves and cooked with garlic, onions and coconut milk. It’s dark green in colour – but don’t let the appearance fool you, what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in taste!
After our long trip to get to Vilanculos, and our first day of exploring, we decided to have an early night and made our way back to our rooms after dinner! Getting a good nights rest meant we would be energised for the days ahead!
Day 2: Exploring the area
After enjoying a hearty breakfast we decided that it was a good day to really explore the village. It was a little windy and overcast so not ideal for sun tanning but perfect for checking out the town. We had heard about the BIG Vilanculos market which was the talk of the town and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Since we didn’t get very far down the beach on our first day, we decided to make our way towards town on the beach (We would venture off onto the main roads once we got to our point of reference). Of course, we had a bit of a photoshoot and a mandatory pit stop at Casbah along the way. When we reached the famous shipwreck on the beach, we started to make our way up to the main roads (this was where we were told to walk when we asked about getting to the market). But in all honesty once we reached the roads we had no idea which direction to go in and how long it would take – something must have gotten lost in translation.
We walked along the main road, not sure if we were going in the right direction, for about half an hour before we eventually decided that this wasn’t working out. Suddenly a Tuk-tuk came past and we realised that we needed to get on one if we were ever going to make it to the market. We hailed down the next Tuk-tuk that came by and by some miracle we managed to squeeze five of us into one. Typically, you can fit three girls into a Tuk-tuk at a push! But we had been walking forever and thankfully our driver agreed to let us squeeze in. It wasn’t comfortable but we made it to the market in about 5 minutes!
After all the hassle of getting to the Vilanculos market, we were less than impressed when we arrived. It wasn’t what we expected at all and we were the only tourists in sight! While the best part about visiting a country is often getting lost in the local spots with few tourists, this wasn’t one of those times! We felt out of place and a little vulnerable (probably our South African mentality kicking in). We spent about 20 minutes at the market before we decided to make our way back to Vilanculos beach lodge – lame I know, haha!
But our Tuk-tuk experience was one of the highlights of our trip. In fact, we decided to all squeeze into another one on our trip back to the lodge again. We went down back roads and side streets to avoid roadblocks and the local police station. This is exactly what our driver told us, since we had too many people on board. It was a bumpy and treacherous ride back, but we laughed while clenching our teeth the whole way.
We eventually made it back and by this time the sun had come out. We decided to have a late lunch at the lodge and enjoy a few drinks around the pool. The food here is incredible. I don’t think we stopped eating the entire trip. The seafood was particularly good and I opted for a prawn and chorizo dish which was out of this world. After lunch we spent the rest of the day swimming, chatting, drinking, and lazing in the sun.
As the sun started to go down we got ready for the night ahead. We decided to spend the evening at our favorite local spot – Casbah. By the time we started making our way here it was already dark so we had to trek down the beach with torches. As we found out the hard way, every crab in Vilanculos comes out at night. So with a lot of shrieking and sprinting, we made it to Casbah in a flash. We had a wonderful night here, mingling with the locals and fellow tourists. When it was time to head back for bed we had a lot more “liquid courage” and the crabs weren’t too much of a hassle.
Day 3: Day trip to Bazaruto island
This was our best day in Vilanculos. We had actually planned to take the trip the previous day but since the weather wasn’t on our side we postponed it. Thankfully we did because we ended up with the perfect weather on day 3. We had to meet at the boat tour at 8am and we had breakfast at the lodge beforehand, so it was an early start. Once we had finished breakfast we arranged for a Tuk-tuk, or should I say two – we opted against squeezing all five of us into one again – to take us to the Sailaway offices, our meeting point. As you can imagine, this is not your typical office. It’s a bush hut in the middle of the village and really set the mood for the day ahead. This is where they briefed us and gave us our flippers, aqua shoes, and other essentials.
Once we were all ready, we made our way down to the beachfront where the boat was waiting for us. We had a day of snorkelling, wandering around the island of Bazaruto, exploring sand dunes, swimming, and a beach lunch ahead of us. The boat trip to reach Bazaruto was longer than expected, but there were no complaints. We were enjoying taking in the fresh sea air and admiring the views. On the trip we stopped in the middle of the ocean to snorkel. Mozambique is home to one of the most diverse coral ecosystems in the world. The clarity of the water and richness of the coral reefs makes snorkelling here an almost surreal experience. The water was very rough during our trip but it was still incredible. We saw some beautiful fish and moray eels while fighting against the tide, so we definitely got a good workout!
