Chartering a private sailboat

Bazaruto Island, Mozambique

My plan today had been to join a 3-day dhow safari with SailAway which would take me to the offshore Bazaruto Archipelago, a chain of five nationally protected islands off of the coast. Because of a high income-low impact development approach to tourism, the accommodation options on the islands are limited and quite expensive. SailAway provided an alternative — an opportunity to visit them aboard a dhow, a traditional sailboat, while camping out.

This morning, David, who runs SailAway told me that the group of three other guests that were to join the trip had their passports stolen and would now be unable to go. “I’m not going to cancel the trip,” he said. “The boat is yours.” The bad luck of others had become my good fortune; I’d have the dhow at my disposal, along with the three-man crew.

The captain, Manuel, led me down to the vessel — and while it certainly wasn’t luxurious, it was comfortable. There was a place to store my bags in the front, benches running along the sides, coolers for the food and water and a firebox for cooking in the back.

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The cook, also named Manuel, used some charcoal to get a fire started and put a kettle on while my guide, Dumas, talked me through our itinerary.

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With the sails up, we headed north for our first stop, Bazaruto Island. It was a scenic trip out there with dolphins following alongside the boat. We even spotted a dugong, this cool sea mammal unique to the area. The island itself felt completely deserted; on our beach, there was no other sign of life except some sand crabs.

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There was a tremendous dune further down the beach. From the top were views out to sea as well as the lush inland.

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After lunch back on the boat, we made our way to Two Mile Reef, which has the best snorkeling and diving in the area. Somehow, there wasn’t a single other boat or person there. Below water, colorful schools of fish darted among the coral, eels lurked in crevices and a gigantic sea turtle searched for food. My camera didn’t come down, so here’s a boring photo of the reef from the boat.

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With the sun starting to lower in the sky and our first day coming to an end, the sails were raised and we made our way to camp.

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Manuel grilled some freshly caught paragosan fish for dinner. We had a couple of beers around the campfire before heading to bed.

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