With some of Africa’s best beaches and a clutch of fine retreats, the low-key Bazaruto Archipelago is shaping up to be the jewel of Mozambique tourism.
The sun is searing like a broiler as our speedboat cuts a shallow trough toward the small, sandy island of Magaruque, eight kilometers off the Mozambique coast. The water is so glassy that the milk-white sea floor beneath us looks close enough to touch. From time to time, manta rays drift under our path like the passing shadows of clouds.
Pedro Naif Cuinhane, the island’s rickety caretaker, meets me on the beach with a cockeyed smile. It’s a warm enough welcome, though I’m a little disconcerted when the boat speeds off almost before I’ve disembarked. Shrugging, Cuinhane tells me he has worked on Magaruque for almost 30 years, long before Zimbabwean tycoon John Bredenkamp acquired the island as a family getaway in 2004. Now open to paying guests, the property still feels more like a private home than a resort, with a squash court–size infinity pool fronting a large thatch-roofed villa and three smaller bungalows, all built in the Cape Dutch style of South Africa.
After settling in, I return to the pool patio with a glass of rosé and almost drop it, so stunned am I by what I see: the ocean, the one I just crossed to get here, has vanished. The tide has rushed out, leaving behind a patchwork of turquoise wading pools and snowy dunes that stretches all the way back to the mainland.
“It’s possible to walk across at low tide,” Cuinhane tells me. No wonder my boat captain was in such a hurry to leave. But as much as the tidal flats pose a navigational hazard, they also provide one of the most extraordinary views I’ve ever beheld, like watching an impressionist sand painting in progress. The panorama isn’t unlike Mozambican tourism in general—devastatingly raw and beautiful but still so new and changing that it’s unclear how it will turn out.