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Textiles for sale dance in a beachside breeze in sunny Mozambique. (Photograph by Evistock/iStockPhoto)

Insider’s Guide to Vilankulo, Mozambique

Mozambique’s shoreline, at 1,540 miles, is about the length of the U.S. west coast.

The southern part of the coast—known for the seaside town of Vilankulo and the five islands that form Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as a “Gift to the Earth”—is a magnet for travelers seeking authentic (and affordable) adventure.

A guide to optimizing your time in this coastal paradise:

> Four Adventures:

  • Equine Expedition:

Scout the landscapes around Vilankulo and Bazaruto National Park on horseback with Mozambique Horse Safari. Keep an eye out for birds (eagles, kingfishers) and endangered dugongs. Safaris range from an afternoon to a week.

  • Sail Away:

Cruise the Bazaruto Archipelago in a traditional way, aboard a dhow; outfitters include Sailaway Dhow Safaris and Sunset Dhow Safaris. Like diving? Visit the Odyssea Dive Center.

  • Paddle Power:

Discover the Govuro River wetlands—a world of water lilies, reed beds, tropical birds, fish, and amphibians—on a leisurely canoe outing with South East Africa Safaris.

  • Fly By Kite:

Secluded North Beach attracts kitesurfers from around the world. Learn the sport with outfitter Vilancool, which also runs snorkeling excursions—and has a villa for rent.

> Day-Trip: Coastal Highlights 

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A treasured sight in Bazaruto islands waters: manta rays (Photograph by Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Four hours south of Vilankulo sits Inhambane, a port and trading town since the 1100s.

Walk its streets and you see vintage Arab and Portuguese colonial buildings; the Mercado Central, where vendors deal in fish and produce; and the 19th-century Cathedral of Our Lady of Conception.

Then head to Tofo, a beach area on a nearby peninsula, to visit the local Manta Ray and Whale Shark Research Centre, based at Casa Barry Lodge.

> Where to Stay:

Run by Italian expat Marina Ferraris, Baobab Beach Backpackers resort offers bungalows, rustic huts, a restaurant, and camping facilities.

Art deco flirts with Mozambican and Portuguese vernacular styles in the newly renovated Hotel Dona Ana, built in 1960. Sip cocktails in the Seta bar, then feast on piri-piri prawns at the restaurant.

> Authentic Souvenir:

Pick up a bracelet made from the horn of a Nguni cow; thick yet light, the horn has the color and texture of mother of pearl.

> A Taste of Local Flavor:

Mozambique’s specialty is matapaground cassava leaves cooked with peanuts and served with shrimp or crab.

> Best Market:

Artisans sell their work—jewelry, textiles—at Machilla Magic, a communal gallery.

This piece, reported by Douglas Rogers, appeared in the December-January 2015-2016 issue of Traveler magazine along with Rogers’ feature “Upon the Beach in Sunny Mozambique.”