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Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and African Parks

In the heart of the Bazaruto Archipelago, there is more going on than meets the eye. Captivating ocean diving, island-hopping boat cruises, and horse rides into dune and wetland sanctuaries are all possible thanks to dynamic marine and island conservation initiatives. This blog is all about the inspiring work and role that African Parks plays in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Read all about their conservation and community success stories in a very special part of Mozambique here.

African Parks, in its relentless pursuit of conservation excellence, is busy with an ongoing restoration and rejuvenation program within this marine paradise. The focus extends beyond the picturesque landscapes and includes a delicate balance between preservation and progress. African Parks signed a 25-year co-management agreement in December 2017, their vision to maintain Bazaruto as a beacon of marine conservation.

Aerial view the Bazaruto Archipelago Islands
Did you know? The Bazaruto Archipelago Marine Reserve is Africa’s first marine reserve and one of the largest in the Indian Ocean.

In those days, Bazaruto faced myriad challenges such as human-induced threats to endangered megafauna including majestic whales, sharks, and nesting marine turtles. The clash between unregulated activities and the sanctuary’s delicate ecosystems has been a prime focus area for conservation management over the past 5 years – effective management strategies have both reduced illegal activities and strengthened alliances with communities, tourism operators, and government partners. This means that conservation endeavours now lead the economy, create jobs, and promote communities’ skills development. 

To this day, African Parks is still dealing with ongoing illegal fishing, unsustainable practices, and uncontrolled tourism, constantly endangering both the park’s biodiversity and the livelihoods of local communities. Conservation organizations in Mozambique need to enforce resilient measures to preserve valuable natural resources.

Conservation success stories in Bazaruto

The 25-year co-management agreement signed between African Parks and the Mozambique National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) marked the start of a partnership dedicated to restoring, developing, and managing the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Nothing can be achieved without the respect for, and involvement of, local people – to combat human impacts on the environment and to ensure that all people benefit financially in a sustainable manner that also benefits nature.

In the words of Celmira Frederico Pena da Silva, the former Mozambican Vice Minister of the Ministry of Land, Environment, and Rural Development, “Bazaruto is an extraordinary conservation area whose time has come to be sufficiently protected and revitalized.” The vision is clear—to forge a partnership with African Parks that ensures effective management, protection of natural resources, and sustainable benefits for local communities through enhanced nature-based tourism.

The law enforcement of African Parks looking out to the ocean
African Park’s focus is on strengthening conservation law enforcement to mitigate threats and build support for the park.

African Parks has therefore strengthened law enforcement while engaging community members to support intensified marine and terrestrial ranger patrols. Conservation monitoring focuses on key species and habitats and ecotourism goals include more jobs for locals, hospitality training, and exclusive tourism activities.

Central to all of this is the East African dugong, the gentle giant of the ocean, a key species in Bazaruto, classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red Data List.

The rare dugong is an iconic ocean species

Community support and training in Bazaruto Marine Park

One of the key pillars of community support in Bazaruto is education and environmental organisations strive to equip residents with the knowledge needed to become stewards of their own backyard.

From educating fishermen about sustainable practices to enlightening the youth about the wonders of marine life, these initiatives spread awareness that slowly nurtures more conservation-minded individuals. Through workshops, seminars, and immersive environmental experiences, local people begin to understand the delicate balance between human activity and the marine environment.

teaching the community by African Parks in Mozambique
Working with and supporting communities is key to what they do in effective park management.

Skills for sustainable living drive special training programs to empower people to coexist harmoniously with their environment. Fishermen are taught sustainable fishing techniques that ensure bountiful catches without depleting marine resources. By providing alternative livelihood skills, such as eco-tourism guides or marine conservation roles, the community is not just preserving their environment but also finding innovative ways to survive financially. 

It’s great to see small businesses flourish and eco-conscious tourists flock to the area, drawn by the commitment to sustainable practices. From community guesthouses to nature-inspired handicrafts, Bazaruto residents are embracing a newfound economic resilience.

