Where to go snorkeling in Mozambique?

Mozambique has nearly 1400 miles of coastline and many islands that are bathed in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Coral reefs border some parts of the coasts, particularly in the Bazaruto Archipelago, in the Nacala region, and in the Quirimbas Archipelago.

Lagoons, mangroves, and rocky coastlines can also be snorkeled in some areas. Large parts of the coastline, especially around sandy estuaries, have poor underwater visibility and can’t be snorkeled.

While some snorkeling spots in Mozambique are easily accessible, some others are located in very remote areas, several hours drive from the main roads.

Beach in Bazaruto archipelago
Beach and reef in Bazaruto Archipelago, off Vilankulo.

Inhanca Island, about 18 miles off Maputo, is home to the closest snorkeling spots to the capital city. Its west coast is bordered by a coral reef, which can be explored during boat trips or, for very good swimmers, from Praia do Coral. The distance between the reef and the beach is about 500m.

Between Maputo and the border with South Africa, the coast is lined with large sandy beaches, but is not very suitable for snorkeling. Decent snorkeling is found in Ponta do Ouro, where you can snorkel on the rocky areas facing the beach, and also on offshore boat trips.

110 miles north of Maputo, Bilene Lake is renowned for sighting seahorses, and you will find several guides to take you to the best places to see them. Seahorses are also one of the attractions of the Tofo region (180 miles further north), where they are easy to spot in the Barra Estuary.

If you are in Tofo between September and February, you can also snorkel in hopes of encountering the whale sharks that congregate offshore during this period. Boat tours in Tofo also are an opportunity to see manta rays, dolphins, and marlins.

Juvenile semicircle angelfish in Nuarro Lodge
Several species of angelfish can be spotted in Mozambique, including the semicircle angelfish (here, a juvenile photographed in Nuarro Lodge).

The Bazaruto Archipelago, which faces Vilankulo, is one of Mozambique’s most visited snorkeling area. The favorite local spot is Two Mile Reef, a beautiful coral reef that emerges between the islands of Bazaruto and Benguerra. 

There are other good spots, particularly around Santa Carolina Island, Benguerra Island and Margaruque Island. The Bazaruto Archipelago is home to the last populations of dugongs along the African coast, and whale sharks are present around the islands from October to April.

Mozambique’s northernmost 300mi of coastline are home to the country’s most beautiful coral reefs. There are some nice coral spots around the Island of Mozambique, which gave the country its name. Linked to the mainland by road, the neighboring Island of Goa can also be reached by boat from the Island of Mozambique.

Quirimbas archipelago
Aerial view of a coral reef in Quirimbas archipelago.

The reef-fringed Nacala region offers great snorkeling, even though much of the coast is remote and hard to access.

If you are looking for a resort with a great house reef, Nuarro Lodge, in Nanatha Bay, is one of the best options in the area and, as a matter of fact, the whole country. Allow around 2.5 hours by car from Nacala airport to reach this location.

110 miles as the crow flies north of Nacala, the Pemba Peninsula is also fringed by coral reefs, some accessible from the beach. North of Pemba  begins the Quirimbas archipelago, a string of 32 islands that line the coast to the border with Tanzania.

The Quirimbas, protected by a National Park, is home to fantastic coral reefs, turquoise lagoons, and sand tongues, some almost unexplored. You can visit the archipelago from the towns on the coast, from the inhabited islands (mainly from the island of Ibo). You can also stay in the luxury hotels located on more remote islands and islets, such as andBeyond Vamizi Island, the Azura Quilalea Private Island and the Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort.

Twobar anemonefish in Nuarro Lodge
The twobar anemonefish is the most common anemonefish found along the East-African coastline (here, photographed in Nanatha Bay).

Mozambique is a popular destination for snorkeling with megafauna. Whale sharks and humpback whales frequent the Mozambique Channel in large numbers. To swim with whale sharks, head to Tofo between September and February or go to Bazaruto from October to April.

While snorkeling on the country’s coral reefs, you may spot any number of the 350 species of reef fish, including angelfish. This includes the regal angelfish, the semicircle angelfish, the goldtail angelfish, butterflyfish, several species of sweetlips, surgeonfish, and the twobar anemonefish.

While the coastal lagoons are less colorful, they are inhabited by seahorses, urchins, and blennies. On the seagrass beds, you’re sure to find some superb red-knobbed starfish. In Mozambique, sightings of green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, or rays remain sporadic at shallow depths.

Whitespotted boxfish
The whitespotted boxfish is one of the dozen kinds of fish found at Mozambique’s reefs (here, photographed in Bazaruto Archipelago).

When to go snorkeling in Mozambique

You can snorkel all year round in Mozambique, which has a pleasant tropical climate. With more than 1400 miles of coastline, temperature variations are significant between the north and south of the country.  The further north you go, and closer to the equator, the hotter it gets.

The dry season, May through November, is often considered the best time to snorkel or dive in Mozambique, although it can get chilly on some days. During the rainy season, it is warmer (80 to 88°F/27 to 31°C on average during the day), but showers are frequent on the coast.

The water temperature ranges from 72°F/22°C during the coldest months (July and August) to 77°F/25°C on average in summer.

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