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Mozambique is a land of contrasts that brings to mind many impressions. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, yet has one of the fastest growing economies. Its name evokes images of endless pristine beaches and the Portuguese influence in the food, music, architecture and language. Or the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s iconic song Mozambique, “magic in a magical land.”

We’re here in Vilankulo, a fishing village and gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a protected marine sanctuary with some of the richest and diverse marine ecology in all of Africa. It’s a hidden treasure for divers, deep sea fisherman, kite boarders and people wanting to experience a laid back culture on one of the most undeveloped coastlines left on the continent.

Getting here is easy, with daily flights from Johannesburg, South Africa. Accommodations range from backpacker huts with whimsical names like Zombie Cucumber, to the high-end luxury of the Bahia Mar Club, with its state-of-the-art gym and wellness center. We enjoy staying at Golden Sands, booked through its sister property Casa Rex, a beautifully appointed apartment overlooking the Indian Ocean and down the beach from the kite board center and hang out known as the Casbah. Plus, there’s a resident yellow lab, Leah, who will eagerly go for a walk on the beach or a swim in the pool with you.

Mozambique

November is mango season in Mozambique

Mozambique

Death Island where prisoners met their fate with the rising tides

Magaruque Island: One of five in the Bazaruto Archipelago

Magaruque Island: One of five in the Bazaruto Archipelago

The ever-changing views of the ocean, as the tides ebb and flow, are spectacular, and this is our fifth time staying here. In November, the sun rises at 4:30 AM and we awake to the sounds of fishermen readying their dhows for their daily venture to provide for their families. In the late afternoon they return, and women wearing the local sarong-type skirt, or capulana, walk to the water’s edge to collect the day’s catch. Balancing colorful buckets full of fish on their heads, they gracefully make their way to the village to sell the fish to brokers, who in turn will sell to locals, restaurants and tourists. This type of fishing has changed little since the days when Arab traders first sailed the trade winds to Mozambique.

Another day at the beach in Vilanculo

Another day at the beach in Vilankulo

Water from the well

Water from the well

In 1497 when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, anchored off Inharrime, Mozambique he named the area “Terra da Boa Gente” or “Land of the Good People.” We can attest that still holds true, as anyone who visits Mozambique today will be welcomed and leave wanting to return again and again.