Eventually our guide advised that the waters were too rough and it was no longer safe to snorkel, so we all hopped back into the boat for a 20 minute trip over to Bazaruto. This island is an unspoiled, idyllic setting of white-sand beaches and picturesque sand dunes. The sand here is so soft, it’s like an untouched paradise! The scenes were breathtaking and the views were just as impressive! The boat dropped us off around the back of the island so that we could fully explore the area. We hiked up the sand dunes, snapped many photos, ran up and down the dunes and then made our way to the beachside where our boat had docked! To top off an already wonderful day, our lunch was served on the beach with some of the best views. It included Matapa (my new favourite dish), chicken, salad, and a delicious paella.
When lunch was done we explored a bit more of the island, had a swim, and then it was time to start heading back towards Vilanculos. By the time we got back the sun was already starting to go down. We headed back to Vilanculos Beach lodge, freshened up, had a drink and then made our way down to Casbah for dinner! We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The Sailway Bazaruto tour was such an adventure.
Day 4: Beach day and partying it up with the locals
Each day of our trip the weather improved! On day 4 we woke up to sunshine and almost no wind. It was the perfect beach day and we were determined to make the most of it. We spent the whole day relaxing at the pool, taking some insta-worthy photos, kayaking and trying to paddle board in the sea, swimming and making a lot of noise! But this was our last full day in Vilanculos and more importantly our bachelorette party day!
One of the great things about Vilanculos beach lodge is that they have kayaks and paddle boards that all guests can take out into the sea. Unfortunately we were all a little too eager to take advantage of the weather and we decided to go out with this gear when the tide was right out. Anyone who has used this stuff will know how heavy it is. Anyway, we walked out about 2 kilometres dragging two paddle boards and one kayak. When we eventually reached deep enough water we stayed in for hours. None of us were particularly good at paddle boarding and the current was very strong. But we had so much fun trying to learn and keep ourselves afloat!
Once we had enough it was time to carry the gear back up to the lodge – which wasn’t so fun! But we made it and it was then time for lunch. We spent the rest of the day swimming and lounging around the pool. Later on in the afternoon we noticed more guests going out into the sea with the paddle boards and kayaks. As it turns out the tide had come in and the water was right up to just in front of the lodge. We quickly realised what fools we must have looked like walking out to sea with the gear in hand at low tide. But hey, our “blonde moments” added an element of excitement to our trip.
As it started to get late we headed back to our rooms to get ready for the evening head. We had a lot in store for our final night and “hen party”. We first enjoyed a specially prepared dinner and champagne, organised by Vilanculos beach lodge. They really went out of their way to make the bride-to-be feel special. Our next stop was Casbah – obviously! And from there we organised a taxi to take us to Afrobar!
Afrobar is the place to be if you want to party in Vilanculos. It’s the local “club,” which trust me, isn’t like any club that you’re imagining or have probably ever been to, but we had so much fun! With no flushing toilets, dirty floors, and tin roof, expectations weren’t high, but it was an experience of a lifetime. The party here only starts at 11pm. In fact, again, a little eager, we arrived at about 10:30 and there was not another person in sight! Thankfully we decided to stick around because by 11:30 the place was packed! There are mostly locals here – we were some of very few, if any tourists! The music was great, the vibe electric, and the atmosphere energetic. We danced the night away and headed home in the early hours of the morning!
Side note: Our taxi driver; Mohammed, was wonderful! He stayed with us the entire time at Afrobar and took us home when we were ready…..many hours later!
Day 5: Goodbye…
We woke up with sore heads and sad hearts. It was time to say goodbye to the wonderful people of Vilanculos. But we had time for breakfast and to take one last walk on the beach since our flight was only in the afternoon. We also bought some last minute souvenirs from the beach vendors. But sadly our wonderful trip to Vilanculos Beach lodge had come to an end!
This trip, from accommodation to staff to food and the locals was even better than I had anticipated. Already a lover of Mozambique, I had high expectations and somehow this place exceeded them! I definitely plan on going back someday soon….
Have you ever been to Vilanculos or even Mozambique? What was your experience like?
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