Choose sustainable travel in Mozambique

The role tourism plays in Bazaruto National Park

Bazaruto is more than just something beautiful to view and appreciate. It’s more than a special marine sanctuary for vital species. Tourism plays a vital role in the National Park as activities like diving, snorkeling, horse riding, and island hopping beckon adventurers to explore this aquatic wonderland. Eco-tourism is an important part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, sustaining its conservation goals and supporting the local people to infinity.

Aerial view of the coastline of the Bazaruto Islands
Declared a protected area in 1971, Bazaruto is made up of five islands, three of which are inhabited by over 6,500 people.

Again, tourists need to remember to conserve the delicate balance – no entry without payment, no spearfishing, and no jet skis are just a few of the management policies enforced to safeguard the environment. There are so many good reasons to book a holiday to Bazaruto:

  1. It harbours the last viable population of dugongs in Africa that depend on natural seagrasses.
  2. It’s a Marine Protected Area adorned with sub-tropical islands featuring luxury, decadent holiday accommodation.
  3. It hosts iconic marine megafauna including whale sharks, manta rays, several turtle species, migrating whales and dolphins.
  4. It boasts diverse and pristine coral reefs that sustain myriad seaweed and fish species.
  5. It’s easily accessible for those seeking a rendezvous with nature – flights from South Africa and Mozambique mainland abound.

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a premier honeymoon holiday destination!

Rules and guidelines for visiting Bazaruto Archipelago National Park

The Bazaruto Archipelago National Park needs to be safeguarded at all costs. Certain zones have been earmarked as sanctuaries under the banner of ‘Total Protection.’ Tourists and tourism operators need to adhere to all necessary rules and guidelines when visiting Bazaruto Archipelago National Park.

  • Tourists must always advise the park before arriving and make conservation payments.  
  • Spearfishing, jet skis, and water skiing are prohibited in the ocean and sandboarding is banned on the dunes. 
  • Fishing, resource harvesting, or any form of extraction in the Total Protection zones are taboo. Catch-and-release fishing required everywhere in the Park. 
  • Fires on the sand require a metal sheet or drum.
  • Leave no rubbish nor lingering coals – carry it all away to throw away or recycle later. 
  • No removal of shells from the beaches. 
  • Turtle nests and corals are sacrosanct so leave them intact. 
  • Professional filming demands a permit.
  • Drones require legitimate licenses from the Park Authority.

Coral reefs are impacted negatively by chemical sunscreens so rather wear creams made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Wear hats, rash vests, swimming skins, or light wetsuits to protect you from the sun.

The Significance of Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) in Mozambique

In marine conservation, Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) are sanctuaries vital for the preservation of marine mammal species. The brainchild of the IUCN Joint SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force, IMMAs are identified through an expert-driven process, detached from political and socio-economic considerations. IMMAs do not have legal standing like Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) but they are a guide for governments, intergovernmental organizations, conservation groups, researchers, tourism companies, and the general public. They pinpoint areas of ecological importance, extending beyond marine mammals to encompass broader species and ecosystem biodiversity.

A dugong in the Bazaruto Archipelago of Mozambique
Bazaruto Archipelago National Park is home to the largest dugong population on the eastern coast of Africa.

In the face of threats like ship strikes and increasing noise pollution in the ocean, IMMAs emerge as guardians of marine life and this is vital in the Western Indian Ocean with the decline of dugongs since the 1960s. The Bazaruto Archipelago and Inhambane Bay in Central Mozambique are havens for these sea cows, home to the last viable dugong population in this region, numbering between 250 and 350 individuals.

Comprehensive surveys protect not only dugongs but also endangered Indian Ocean humpback dolphins and various cetacean species. Seagrass beds in both Bazaruto and Inhambane bays provide essential habitats and a good reason for proper management strategies.

Conservation and community success stories in Mozambique lead the way in global ecotourism initiative and it is all thanks to the inspiring work and role that African Parks plays in Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Mozambique Travel shows tourists where to stay and which specials are best for honeymoons, celebrations and group tours to the islands in the sun.