Passage to South Africa 2017

Last Updated:   26 October 2017 

These notes cover the passage from Madagascar to South Africa. These notes are a mostly extracts from various blogs and articles, plus our personal experiences.

Most of these notes are based on the excellent guide for crossing the Mozambique Channel produced by Des and Nell Cason from SV Gambit in 2015 :

If you find any errors in these notes or want to add new information then drop me a quick message using our Contact page and we'll have an email conversation about it.

The latest version of this document can be viewed on line at:  

A PDF version is available from:

We kept a daily diary of our voyage across the Indian Ocean, which can be found at:

A set of GPX routes and waypoints (which will load into OpenCPN) can be downloaded from:

A set of KAP charts (which will load into OpenCPN) can be downloaded from:


2.1  Introduction
The best guide for the passage to South Africa is written by Des & Nell Cason of SY Gambit, who lived and cruised in Madagascar for many years.  It covers the strategy for getting to Madagascar from the Masculines and the Seychelles and most importantly gives great details and advice on how to get to South Africa via the Mozambique Channel:

Another guide is by Yolo:

2.2  Suggested Route
The most commonly used route is to head west from Cap St Andre until you hit the Mozambique Current about 70nm from the coast and then turn South.

2015 Gambit - This route uses the confluence of the south flowing current from Cap D'Ambre and the north flowing current from the south which meet at Cap St Andre and then turns due west until it hits the Moz current flowing south. There is always some turbulent conditions at CapSt Andre because of the two currents meeting, but nothing serious as it flows at 1.5 -2kts max. The west flowing current can run up to 2.5kts. Heading SW from Cap St André puts you in the north flowing current and with a predominantly SE/S/SW wind this results in a tough beat into the wind and current against you. One yacht lay hove to south of Juan De Nova for two days in 35kts SW and 6m swells!

Getting over to Mozambique also puts you in the favorable quadrant with lighter winds in the event of a heavy SW gale coming up from the south, as the wind usually sweeps across the channel in a NE direction and the bulk of the wind will be found in the middle of the channel towards the west coast of Madagascar.

This westerly route from Cap St Andre to Ilha De Mozambique has the advantage of many islands to visit south of Ilha Moz (the Primeras) with hardly any population. In addition you have two secure hideaways at Bazaruto and Inhambane en route with an additional one at Inhaca Island just outside Maputo. This breaks the trip into 3 stages of approx 250nm each, which is manageable in between the strong southerlies:

  • Cap St Andre to Bazaruto - 700 miles
  • Bazaruto to Inhambane - 130 miles
  • Inhambane to Maputo - 210 miles
  • Maputo to Richards Bay - 200 miles

Bear in mind that the SW’s coming up the coast are bent by the land mass and when anchored at Bazaruto or Inhambane the wind is actually ESE and you have good protection behind the islands, despite at places a 14-20 nm fetch to the mainland in a SW direction.

The main criticism of this tactic is that often there is not much wind, so have some spare diesel. It beats the mid channel route as you have up to 3kts of current with you, so true boat speed through the water is not too serious. You will recognize the current by the appearance of a distinct line of what we refer to as "puff ball clouds" which lie directly above the current.

2015 Yolo - Most yachts leave from a location on the northwest corner of Madagascar.  There are several potential departure points after clearing out of Majunga, Madagascar:

  1. Majunga, 15.43.8 South and 046.18.4 East
  2. Nosy Antsoheribory, 15.49.7 South and 045.59.9 East, aka Boeni Bay
  3. Baie De Maroambitsy, 15.59.0 South and 045.35.6 East
  4. Baie De Baly, 16.01.6 South and 045.19.2 East

The lats and longs noted above are general reference locations, NOT specific anchor locations.  Sit back and enjoy your anchorage while you wait for the appropriate eastern and/or northern winds.  When the weather looks right, exit Madagascar.

From this point forward it is important to pull the RTOFS current files.  Traveling in the swift west or south bound currents is critical after leaving Madagascar.  It can mean potentially traveling at 10 knots with the current, or literally sailing forward while actually traveling backwards in light winds when fighting the current!  To minimize sailing time and potential exposure to heavy weather you must position your yacht in the Mozambique Channel to optimize wind AND current.

Given a good weather window, most yachts can cover about 700 nm before they have to seek shelter along the coast of Mozambique.  So, the first anchorage is usually Baia Do Bazaruto.

2.3  Direct from Cap St Andre to Bazaruto

2015 Gambit - Direct route Cap St Andre to Bazaruto on heading 225/230 deg T.   The Westerly flowing equatorial current hits Mad south of Diego Suarez on the east coast and splits into two. The current around the top of Cap D'Ambre flows SW down the NW coast and meets the southerly flowing section that goes down the east coast and around the bottom at Toliara and up the coast at Cap St Andre. This causes turbulence and washing machine conditions and attempting a direct route to Bazaruto in light conditions puts you in a 2-4kt negative current as far south as Juan De Nova. Invariably the wind is SW/S/SE. The SE is ok for a beam reach across but is not guaranteed. Taking the route direct across gives you up to 2kts favorable current heading 270degT from the confluence of these two currents meeting at Cap St Andre. We have had two runs direct to Bazaruto on this route but maybe were lucky with the wind. The NE in this area is unreliable and normally dies after a day or two.

2.4  Southern Route across the Mozambique Channel 

2015 Totem:  A more unusual and direct route allowing you to visit the Barren Islands, but have to be fully committed with no place to hide in a southerly.

2015 Gambit:  Down the west coast of Madagascar towards Toliara approx 180degT.  This is a very pleasant part of Madagascar with lots of islands to stop off at, but you face a slight negative current coming up the coast and predominantly SW/S winds. This can become a bit frustrating if you are in a hurry. Normally yachties will head for Toliara or preferably Ifaty just north (highly recommended) and set off from there for Richards Bay. The draw back is that unless you can do 200nm a day you will get caught in a south westerly blow with no place to hide. If you elect the west coast stop at Morombe and then head for Europa Island and then Inhambane which gives you two hide aways en route to the Mozambique coast.


2.5  Formalties

2015 Yolo reported:

NAVIGATION - My Navionics and C-Map electronic charts were pretty accurate in Mozambique.

Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions, and rely on your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.  In good weather and light conditions it is very obvious where reefs, shallow water, and deep channels are located.

PORTS OF CALL - For practical purposes Maputo is the only port-of-call when sailing between Madagascar and Richards Bay, South Africa.  I only know of one yacht which officially cleared into and out of Mozambique in 2015.  And, if my memory is correct the total cost of doing so was around $400 USD.  Personally, I know the fee for Immigration for 2 US citizens is a total of $100 USD, however I don't know the details concerning the other fees.

AGENTS - You are NOT required to have a shipping agent when clearing into and out of Mozambique.

VISA AND BONDS - There is confusion concerning these requirements.  According to all of the official Mozambique websites a VISA in advance is required for most visitors.  After reviewing the requirements for the VISA , I determined that they were impossible to achieve during the average lifetime of a healthy human.  So, I did not apply for a VISA.

However in December 2015, I visited a land-base border crossing in Mozambique and the officials stated that prior to arrival VISAs were NOT required.  Just hand over $50 USD per person and the officials will stamp your passport.

SUMMARY - Yachts typically keep a low profile when seeking shelter in Mozambique waters.  Several great anchorages provide relief from the strong southern winds.  In 2015 most governmental officials remained in their environmentally controlled offices during the windy periods, so the transient yachts were left in peace with their unmolested wallets.