Published on 17 October 2013
Written by Etienne Marais/Indicator Birding



The charming island of Inhaca is situated just 35 km from Maputo and is a popular destination for eco-tourists and researchers. The island covers 52 square km and is fringed with sandy beaches and coral reefs. Large areas of its land and shores have been protected as natural reserve since 1976, providing a unique and in places pristine environment.

Habitats on the island include inter-tidal sand-flats, mud-flats, large areas of mangrove swamps, freshwater swamps, and coastal evergreen forest, some of which is regenerating. In the centre of the island is a mosaic of natural trees, planted trees and bushclumps interspersed with small settlements, agricultural fields and areas of old agricultural lands – which have become grass-plains.

The island is easily reachable by regular flights from Maputo or the government ferry which commutes between the mainland and the island on most days of the week. Apart from the village of Inhaca, there are four smaller villages.


The woodland and forest of the island hold a variety of typical east coast species including Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Trumpeter Hornbill, Square-tailed Drongo, African Goshawk, Green Malkoa, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Black Saw-wing, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Sombre Greenbul, Grey Waxbill and Brimstone Canary.

Summer migrants include African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked bee-eater, Sooty Falcon and an assortment of waders that are to be seen on the extensive mudflats and sandbanks (Northern and western shores) of the island. These may include Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Sand Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling. A number of rarer species such as Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, and Eurasian Oystercatcher have also been recorded.

The marine environment provides habitat for a host of other species. Pink-backed Pelicans, Grey Heron, Little Egret and sometimes Greater Flamingo may be seen on the sheltered western side of the island and there is often a tern and wader roost on the southern point at Ponta Torres – here Caspian and Lesser Crested Tern may be seen.

Curiously there is a population of Southern White-faced Owls on the island.


trumpeter hornbill male and female

Trumpeter Hornbill pair.

Birding Areas
  1. Vast mudflats, particularly on the west and south of the island offer excellent opportunities for shorebirds. The easiest area is visit the mudflats west of ponta Razza – preferably on a receding tide. The point at Ponta Razza may be good at high tide when there are often roosts of terns and shorebirds. Saco bay on the southern shore is shallow and offers excellent wader watching on a receding tide, but is more difficult to get to. Common species which may be seen during the summer include Terek Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Caspian Tern, Whitefronted Plovers, Sanderling and Common Whimbrel. Sand Plover is regular but Lesser Sand Plover (Mongolian Plover) may also occur. Rarities which may occur from time to time include Broad-billed Sandpiper, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Crab Plover, Eurasian Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.
  2. Mangrove swamps are to be found just north of the airport, and a less disturbed more pristine mangrove swamp which fringes the top end of Saco Bay. Mangrove Kingfisher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Purple-banded Sunbird and Yellow-breasted Apalis are species which occur in and around Mangrove Swamps. In summer Sooty Falcon may also be seen in association with Mangroves.
  3. A large freshwater swamp complex is situated in the centre of the island, it is substantially reduced in size due to subsistence agriculture. The remaining area of natural swamp is just south-east of the airfield. This swamp has occasional sea-water influences from the nearby Mangrove swamp and is worth checking out for waterbirds. A second smaller swamp is situated at Nhaquene on the south-western peninsula and is particularly good for weavers and widows.


  4. There are two discrete tracts of forest – situated on the eastern and western dune ridges of the island. The forest on the eastern dune ridge is more extensive and pristine, but also more difficult to get into. The best forest areas are the forest around Ponte Torres (south-east peninsula), and the forest around the lighthouse (Cabo Inhaca). However the most accessible good patch of forest is that on the south-western dunes at Barreira Vermelha – which is south from the main settlement. Another option is the western side of the eastern forest reserve at Ngomela – situated about half way between the lighthouse and Ponta Torres. Species in the forests may include African Goshawk, Green Malkoa, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Grey Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Olive Sunbird and Green Twinspot.
  5. Mixed habitat in the middle of the island around the villages. These host a variety of common woodland species including Purple-banded Sunbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove , Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Rattling Cisticola, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Chinspot Batis. Southern Tchagra has been recorded in this habitat in areas of thickets.
  6. Seabirding. Seabirding is unpredictable, and one can often spend many hours searching the skies with little result. However regular watching from the northern point near the lighthouse (Cabo Inhaca) may prove productive with sightings of White-chinned Petrel, Shy Abatross, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Sooty Tern amongst others.

