Travel: How do you dhow?

Kate Oppenheim visits Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago and savours the delights of sea, sun, sand and sumptuous cooking while Larry Buttrose follows a long line of travellers gripped by the mystique of Timbuktu and heads off to Mali

The busy market streets in Vilankulo are lined with colourful stalls selling coconuts, sweet oranges, doughnuts and bright African- style cotton wraps. Yet despite its lively atmosphere and long, empty beaches, this small town in Mozambique is little more than a gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, 10km off the south-eastern coast of Mozambique. Most visitors stay here for only a few days to arrange their short trip across the Indian Ocean to the islands.

The five islands are a castaway's playground of wonderful white sandy beaches, littered with brightly coloured shells and sand dunes. The nearest to the mainland is Magaruque, 20 minutes by motor boat. The other three main islands are Santa Carolina, Benguerra and Bazaruto; Banque, smaller and less visited, lies to the south.

Mozambique's mainland caters for both the luxury and the backpacker-ends of the visitor scale, but life in the Bazaruto Archipelago is more basic. Showers may be cold, warm or non-existent; toilets are long-drop; cooking is over open fires; and nights are usually spent under canvas or in thatched huts. Electricity was turned on in Vilankulo only a year ago. Oil lamps or torches are necessities on all the islands.

I opted to tour the islands by dhow (the wooden, old-style Arab sailing ships) and booked myself on a five-day all-inclusive trip that included transport and all soft drinks and food.Much of the cooking is done on board the dhow over a charcoal fire (safely secured in a large sand-filled tray); as we set sail from Vilankulo, Afonso, the cook, was boiling up some freshly caught crabs for lunch.

After a slow start we arrived at the first and smallest island, Magaruque, and scurried off to explore. The white sands squeak when you walk on them and the fantastic number of shells means that youlearn to limit yourself to the more precious finds or risk sinking the dhow with your loot.

White sand spits gather height as they head inland, creating dramatic sand dunes. Scrambling up these, you get the first glimpse of the archipelago. Trees and spiky shrubs cover the island's centre. In two hours of following goat tracks, we saw no one, apart from a local fisherman.

By the time we got back to the dhow, the crabs were cooked. The quality and quantity of the food during the trip was staggering: despite limited facilities, Afonso managed to produce one good meal after another - and spent the rest of the time plying us with "coco-dos" (a Mozambican version of coconut ice).

Our first night was spent on Benguerra, a long and choppy journey away. Under darkness, we put our tents up at Gabriel's Camp while Afonso cooked up spaghetti and matapa (a local dish of pine nuts and cassava leaves).

The next day, we strolled along the wide beach while waiting for the wind to drop before setting sail. Bazaruto, with its shimmering sand dunes, was visible across the sea, and we soon arrived at Zenguelmo Camp. That evening the sun sank into the neighbouring island of Santa Carolina (the oldest and most exclusive island) casting an orange glow across sky and water.

We got up to find Afonso at the fire, preparing banana and papaya, cheese omelettes (which became our morning mantra), toast and jam, tea, coffee, and biscuits. We then set off on a guided walk to the fresh-water lagoon on the other side of the island. An impressive wall of sand rises from the water right up the far bank, but you cannot swim here, due to the resident crocs.

It is a tough climb up the almost vertical sand dunes. Once near the top, you walk a sandy tightrope as the dunes fall away steeply on either side. But at the top you can see to the left, the lagoon and beyond, the sea; and to the right, waves breaking on the two-mile reef.

Swimming, sunbathing, walking, eating and sailing are all you have to do on the islands. Tide and wind didn't allow us a visit to Santa Carolina, so we returned to Benguerra for our final night. Right on cue as we headed home, the seas parted (thanks to the huge spring tides) and we were presented with our very own virgin island for lunch.

The most straightforward journey to the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, is via Lisbon on Air Portugal or Linhas Aereas de Mocambique (LAM). It is likely to be cheaper (around pounds 450 return) to travel to South Africa or Zimbabwe and on to Mozambique from there. Kate Oppenheim paid pounds 539 for a return flight on KLM from London Heathrow to Harare in Zimbabwe through Trailfinders (0171-938 3366).

From Harare to Vilankulo the bus takes more than 24 hours or book a connecting flight (around pounds 190 return). Tours of the Bazaruto archipelago ($4 per day entrance) can be organised locally. Kate Oppenheim paid US$158 (around pounds 100) for an all-inclusive trip with Sail Away. For information write to David and Ema, Sail Away (nr the Dona Ana Hotel), Vilankulo, Mozambique.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life