The Bazaruto Archipelago is one of the most important marine sanctuaries along the east African coastline, representing a range of critical habitats for many rare and endemic species. Comprised of five islands and 143,000 hectares of seascape, Bazaruto’s mix of coastal dunes, rocky and sandy shores, mangrove forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows are inhabited by productive communities of terrestrial and marine life.
The Archipelago hosts an assortment of marine life including 500 species of marine and coastal mollusks, 2,000 fish species and nine species of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and the endangered dugong. Migratory species also make use of the park’s productive marine environment and include species such as whale sharks, great white sharks, manta rays, killer whales, Southern right whales, and humpback whales.
Apart from Bazaruto being located in an ecologically-rich tropical zone, it is the close proximity of the park's varied marine habitats that contribute to its outstanding wealth of fish species. The eastern half of the park possesses a considerable number of pelagic and larger species, including kingfish, king mackerel, sharks, marlin and sailfish. Slightly farther from the shore, true oceanic species take up residence, such as the brightly coloured dorado, the tropical yellowtail and the larger charismatic species such as giant manta rays and whale sharks. Divers commonly see both rays and whale sharks over the deeper reefs – or, at times, simply at the surface from a boat.
Bazaruto is also home to the last viable population of dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean. The dugong is the only strictly marine herbivorous mammal, and is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae, after its closest modern relative, the Steller’s sea cow was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. Under the management of African Parks, regular conservation monitoring measures are being implemented to survey and better protect this key species and its habitats.
Most of the park’s reefs are located to the east of its islands. The reefs themselves are varied in structure and offer a range of diving experiences for the ecotourism industry. They are a valuable resource as they are an isolated node of reef development between the limited reefs in southern Mozambique and South Africa and the more extensive coral reefs north of Beira. The most spectacular diving is to be found in the outer reef areas where large fish are encountered and on the shallow, fringing reef tops where an abundance of corals and colourful reef fish occur.
The Archipelago is rich in birdlife. The diversity of habitats and its prominent location for migrating bird species contributes to this rich avifauna. Over the years, many amateur birdwatchers and professional ornithologists have contributed to an understanding of the bird species that occur in Bazaruto Archipelago. Together, more than 180 species have been recorded during these observations. Not surprisingly, the avifauna is strongly influenced by coastal birds, such as waders and especially terns. Rare birds, including pratincoles and ospreys, have been spotted in the park. Greater and lesser flamingos, great white and pink-backed pelicans, along with five Kingfisher species are among the park's most special birds.
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