Our visit to Santa Carolina Island in Mozambique

Back 1n 2016 we were lucky enough to return again to Africa, this time our trip was split between a game lodge in The Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, The Quirimbas Islands of Mozambique and Benguerra in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Marine Park of Mozambique. Benguerra was primarily for R&R and majored in water pursuits, something neither of us participated in and which seemed to bother the management staff at the lodge. Discovering I was a photographer they suggested we might like a day trip to a smaller island in the archipelago called Santa Carolina which had an interesting ruin.

The ruin turned out to be the crumbling remains of the art deco Santa Carolina Hotel "Paradise Hotel". The hotel was built in 1952 by local Portuguese entrepreneur Joaquim Alves a somewhat shady character who is thought to have been deported from Portugal to Mozambique. Finally ending up in remote Vilanculos Alves built the towns first hotel, the "Dona Ana", named after his wife. The hotel is still popular today with tourists who brave the horrendous roads of Mozambique or who fly in from either Johannesburg in South Africa or The Capital Maputo.

Santa Carolina is an hours boat ride from Vilanculos so even more remote. Only a visionary like Alves would dream of building another hotel here, the logistics of getting building materials to the island by boat must have been horrendous, but build it he did in 1952. The island is only 1.8 Miles at its longest so I managed to explore the ruins and then return again in the afternoon to photograph them. At the time I had in mind a number of projects but never completed any of them, until now and these images are the result.

Visitors today are restricted as the area is designated a National Marine Reserve and overnight stays are prohibited so those who do come to explore are treated to a unique experience. The eerie silent ruins of a once opulent hotel with over 250 rooms, suites and villas, a private airstrip, chapel and all the ancillary buildings necessary for the running of a large isolated hotel cry out to be photographed.

Soon after the hotel was built it gained something of an international reputation, an airstrip was added and South Africans began to flock there for weddings and parties, famous visitors to the island include Elton John and Bob Dylan who reputedly wrote "Mozambique" whilst tinkling on the hotel's piano. But The Mozambique civil war in the 1970's put an end to all that with the island becoming occupied by "Frelimo" guerrillas and although many of the staff remained the hotel gradually declined into the ruins you see today. There have been a number of people interested in returning the hotel to its former glory but as yet nothing has changed.


The Hotel Dona Ana in Vilanculos.

First view of the Island


Approaching the Island's only Jetty

The Ruins of the Jetty

"Isle of Santa Carolina built for Ana and Joaquim Alves"

Buildings which might have housed the hotel staff near the landing stage.

The Hotel Bakery

Drive from the landing stage to the Hotel

This would have been well illuminated and quite impressive back in the day

Entrance to the Main Hotel

Everything removable has long since gone from reception and bar

Balconies and walkways over the sea

One of the bedroom blocks

The Hotel Chapel now too dangerous to enter


Some of the luxury Suites

The inhabitants shown in two of the above pictures apparently are poachers turned gamekeepers living in the suites and protecting the Marine Park from illegal fishing

Perhaps the Royal Suite

Some of the Grafitti

One or two little extras on the trip

Oh yes well I got the photographs Barbara got a bit of luxury and the chance to swim with Turtles only fair.

Thanks go to the three guys shown here "Superstars"