Xefina island, where nature and history play at magic realism

A few kilometers off the coast from Maputo lies Xefina, a tantalizing and enigmatic island best described as a combination of eerie and bizarre. Ruins of an old Portuguese jail and enormous batteries built by the Portuguese to defend Maputo Bay  during WW 1 and 2 engulf the Island with an air of history, tragedy, and death… 

walking across the island, past the old Portuguese military offices which are slowly being overrun by the local flora.
Once on the other side  you find  it’s littered with numerous partially submerged ruins
Some are so far out that you can’t help but wonder if they weren’t somehow built there in the first place…


Surely not safe but we couldn’t resist


Sure once upon a time humans thought they owned the island and being humans they proceeded to leave their mark on it. However, nature is patient and now  all those stupid humans have left it’s slowly restoring the island to its natural splendor. Removing all those pesky concrete structures and creating a fantastical landscape in the process.

For all that Xefina  is not just atmospheric ruins; nature has few more surprises up its sleeves when you visit it.

Flamingos in Maputo Xefina island
Flamingos are often seen on its shores
baby crabs are all over the island so be careful with your toes!


A few facts and tips

I heard there is now a tour company that offers day trips to Xefina but if you don’t want to pay their exorbitant prices  then do what I have always done and go to the fishermen village in Maputo and ask/pay them to ferry you across. I would also add that although Xefina can easily be done as a day trip I always prefer to organize  for them pick  me up 2 or 3 days later and camp there. Mind you, there is a small community living on the island but there is nothing on offer so be sure to take all the provisions you might need.

If you choose to camp out there you have two choices: one is to sleep facing Maputo and enjoy the city lights from across the bay. The other is to sleep on the other side of the island amidst the ruins -perhaps even use one of the few remaining upright structures for shelter. Barring the one time we slept facing Maputo I always choose the ruins. Not only is the beach nicer but It’s just so much more atmospheric.

The fishermen will drop you off and pick you up on the side facing Maputo and from there its a  +- 30 minute walk across the island to reach the other side.

DISCLAIMER: The photos posted here are from a trip to Xefina in 2009 with a dear friend who is also a photographer as such the majority of the photos are hers.

4 thoughts on “Xefina island, where nature and history play at magic realism

  1. I just love how you assume that the pictures are “hers” aka mine…but alas no…ive never been to Xefina…so i wont take credit for this one.



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