After the night at Smugglers, everyone on the tour had the option (for an extra fee) of joining an excursion to the Bazaruto Archipelago for two days. 14 of us joined, with only two people staying behind so they could go diving instead of snorkeling.
We left Vilanculos early in the morning, but instead of piling onto the truck, we piled onto a traditional boat, called a dhow. Before the advent of motors, these boats were propelled by sails, but now they all include a small engine to help on those days when the wind is low. Stephie and I sat in the prow of the ship, looking out over vast expanses of ocean and our island destination far in the distance. There was very little wind so the captain fired up the engine and we set off! I was actually quite glad for the engine since it makes for a much smoother ride (and is less motion-sickness-inducing) than the sail.
It was a two hour ride out to our first snorkeling area and the time passed by quickly with the wind in our faces and everyone eagerly searching for dolphins in the water. Our first stop was a rocky reef, on the edge of an island, where we spent an hour and a half snorkeling. The visibility was good and I saw many different types of fish (no pictures because I don’t have an underwater camera) and some giant clams! Snorkeling was really easy because of the strong current: you didn’t need fins and hardly had to kick, instead I just let the current sweep me along with the fish. It was really cool, but other people didn’t like getting swept along so quickly and they got out after just a few minutes. I loved it! It was especially great when our guide, Ashley, came up to where I was and pointed out fish and clams, giving them names I had not known. The reef itself was composed of rock which was very sharp so we wore booties on our feet instead of fins. The reef wasn’t very impressive, but the fish more than made up for it.
When I noticed that everyone else had stopped snorkeling, I walked ashore and joined the group for lunch. The cook actually made lunch over an open fire on the boat! I had seen the fire going and was wondering what he could make in such a confined space. I was so impressed when I discovered that lunch consisted of two salads, fresh barracuda steaks, and crab! The crab was very different from what I’ve had before: they were very small and didn’t have much meat to them, but what they did have was sweet and succulent! And for dessert we had fresh bananas that were just the right level or ripeness and perfectly sweet.
After lunch we had an hour of free time on the island so I went exploring. I set off down the beach and saw many crabs scurrying about. There were two different kinds: the sand crabs and the rock crabs. They both blended into their environment really well and were quite skittish as I approached. They were really fun to watch and I spent some time trying to get photos.
I curved around the edge of the island and caught up with Andrew and Jackie from my group. They were headed back to camp and told me I had half an hour left. I spied a sand dune in the near distance and wondered what the view would be from the top, so instead of heading back with them I plunged forward on my own.
The sand dune was only about 100 feet tall and I gained the summit rather quickly. From the top I could see all edges of the island (it’s not that big) and several other islands in the surrounding area. I knew I was short on time and since I could see our camp on the other side of the island, I decided to take an overland route instead of following the beach back.
The side of the sand dune that I had to descend was very steep but the sand was pretty hard packed and I enjoyed racing down and managing to not tumble head over heels. There was almost a trail to follow back, which I was very glad for since I was barefoot and the plants on the island all had thorns. I passed a few trees where dozens of egrets were roosting and talking to each other, their white bodies making such a contrast with the radiant greens of the foliage.
Soon enough I was back at camp where I surprised everyone by appearing from the opposite direction. I joked that I circumnavigated the island but everyone knew that would take too long so I described my overland route and made a few people jealous.
The tide had come in a lot while we were eating lunch and exploring and suddenly our beach was nearly non-existent! The captain and cook spent a few minutes hoisting the sail since the wind had come up, then we all boarded and set off, back to the main land.
We tried to sail for some time, but the wind was too weak and finally, the captain gave up and turned the motor back on. While we enjoyed the scenery and chatted about the fish we saw, the cook prepared tea and coffee for us! Then a huge bowl of popcorn was passed around and we gorged ourselves with an afternoon snack.
Due to the recent floods, we couldn’t camp on the island, so we headed back to the mainland, to a secluded beach that could only be reached by boat. We dropped off part of our group at a fancy lodge, then continued a kilometer down the shore to our camp. When I say “camp”, I use the term in the most broad sense. The place we stayed was a permanent campsite with our tents already pitched and sleeping pads and bags inside. There were flush toilets and even two showers with hot water! There was a building that contained the kitchen and an open air thatched hut with picnic table as our dining area. It was amazing.
I took a lovely shower then wandered along the beach before dinner. Tea and coffee was served before our meal of roasted chicken, salads and fresh fruit. As it got dark, a camp fire was started for us and we sat around it for several hours swapping stories and watching the stars.
I haven’t mentioned star gazing yet, but as you can imagine, it was amazing! There are no cities nearby and hardly any villages so the sky got so dark at night. The milky way lit up sky since the moon was new. At one point I saw five shooting stars in a span of ten minutes. And it was warm at night so it was nice to sit out and gaze upward.
Stephie and I decided to sleep outside since the tent was stuffy. The camp was situated on a slight hill, but we managed to find two small flat-ish spots and we bedded down to the sound of crickets and frogs and watched the stars until our eyes couldn’t stay open any more.