The first glimpse of the ocean we saw at Vilanculos was when we arrived at Baobab Backpackers. I honestly could not believe that we have managed to find a place more beautiful than where we have been thus far but at first glance Vilanculos instantly stole my heart.
The problem with love at first sight though is that you are blinded to all the not so perfect aspects which Vilanculos sadly soon revealed once we became better acquainted with this small town. The perfectly flat wave-less ocean with its striking turquoise, dark and light blue sections had charming dhow fishing boats with different colour sales scattered all over. Unfortunately this picture perfect scene can only captivate you for so long before your eyes start to wander to the beach full of litter and broken bottles – which my feet expertly managed to find every step I took. During the low tide the ocean retreats a good 150m leaving a soggy beach that feels icky to walk on.
It is probably unfair to compare Vilanculos to Tofo, the one a bustling town and the other a small holiday village ,but one tends to compare what you currently have against what you had and I found Vilanculos wanting.
Unlike Tofo where the more luxurious accommodation seamlessly blended with the budget backpackers, Vilanculos had a distinct upper and lower class with more affluent residents. The town itself is bigger and busier, yet only has 1 or 2 overpriced grocery stores with a very limited product offering. Luckily the market was only a 1km easy walk away from the backpackers and it had all we needed. The stall owners unfortunately lacked a bit of personality or maybe they just did not like tourists all that much. The fish market we were directed to turned out to be a couple of tables with smelly, dried out fish. However there were a couple of drunk fishermen next to the side of the road that had fresh-ish fish to sell. The scale they used was unfortunately out and a fish that could clearly not way more than 2kg weighed in at 4kg.
I know a lot of people would disagree with my opinion of Vilanculos and the bustling Baobab Backpackers with people that have been there for weeks is evidence enough that taste differs and every traveler is out to experience something different. I would not discourage people to go to Vilanculos, it is after-all the departure point to get to Bazaruto, and it makes you appreciate Tofo with its bustling market and characters just a little more.