The Bazaruto National Park, off the central Mozambique town of Vilanculos, is an unspoilt, yet accessible island paradise. One of the largest marine parks in Africa, it consists of six islands: Bazaruto, the largest, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina (or Paradise Island) and the tiny, uninhabited Bangue and Pansy Shell islands.
Supporting a diverse number of habitats, from mangrove swamps to savannah, they offer real Robinson Crusoe-style deserted island escapes, with high dunes covered in colourful sprawling creepers, fresh water crocodile-infested lakes, swaying palm trees, sandy beaches littered with pansy shells and lapped by piercing clear blue water.
The islands are renowned for excellent surf, rock and fly-fishing and there is the full range of watersports, as well as horseriding and walking trails. With over 160 species of birds recorded – including flamingos and pelicans – it is a heaven for serious twitchers. Samango monkeys, small antelope and otters are occasionally sighted on island excursions, but the marine life is the main attraction.
The archipelago sustains the last viable population of the endangered dugong – a cousin of the manatee. Dolphins frolic in the swell and four types of turtle are found here - often popping their heads out of the water like big articulated periscopes as you cruise by.
Scuba divers and snorkelers are treated to an amazing display of colourful corals, diverse tropical fish and big pelagics such as manta rays, as well as seasonal visitors such as humpback whales and dolphins.
But for most visitors the archipelago is somewhere to relax, to wander the empty beaches, to watch the spectacular sunsets and sunrises and to enjoy the spoils of the luxury resorts. Somewhere to refresh the soul.