1. I love Bilene because it’s situated on a lagoon with no waves or strong currents. Perfect for little kids & water sports. The water is that gorgeous translucent turquoise, blue & green like you see in postcards. The water is shallow and refreshing and warm.
2. We booked & flew straight to Maputo via AirLink / Travelstart at about R2700 (from Cape Town) a flight. It’s about R2000 from Joburg. That seems steep but compare it to renting a 4X4 for your entire trip or even driving. Sometimes people wait up to 6 hours at the borders (without food, water or bathrooms), but the flight from JHB -> Maputo is 40 minutes. If traveling from Cape Town, pay special attention to layover times as you’ll be flying Cape Town > JHB > Maputo.
3. We got a transfer from Maputo to Bilene with a tour company called Tours2Moz. They only operate on certain days so they referred us to a different company for our transfers.
4. In Bilene, we stayed in a self-catering waterfront villa that sleeps 8 people. It’s called Villa’n Banga and it has its own on-site restaurant, bar, canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, pool table etc.
It’s currently R2000 a night. The villa is serviced daily (inclusive) and you can have your laundry done daily too. It’s SO much more relaxing being on holiday when your basic cleaning is done for you – especially with kids and a house that is covered in sandy towels & wet clothes half the time. Your kids will go through 3 outfits a day – easily!
5. We booked a boat via a man called Dercio who works at Villa n Banga. Our skipper was John. We booked the boat from 12 noon to about 7pm to go tubing, skiing, bar-hopping, exploring the town of Bilene & going shopping etc. They charged us +- R3000 for a family of 4 to use their services for like 7 hours.
John charges about R800 – R1000 an hour for tubing which my kids said was the highlight of their trip! Again, rates are always negotiable depending on duration.
6. My one son went on a fishing trip. We paid R2500 for him to go deep-sea fishing for about 8 hours. This included his rod, reel, bait, snacks, juice, water & a fishing coach & skipper. He also brought plenty of fish home for us to eat! We booked via Highlander Fishing Lodge. Piet junior & senior are SO great with kids. They loved Ben so much that they let him go on a second trip for free! Trust me, you will catch.
7. You can’t reach Villa n Banga without a 4X4. The owners (Lee & Anton) will gladly fetch you from Bilene at a small fee. I honestly wouldn’t rent a 4X4 for your trip if you’re flying in. Your car will just stand as everything you need is at the Villa.
8. If you need a transfer to Highlander Fishing Lodge or into the village for groceries, then Kobus is your guy. He’s a local with a 4X4 and he will take you on trips for a small fee. We only went into the village (Bilene) once for groceries. Your family won’t go hungry.. the restaurant (Babalaria) is a few metres from your villa and they even bring coffee, breakfast, food whatever to your house. John (boating guy) will also drop you at the village and walk with you to draw money / buy basics etc
9. Things to do in the area: Most family friendly is Nghunghwa Lodge with 2 pools & canoes for the kids. Don’t leave without trying their R&R slush puppies! We also loved the Flip-Flop bar! I recommend booking John for a day as he’ll scoot you from one place to the next and happily tube your kids along the lagoon right in front of you while you sip on your cocktails & demolish a prego roll (Flip-Flop Bar!) Don’t forget the R&R jello shots
(I HAVE to give a special mention to our new friend, Clint. I found him via the DriveMoz facebook group and he gave us all these great tips. The trip would not have been the same without his recommendations, which I’m now passing on to you!)
10. Activities at Villa n Banga include snorkeling (rent snorkels at the Babalaria bar). They also have a swimming pool, pool table & big screen with DSTV going for the kids. The bar is right on the lagoon. Your villa also has a huge outdoor braai & seating area. I most loved sitting on the balcony couches with a coffee or a drink and watching the water and the kids play.
You will need to stay in Maputo while you wait on your negative Covid result. We found a gorgeous, cheap & cheerful guesthouse called “Guesthouse 1109” with a pool, rooftop bar & air conditioning. You will find hundreds of places on Booking.com (where I always book) but Maputo can be quite dodgy and this place is central & safe (and walking distance to a Spar)
1. All they need is a backpack with like 5 swimming costumes, a beach towel & 2 pairs of slops. Pack light. They will NOT wear all the clothes you want to pack. Also pack an activity book, pencil, their tech device & earphones. Just that 1 backpack. Don’t check any of your luggage in.
2. Draw cash at an ATM as soon as you land in Maputo. You have no idea how many times the kids will want a water / snack and the local stop won’t have card facilities.
3. Get a SIM CARD at the Maputo airport and load it with at least 5G data and airtime. The transfer to Bilene is 2.5 – 3 hours and you will save your soul by letting the kids use your hotspot and connect to your WiFi / data.
4. Download at least 5 new, free games that DON’T use data for their devices for actual emergencies (delayed flights / queues / transfers)
5. Have 1 travel envelope to keep all the passports, Covid tests & boarding passes in 1 place
6. If you fly AirLink, note that they do serve a light meal and beverages on all flights. But still carry snacks in your bag. Why do they always need snacks?
7. Pack a first aid kit. I don’t mean just burn shields & plasters. You MUST pack:
Allergex cream for insect bites
Swimmer’s Ear drops for sore / blocked ears
Valoid (for nausea)
A stick of Peaceful Sleep that you can easily rub & re-apply after swimming
Malanil malaria tablets
1. If you fly in via Maputo, you will ask your transfer company to stop at Baia Mall. Here you will buy the groceries & basics for your stay. If you have only packed hand luggage (and I recommend you do as you don’t need much and it makes the airport such a breeze) then you will need shampoo, conditioner etc. You will also need long life milk. A few loaves of sliced bread (I freeze the bread & pop slices in the toaster as needed). Lots of eggs, cheese, cold meats, firelighters, bottled water, snacks, cereal etc. With the kids, I found that those packets of ready-sliced cheese on toast went a long way! You will need lots of fruit juice and of course your alcohol (which you can buy at the GAME). Pro tip – there are bakeries in the mall that sell authentic Portuguese pasteis de nata. Do not miss out
2. Learn basic Portuguese phrases for hello, thank you, please etc. This goes a long way in how the locals treat you.
3. Join a Facebook group called DriveMoz. It has like 68 000 members and people post daily tips & questions re life and travel in Moz. They also have VERY handy printable documents & info on their website. Eg, if you’re divorced / traveling without the other parent – all the consent forms & info is there.
4. DriveMoz has an option where you can pre-order registered and loaded SIM cards, delivered to your door before your trip. Highly recommend!
5. The roads in Mozambique are mostly awful. After Maputo, you won’t easily (or at all) find any luxuries or even fresh milk. No fast food chains.
6. Bilene has a bottle store and a very, very basic shop and some fruit / veg vendors
7. The Mozambique ATMs will only allow you to draw 5000 meticals (about R1000) at a time, up to 3 or 4 times a day. Most places & suppliers accept rands, so have a backup stash of cash to tip people, pay for boat trips, drivers etc. Where possible – pay via EFT in advance.
8. You need at least 8 days in Bilene to truly get settled in and have enough time to relax. Then you need to add another 2 days in Maputo for your Covid tests & waiting on results
9. Take Malaria tablets. Malanin is expensive but great. You don’t need a script. A few pharmacies don’t have it so contact / order in time for them to get stock
10. Have fun. It’s a tiny mission / 2.5 hour transfer from Maputo to Bilene but once you’re there it’s absolute paradise!