Imagine Zanzibar as it was four decades ago. That’s Ilha de Mozambique, with its cobbled lanes lined with 16th-century Portuguese buildings and even more ancient Islamic edifices. The teal-blue Mozambique Channel—swirled with carnation-pink sandy shoals—is studded with islands haloed by jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches. In the Bazurato Archipelago, we’ll explore ramshackle fishing hamlets connected by sandy tracks, and sail on traditional dhows (ancient holdovers from when this coast was a dominion of Arab traders), their pointy sails slicing the shallows like shark fins. And Mozambique culture is as colorful as Crayola! The woman adorned in bright kanga wraps and shawls…. Fishers mending their nets and caulking and adzing their dhows… Youngsters playing mancala in the sand. Then there’s the raw, unfiltered safari experience…
“This is as wild a place to see animals on safari as you’ll find in this part of the world,” says safari guide Pedro Fonseca, sweeping his arm across the savannah of Maputo Special Reserve. Burchell’s zebra and wildebeest thunder past, the earth trembling beneath their hooves. Fonseca breathes in slowly. “In five or 10 years, Maputo Special Reserve will be spoiled as a genuine safari experience. You’re privileged to enjoy it while it’s still raw.”
Despite being barely a 90-minute drive south from Maputo, Mozambique’s tranquil capital, the 1,040 sq km (400 square mile) Maputo Special Reserve is about as off-the-map a destination as one could imagine. Recently devastated by a civil war that decimated its wildlife, Mozambique struggles to compete in the big-stakes safari game. Yet rewilding of animals is reaching critical mass. About 650 of Africa’s largest-tusked elephants tramp the ancient pathways of Maputo Special Reserve, rekindling old acquaintances as they roam through dense grass and coastal dune forest. Although tranquil now for three decades, Mozambique is still off the radar of most North American travelers. Now is the time to visit!
Day 1 (Sept. 11):
Participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Maputo. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, plus a set-the-scene slide show, then a welcome dinner. Overnight in Maputo.
Day 2 (Sept. 12):
This morning we’ll take a locally guided tour of Maputo, taking in the city’s architectural highlights (such as the cathedral and historic train station), plus the teeming market and waterfront wharves. Overnight in Maputo.
Day 3 (Sept. 13):
Fly to Nampulo and transfer to Ilha de Mozambique—a 3-hour drive through villages where villagers sell roasted peanuts and cashews, plus harvested sea salt, etc. We’ll stop as photo opportunities arise, including dramatic landscapes studded by immense granitic inselbergs. One of Eastern Africa’s most alluring destinations, Ilha de Mozambique resembles a lesser-known Zanzibar… part ghost town, part lively fishing community and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobbled streets lined by Portuguese and Arab buildings dating back to the 16th century. Overnight in Ilha de Mozambique.
Day 4 (Sept. 14):
Full day photographing on Ilha de Mozambique, with its mostly Muslim and super-friendly community. Highlights will include fishers mending their dhows and nets; plus women clad in gaily colored capulanas (shawls and wrap-around skirts) and with faces painted white with musiro paste as a sunscreen. Overnight in Ilha de Mozambique.
Day 5 (Sept. 15):
Full day photographing on Ilha de Mozambique, including a culinary experience. We hope to time our arrival to coincide with the Watana Festival (http://watanafestival.com), a colorful cultural extravaganza that honors traditional arts, music and other culture. Overnight in Ilha de Mozambique.
Day 6 (Sept. 16):
We’ll return overland to Nampulo where we’ll catch our flight to Maputo. There will be some time for late afternoon photography after arrival. Overnight in Maputo.
Day 7 (Sept. 17):
An early morning departure via the new Maputo-Ponta do Ouro highway to Salamanga, with a quick stop at the Shree Ram Hindu temple. We enter Maputo Special Reserve and negotiate the sand tracks in 4WDs, accompanied by experienced guides. Created as Maputo Elephant Reserve in 1932, to protect southern Africa’s remaining coastal herd of elephants, Maputo Special Reserve combines grasslands, wetlands, swamp forests, mangroves and coastal lakes, and is a favorite of local safari operators who consider it as wild and untouristed a place to see animals on safari as you’ll find in this part of the world. Tonight we’ll ‘glamp’—sleep in deluxe tents—in the wilderness. Overnight camping at the Maputo Reserve.
Day 8 (Sept. 18):
Return to Maputo via the Maputo Special Reserve—a full day of wildlife photo ops. En-route, we’ll hope to see giraffe, antelope, kudu, hippos, and the park’s legendary big-tusk elephants. Overnight in Maputo.
Day 9 (Sept. 19):
This morning we’ll fly to Vilanculos (via Beira) and drive to the village of Macunhe, where we’ll photograph (and support) the Machilla Magic community art project. Return to Vilanculos and check in to our lovely boutique hotel. You’ll have time to enjoy an optional spa treatment or simply relax on the beach or poolside. Overnight in Vilanculos.
Day 10 (Sept. 20):
This morning visit “fish-market beach” and Mukoke market. The balance of the day is free for you to partake of optional activities, such as swimming with whale sharks; a whale-watching excursion; scuba diving; or similar activity. We’ll be there when the warm waters of the Bazurato Marine National Park fill with whale sharks and humpbacks plus Southern right whales for mating and calving. Overnight in Vilanculos.
Day 11 (Sept. 21):
This morning we’ll thrill to a speedboat transfer to Bazurato and/or Benguerra Island, passing over the turquoise shallows of Mozambique Channel swirled in shoals the color of Valspar Perfection. We’ll enjoy a full day in the astonishingly beautiful Bazurato Archipelago, including a guided cultural and nature tour in search of flamingos and Nile crocodiles, with opportunities to photograph the island culture. In late afternoon we’ll take a sunset dhow safari (two dhows) to return to Vilanculos. (There’ll also be time for an optional helicopter ride over the Mozambique Channel; extra charge.) Overnight in Vilanculos.
Day 12 (Sept. 22):
We return to Maputo today. We’ll enjoy a farewell dinner, followed by a slideshow of everyone’s favorite images. Overnight in Maputo.
Day 13 (Sept. 23):
Guests are transported to the Maputo airport to catch their flights home.