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The Bazaruto Archipelago

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of 5  islands - Santa Carolina, Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque and Bangue - extending 70 kms north from the Cabo Sao Sebastao Peninsula.

The biodiversity is very rich and includes the largest dugong population in Eastern Africa (around 250):

  • 180 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 2000 species of fish (75% of the species of the Indian Ocean) have been recorded

  • It has a wide range of terrestrial and marine habitats including coastal sand dunes, rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows

  • Average tidal amplitude is 3 m. (max: 4,39 m. in 1989)

  • It has been classified as an island group of world significance and considered a priority seascape for conservation. It first enjoyed some protection in 1971 and became a National Park in 2001.

  • About 5000 people live on the islands of Bazaruto, Benguerra and Magaruque. Artisanal fishing is the main economic activity for most of them.

A bit of history

The group of islands, most likely formed after a post glacial high sea level rise of 2 meters in two phases:


  • 12,000 years ago, after a sea level rise, Santa Carolina was formed. The sea level fell and when it rose again, 6/7000 years ago, a new barrier island stabilized in the position of Bazaruto, Benguerra and Magaruque. It is most probable that it was formerly a continuous sand body joined to the mainland in the south. The breaks between the islands are probably the result of tropical cyclones.

  • The islands formed by the action of sand accumulating by wave action. When sufficient sand accumulated, prevaling winds transport it around and form sand dunes perpendicular or parallel to the prevailing wind.

  • It is assumed that the islands migrate towards the main land at a rate of 600m/1000 years.

  • Relics of settlements evident at Ponta Dondo (South Bazaruto) seem to indicate that the Archipelago was occupied at the beginning of the Iron Age and suggest connections with a wider Indian Ocean trading network.

  • Links between the area and the Muslim cities of the north (Mombasa, Malindi) were strong and written sources from the 16th century describe the Archipelago as a wealthy and prosperous area. It seems this stopped with the slave trade as the population left for the mainland.

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