|15 December 2001
The Government of Mozambique has declared the entire Bazaruto Archipelago a protected area. At 1,400 square kilometres, it will now rank among the largest marine National Parks in Africa if not the world.
The vast new marine nature reserve has been approved in the Indian Ocean in a move that offers new hope to some of the region's most spectacular coral reefs, wildlife including the enigmatic dugong or "elephant of the sea" and local communities that depend on the sea for their livelihoods.
The main islands in the archipelago are Santa Carolina, Bazaruto, Benguerra and Magaruque. They are tropical with isolated palm and casuarinas tree shaded beaches. The area has rich tropical reefs and clear warm water. Bazaruto is the largest coral reef island off the east coast of Africa. Bazaruto Island is approximately 35 km long and 7 km at its widest point. The population is estimated at 2 300, many of whom subsist on fish caught from their fishing boats.
The archipelago’s islands were formed when sand was deposited here hundreds of thousands of years ago by the waters of the Limpopo River. The estuary of this great river has now been shifted through various tectonic forces several hundred kilometres to the south. During low tide many white sandy islands pop up, covered in shells. 6 hours later they will be 10 meters underwater again. Legend has it that the Portuguese disposed of prisoners this way, by dropping them off on a beautiful deserted island.
Santa Carolina, which is the smallest and most northerly of the islands, is an exception and is comprised of rock and coral. In the 1970s the islands and the channel were declared a national park, and now funding and management is provided by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, South African Nature Trust and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. They control long-line fishermen, the sale of shell-fish, traditional fishing and conserve the wildlife on the islands.
A milkwood forest borders Benguerra Bay. A mosaic of forest, savannah and wetland ecosystems sustains a diverse population of fauna and flora. The Bazaruto Archipelago is situated approximately 40 kilometres off the Mozambique coast.