A day exploring Portuguese Island, Mozambique

After boarding the MSC Sinfonia and setting sail on the Monday afternoon, we cruised up the coast of southern Africa overnight and awoke at anchor in Maputo Bay, just off the coast of Maputo in Mozambique. Stepping out onto our private balcony we breathed in the warm sea air and scanned the horizon for a glimpse of land – Portuguese Island!

This deserted island has no permanent residents or structures. No roads, traffic, pollution. It’s pretty much paradise!

portuguese island

MSC have built a wooden structure on the beach at Portuguese Island for the cruise guests to relax and enjoy a good time but each time they arrive they bring EVERYTHING with them, and each time they leave they take EVERYTHING away again! Evidenced by the fact that while we boarded the boat shuttle to ferry us to the island, another shuttle was being loaded with HUGE crates labelled “Feta cheese” (among others!) It was a massive operation and an interesting one to catch a glimpse of!

After our leisurely breakfast in bed (see Top Tips from my previous post!), we went down to arrange our disembarkation from MSC Sinfonia to Portuguese Island. Each passenger leaving the boat has to do so at a specified time which you arrange early each morning. They then scan you in and out using your cruise card to ensure no man is left behind and has to Robinson Crusoe for a day!

MSC Sinfonia Cruise to Mozambique

MSC Sinfonia cruise liner

MSC Sinfonia Mozambique

MSC Sinfonia Cruise Durban to Portuguese Islands
As you can imagine, organising over 2500 people to leave the boat (and all the food and drinks need to feed them!) leaving the boat was quite a process. Fortunately we were one of the first to disembark and arrived at Portuguese island on the first boat ferry – an exhilarating ride over the waves resulting in a few salt water showers for those on the outer edges!

And then we set foot on the sandy shores of Portuguese Island – our final destination.

It was idyllic. Even the dark grey clouds over head couldn’t dull our spirits!

Portuguese Island, Mozambique

Portuguese Island Beach

Portuguese Island

Portuguese Island

We set off down the beach towards the MSC base, eager to head off on our first excursion, a snorkeling trip to Coral Gardens.

As I mentioned in my previous post this turned out to be a complete let down. I am fairly new to snorkeling and scuba diving and generally I love swimming around in the sea amidst the fish and beautiful coral. Not this time. The visibility was 0. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. Obviously no photos to

I bravely tried to “just keep swimming” hoping that somehow I would spot a fish but mostly just swimming dangerously close to the coral because I couldn’t see where it was! I know that coral cuts are NOT to be sniffed at and the thought made me slightly panicked so I opted to hop back in the boat and felt rather disappointed that together we had wasted almost R1000 on this let down of an excursion….

Other excursions on offer at Portuguese Island include an exclusive beach lounge area with deck chairs and umbrellas, stand up paddle boarding, sea kayaking, fun torpedo, floating mats and various tours across to Inhaca island (Come back to read more about Inhaca in my next post!)

Portuguese Island, Mozambique

Police Station Portuguese Island

stand up paddle boarding

Back on the beach, we headed up to the lunch buffet which we enjoyed under the thatched lapa area listening to live music and enjoying the atmosphere of singing, dancing revelry! It still blows my mind that the entire bar and buffet (plus every single ingredient) is brought to and from from the cruise ship every day! An incredible feat considering the numbers of people on board.

MSC Sinfonia base on Portuguese Island


Mozambican fishing boat

Portuguese Island lunch area

Portuguese Island Beach, Mozambique

After chilling in the shade of the deck for a bit, we decided to brave the scorching sand and browse the local market for traditional sarongs, wooden items and trinkets, not forgetting the powerful local rum!

The market at Portuguese Island is a really vibrant, colourful place to stroll, it’s not very big and the stock is all quite similar but it’s a great spot to actually meet some of the locals and support them with a purchase or two.

Portuguese Island Market, Mozambique

Portuguese Island Market

Portuguese Island Market, Mozambique


beach sarongs

I loved the gorgeous colourful sarongs that blew in the breeze the best… they made for the prettiest pictures!

market on portuguese island

Portuguese Island

After a few too many hours in the sun, we opted to head back to the boat for some R&R on board the MSC Sinfonia. The boat shuttles only runs from the boat to the beach at Portuguese Island between 9 & 12 and then from the beach to the boat from 12 to 3.

We were lucky that by leaving the beach a bit earlier than the rest of the crowd we didn’t have to wait in a queue to board… something worth remembering, esp if you are traveling with kids!

MSC Sinfonia boat taxi

cruise liner

We headed back to our cabin for a shower and brief rest and then found our way down to the movie theatre to watch Tarzan – a few hours spent out of the sun was a great option and our skins thanked us for it!

Come back next week to find out more about our time on Portuguese Island in Mozambique… the second day on the island and the highlight of our trip!!



Read more about my trip to Mozambique and our adventures on Portuguese Island here:

All Aboard: My first cruise aboard the MSC Sinfonia

The secrets of Portuguese Island

Exploring Inhaca Island, Mozambique


If you enjoyed this post about our first day on Portuguese Island please consider pinning it to Pinterest using the graphic below so you can find it again for when you plan your visit to Portuguese Island with the MSC Sinfonia or so that others can find it and plan their own trip. Thanks so much!


A visit to Portuguese Island, Mozambique

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Images: Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

    1. Hi Ranz. The shuttle that takes you from the cruise ship to Portuguese Island is free and you have to get your disembarkation ticket on the ship from 7am on the morning you wish to disembark. The transfer across to Inhaca Island can be pre-booked. For many of the cruises you can book all your excursions online a few days before your cruise or as soon as you get onboard at the Excursion Desk. The transfer to Inhaca can also be booked on the day right on the beach at Portuguese Island and this is what we did – I recommend doing it this way so you can be more flexi with your plans

      1. Thanks Kathryn, I meant the trip to the Portuguese Island, not Inhaca, was hoping to book before but I suppose that’s OK 🙂

        Awesome blog, can’t wait to read your next one, we’re leaving on the Sinfonia on the 6th Feb 🙂

  1. Hi KATHRYN, can you tell me if you cn disembark without doing an excursion? I also looked at the beach lounge prices thats really expensive, was there shading or people who used they own umbrellas?

    1. Hi Liezel. Yes you most certainly can disembark without an excursion. Unfortunately there is not a lot of shade on the beach itself but there is an undercover area where you can eat lunch and some tables with umbrellas. I don’t think you would be able to take your own beach umbrella! I do recommend paying for the short journey across to Inhaca Island – you can arrange this with one of the local vendors on the beach. On that island there is more shade but no beach. It’s more for the cultural experience of visiting a local village.

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