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About Vilanculos

From Johannesburg to Maputo is 602km, Vilanculos is a further 705km from Maputo and is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago. You can go by car, 4×4 or fly from Johannesburg, Nelspruit or Maputo.Vilanculos is named after local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke. It is a coastal town, located in the district of Inhambane province. The Portugese renamed it to Vilanculos during colonial times and then at independence the name was changed back to Vilankulo. Presently the district is known as Vilanculos and the town Vilankulo. The architecture of the buildings in town, are reminders of the Portuguese influence and occupation of Mozambique.

The town is around 5km long, where you will find banks, bakery, food and other stores, restaurants and even a local hair salon. The centre of all commerce in town for both locals and tourists is the Mercado Municipal, or municipal market. Here you will find no better display of everyday life in Vilanculos. There are 2 markets located in town. The oldest of the two, is a must visit. Because the town is so small and easily accessible, walking on foot is a must. If the heat gets to you, you could drive the 5k’s. Walking into the market at any time of day is certainly interesting; it is a vibrant and bustling centre. Wanting the real authentic experience of a village market at night, we took a walk in the balmy December’s evening through the town and into the market place. Every resident in Vilanculos, regardless of age and gender is in some sort of business. At the market you will find most commonly seafood, vegetables, fruit, cigarettes, cell phone starter packs and local artworks for sale.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the industriousness of the residents of Vilanculos. School boys make a business out of helping foreigners get whatever they need, from transport or goods, to experiences in and around Vilanculos. For a town so poverty stricken; (most residents live in reed huts with minimal ablutions), the tourists are the only source of income for most.

When you come to Vilanculos or most of Mozambique, bring along all the old shirts, t-shirts, shoes and especially shorts with you, to trade with local sellers. Most are looking for t-shirts and shorts, in dark colours as they don’t wash them often. You could trade your goods for almost anything they are selling. This is particularly true for those locals who trawl the beaches selling local bracelets and other art. You will also find men and women selling fresh cashew nuts, for you to snack on whilst soaking up the sun.

The fish boats go out and come in twice a day. The locals advise going to the shore and buying them straight off the boats or to the Mercado Municipal. The boats come in at 10am and 12 and then between 4 and 6pm, tide dependant.

Vilanculos has a very distinctive flavour, the village life is tranquil, yet everybody on every corner in every hut, is busy doing some or another form of work. Be it beating laundry to sweeping, work is not limited to age or gender. Most locals are up before 5am, at boats or readying themselves for the tourist influx that day.

Vilanculos has one “proper” grocery store in town run by South Africans, called Taurus. Here you will find many South African goods; as well as fresh baked breads, fruit, veg and alcohol. The best thing about Taurus is perhaps the aircon, because the prices are certainly exorbitant. Best suggestion for shopping is to find one of the local boys, who will let you know where you can get goods at local prices. Alternatively let him pick them up for you and pay him a small fee. If not, the most cost effective way to purchase food and drink is at the markets, where you can haggle and bargain. Note that some locals selling fish have portable scales and will charge per kg of fish.

The beaches are pristine; it is more a bay or lagoon than anything else. The azure waters are shallow, calm and warm, with no waves. At low tide the water moves back and you can take a walk far onto the ocean floor. The beach is a seamless coastline but some go by different names by locals, depending on where they are located. For example; the beach in the village which more locals use is called Tropical Beach, Samara Beach is located close to Samara and Casa Cabana Lodges.

No matter where you find yourself along the beach in Vilanculos, there is an unparalleled view of the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique’s (only) national marine park; which Vilanculos is the gateway to. The beach fronts are scattered with restaurants and bars, where you can enjoy Mozambican beers. Consequently it’s probably the only drink you will be served really cold. Drink quickly, with temperatures at 37degrees Celsius during December as early as 7am, your cold beer becomes luke warm pretty fast.

Things to do in and around Vilanculos:

Snorkeling and diving

The archipelago offers some of the most spectacular clear waters and coral reefs. Known as some of the best diving in the world, with abundant and diverse marine life. Dive sites reach depths of 30metres with up to 40% visibility.

Traditional Dhow Safari

Motorized and sail Dhows take you on various excursions around Vilanculos and the islands.

Game Fishing

The area is renowned for Black Marlin fishing, and is a major attraction from October to February.

Horse Riding

Enjoy horse riding trails through Vilanculos and along the shore.


Vilanculos has a wide offering of places to stay for all types of travelling budgets for more information and rates go to

You will find a host of international travellers visiting Vilanculos. With its calm waters and tropical aspect, it is undoubtedly a place to drop your bags and stay a while.

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