Mozambique has suffered greatly from civil war and famine in recent decades, and is not necessarily at the top of your average bucket list. But tourism to the country helps to stimulate the economy, and the islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago just off the coast of the country just happen to provide some of the most blissful island surroundings and magnificent wildlife a traveller could dream of.
Guests on Benguerra, the second largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, awake to the sounds of fishermen bringing their catch on to the island’s pristine sands. Everything about the island, situated just off the coast of Mozambique, is idyllic.
&Beyond is the company that operates the tours to this piece of East African paradise, and at the core of its work in Benguerra is a commitment to conservation and caring for the community on the island. The company specialises in care of the land, wildlife and people in their destinations as much as it does in providing world- leading luxury experiential travel.
Benguerra Island is a secluded natural paradise which offers both barefoot luxury and adventure. Those looking to concentrate on unwinding can enjoy stunning beaches, castaway picnics and starlit dinners, while the more active traveller has a playground of immaculate coral reef and towering sand dunes on offer. Benguerra is also a sanctuary of nature. It is home to 140 bird species and was made a national park in 1971 to protect Africa’s last remaining population of the rare dugong ‘sea cows’. &Beyond reopened its Mozambican retreat after a refurbishment in June 2015, with 13 thatched “tropical chic” villas available that also give a nod to the country’s Portuguese heritage. Each has its own deck, rim flow pool and access to the beach.
Visitors can try game fishing, diving, sea kayaking, snorkelling and Dhow boat cruises. There are freshwater lakes and sand dunes to explore on the interior of the island on horseback. You will also have the opportunity to get involved with the local community by visiting the local school, attending a church service, or mingling with the islanders by crab collecting together at low tide.
The company claims its work in conservation and sustainability has had a positive influence in nine million acres of protected wildlife areas worldwide. It has 24 years’ experience in luxury safari and experiential holidays, keeping a philosophy of ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ at its core. It has 33 lodges in 15 African countries, plus India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
In Benguerra, the organisation is working to provide opportunities to the local communities. The 1500 inhabitants of the island identified its most urgent need as a multi-purpose centre to serve as a focal point for its villagers, and &Beyond has been working with Africa Foundation to make this a reality. The centre will provide a meeting place for the local council from which initiatives can be launched, as well as a centre of health education. It is also shelter for islanders from storms and bad weather.
One project that’s in the planning stage is to bring fresh water wells closer to the main village, while since the island only currently has a primary school, a long-term plan is also to establish a secondary school so children don’t have to take a boat to the mainland for their education.
To ensure the future of the dugong population, &Beyond is looking into alternative sources of income and sustenance for villagers to reduce the amount of fishing on the island. There are around just 50,000 dugong left globally, with a stronghold of just 250 left off the East Africa coast. &Beyond is supporting the Dugong Emergency Protection Project, which is based on Benguerra. The project looks to eliminate the threats to the dugong population, carrying out marine patrols, assisting with education programmes for local schools, securing funding for law enforcement and maintaining tourism to stimulate the local economy. &Beyond said the preservation programme has been very successful, with no dugong deaths in the last 15 months.
To celebrate the reopening of the Benguerra destination, &Beyond is offering a special ‘bush and beach’ package which combines a South African safari experience with the Mozambican island trip. It starts at the 1920s colonial Kirkman’s Kamp safari lodge in the 16,000 acre Sabi Sands Game reserve, where guests can find spotted hyena, buffalos, white rhinos, elephants and more. Guests are then whisked off to relax on the beautiful island Eden of Benguerra.
- Capital city: Maputo
- Currency: Metical
- Population: 27 million
- GDP: $16.39 billion
- Life expectancy m/f: 53/55
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