    red capped robin chat

    Red-Capped Robin-Chat.
Additional Information
Marine Life

The island offers superb marine life and is popular for snorkelling and Scuba diving. Three undamaged coral reefs flank the island's western perimeters, all of which are protected marine reserves. Humpback Whales migrate seasonally past these shores. Resident populations of the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin and the Indian ocean bottlenose dolphin occur in the waters around the island. Two species of Sea turtles (loggerheads and leatherbacks) visit the eastern shores in summer to breed.

One can reach the island by air or by regular ferries from Maputo.

Public Ferry: Government Nyaleti Ferry runs on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday departing Maputo at 07.30 and arriving at 10:30. It leaves the island at 15.00 to arrive in Maputo at 17.30 to 18.00pm. (Depends on sea conditions).

For this ferry you have to go to the jetty in the harbour and ask for the Inhaca Batelao (Ferry). No cars are allowed on the ferry. Vehicles may be safely parked at the Pescador Port at Mt40.00 (approximately ZAR10.00) per day. The car park may be found at the corner of Avenida Martires de Inhaminga and Avenida Samora Machel).

Private Ferry (Vodacom Ferry) - this departs from from the Porto de Pesca (Fishing Harbour), Maputo at 8:00 and returns at 15:00 every Saturday and Sunday. The trip takes about 2 hours. Tickets can be bought at the ferry from 07h30 and cost 1400 Mt per person (single) or 1750 pp (Return) For details or bookings contact +27 (0) 82 338 9055 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Reaching the Island by Air
Transairways runs here are also return flights that depart from Maputo airport and these 18 seater planes reach the island airstrip in fifteen minutes. There is safe parking at the Maputo airport for MT300.00per day (approximately ZAR100.00).

Transairways can be reached through email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at the Mozambican number (+258) 21 465108.


Sombre Greenbul
Sombre Greenbul.


There is a variety of accommodation on the island, from upmarket resorts to camping facilities.

The premier resort on the island is the Pestana Inhaca Lodge. It is situated north of the airport/village on the western side of the island. For enquiries Tel: +(258) 21760003, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Manico Camp provided budget accommodation in self-catering units. It also offers camping with power points and clean ablutions with hot and cold water Bookings through e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 011 4622268

Ramos Ram Campus provides affordable accommodation in self-catering tents. Bedding is included and sufficient ablutions facilities are provided with plenty of hot and cold water, and flush toilets. This is a self-catering camp with a fully equipped kitchen, but is within walking distance of the airport and village, and is in close proximity to a variety of restaurants and pubs that serve excellent seafood dishes. Bookings through e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 011 4622268

When available, the Marine Biological Station may allow visiting birders to stay there. Budget rooms are very simple, but the station is situated near Barreira Vermelha and within range of the Saco, so is a good option for birders willing to rough it a little! Tel: (01) 490009


African Pygmy Kingfisher

African Pygmy Kingfisher.

GPS Co-ordinates

M2-01: Maputo Harbour/Port GPS: S25 59 25.6 E32 55 23.9
M2-02: MBS (research station) GPS: S25 56 00.0 E32 30 42.7
M2-03: Ngomela Forest Birding GPS: S26 01 34.3 E32 58 04.4
M2-04: Swamp near airport GPS: S26 00 08.0 E32 55 54.0
M2-05: Ponta Razza Roost Site GPS: S26 03 07.0 E32 53 44.0
M2-06: Nhaquene Swamp GPS: S26 02 56.2 E32 55 04.3
M2-07: Ponta Torres (southern point) GPS: S26 04 44.59 E32 57 19.6
M2-08: Nahyeeni Lodge GPS: S26 00 29.8 E32 54 50.9
M2-09: Pestana Inhaca Lodge GPS: S26 00 12.6 E32 54 57.1
M2-10: Manico Camp GPS: S25 59 25.6 E32 55 23.9