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Quirimbas or Bazaruto - which archipelago is best?

How to choose your own island paradise



Director of Mozambique Voyages
Published on

28 Jul 2018

Updated on

28 Feb 2024

Flying Over Vamizi Island In The Quirimbas

So you’ve decided to visit some of Mozambique’s most beautiful islands (good choice by the way!), and are wondering how to choose between the pristine islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago in the far north, and the picture postcard Bazaruto Archipelago further south.

Well don’t worry, we’re here to help you with that decision.

Mozambique is a very long country. It has 2750 kms of coastline, much of which requires time and effort to reach. Often the decision about which islands to visit will be based on transport logistics and where you’re travelling from, but there’s lots more to consider when choosing between the stunning Quirimbas or Bazaruto Archipelagos.

Lets look at the facts…

Saling past Azura Benguerra
Azura Benguerra - Bazaruto
Anantara Mediumbe Main Lodge Lounge
Anantara Medjumbe - Quirimbas

Best for access:

Forget the idea that Mozambique is inaccessible and only an option for adventurous overland travellers. It is in fact really easy to reach the islands. There are daily flights to Vilanculos (for the Bazaruto Archipelago) and ideal connecting times to all major airlines back in Europe. Then there is a short boat transfer or light aircraft resort to the islands themselves, depending on the resort. This ease of access makes Bazaruto a popular choice for travellers.

The Quirimbas Archipelago on the other hand is more remote, but that’s no bad thing. There’s a definite feeling of exclusivity here, and it is easily accessible by air from both Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and Johannesburg in South Africa. Passengers fly into Pemba on the mainland, and then transfer by boat or light aircraft to their lodge.

Our choice: Bazaruto

Anantara Bazaruto Island
Bazaruto Islands

Best for beaches:

Do beaches get much better than here in Mozambique? All the usual clichés apply…they’re pristine, vast and deserted, and feel a lot wilder and more ‘real’ than the manicured beaches of many other island destinations in the world. Both archipelagos are everything that you’d want from a tropical island holiday, and there’s really not much to choose between the two. Both Quirimbas and Bazaruto tick all the boxes, and you’ll be more than happy with either.

For this one I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

Our choice: both are superb

Anantara Mediumbe Quissanga Island Picnic
Anantara Medjumbe Island picnic - Quirimbas
Azura Benguerra Presidential Villa From Air
Azura Benguerra - Bazaruto

Best for diving:

Mozambique is a world-class diving location. Not only because the variety and abundance of marine life is superb, and the quality of both hard and soft coral is pristine, but because mass tourism has yet to arrive in the country, which means you’ll rarely be sharing a site with other divers. There’s no pollution, no big resorts, the waters are warm and the reefs unspoiled. Does it get any better than this?

As Mozambique is vast, the diving areas along the coastline do vary greatly. The Quirimbas Archipelago in the north of the country is the best spot for diving, with its pristine marine environment giving a more ‘virgin’ feel to the area.

Yet if you want to be in with a chance of seeing a whale, shark, dugong, or even a whale shark you should dive in the Bazaruto Archipelago. This is better for seeing the big game fish.

Azura Quilalea Diving Lessons
Diving at Azura Qulalea - Quirimbas

Best for day trips:

The Bazaruto islands are all about picnics on deserted white sand beaches, snorkelling in crystal clear waters and living the barefoot luxury life that you’ve always dreamed about.

The story is the same in the Quirimbas, but with the added bonus of Ibo Island, where visitors can explore rich history, ancient architecture and a traditional lifestyle that has changed little over the last 1000 years. It’s a place of legends, pirates and gold, with an intriguing blend of Arab, European and Mozambican cultures that makes Ibo Island a fun day trip during your stay in the Quirimbas.

Our choice: Quirimbas

Ibo Island Lodge Fort
Ibo Island fort
Catholic Cathedral On Ibo Island
Ibo Island cathedral

Best for luxury:

Both the Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos are known for their luxury properties, and really it’s impossible to choose between the two.

In the Quirimbas you can arrive in style by helicopter at the gorgeous Azura Quilalea, which has an uninhabited tropical island paradise all to itself. The prestigious but unpretentious lodge has its own house reef (a rare thing in Mozambique!), offers romantic candlelit dining in the shadow of a giant baobab tree, and even private plunge pools in some of the villas. It’s the ultimate luxury Robinson Crusoe castaway experience.

In the Bazaruto Archipelago the experience is much the same. Private retreats such as the &Beyond Benguerra Island Lodge and Azura Benguerra offer barefoot beach luxury also with helicopter transfers, cooling plunge pools and romantic dining out on the sand.

Our choice: both Quirimbas and Bazaruto are at the top of their game when it comes to luxury

Beyond Benguerra Island Bedroom
&Beyond Benguerra - Bazaruto
Azura Quilalea Kusi Villa Plunge Pool Sea View
Azura Quilalea - Quirimbas

Best for the wallet:

Staying in the Quirimbas or Bazaruto Archipelagos isn’t cheap, although if you can afford it, the experience is worth every penny. Yet if your budget can’t quite stretch to the luxury lodges on the islands themselves, there is an alternative. And it’s called Vilanculos.

Vilanculos is a coastal town on the mainland, just across from the Bazaruto islands. Accommodation in Vilanculos spans all budgets so there’s really something for everyone, with the added bonus that the paradise islands of Bazaruto are just a 30-minute boat ride away. So you can still enjoy the ultimate castaway experiences (the same as those offered by lodges on the islands) without the price tag.

Our choice: Bazaruto (if you stay in Vilanculos)

Bahia Mar Arial View Vilanculos
Bahia Mar at Vilanculos

And the winner is...

Let’s be honest…there’s really no wrong decision when choosing between the Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos. Both offer some of the most incredible island experiences in the world, and you’re going to have the holiday of a lifetime no matter where you end up.

Just send us a postcard…because we certainly wish we were there!

Azura Quilalea Sea View
Azura Quilalea - Quirimbas

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