Whale Shark conservation in Tofo

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Nov 06, 2008

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Flag of Mozambique  ,
Monday, October 6, 2008

The airport tour from joburg to Inhambane went without a hitch, the plane was one of the really tiny ones with propellers and about 18 people, one of which I met at the check in desk.  Thomas is a Swiss German with an Aussie accent when speaking English and he was heading to Tofo to do his Dive Master.  The airport in Inhambane was actually smaller than Waterford unbelieveably.  The plane parked up in what was a tiny plane park outside a small building - the bags were taken out of the undercarriage and left on the ground for staff to carry one by one into a tiny room where we were all queued to get through "immigration".  There was a guy sat at an old desk with a rubber stamp.  I think the same room was used for arrivals as you had to walk through a metal detector gate on the way out, although it wasn't turned on. 

Adriana picked us up from the airport.  She's the marine biologist looking after the project in Tofo.  Thomas hitched a lift with us.  I met the rest of the team - an all girl team as it happened - Alex, Christine and Claire.  Once we got back to Tofo we met Sarah as well who'd already done a month and was staying for the next month.  Adriana is Colombian and has only been in Tofo a few months before us.  The house that we're in is pretty self sufficient although we have to go outside to turn the water heater on and off and can only leave it on for a short while in case it explodes :)  We also have to fill our water tank on a daily basis and there are regular water and power shortages.  We overlook the bay which is a pretty nice way to wake up every morning.  We are also two doors down from Tofo Dive which is where we go for our research.  That day we got all our paperwork sorted and had booked onto our first ocean safari for the next day, Tuesday, however the weather our first week was pretty rubbish and we didn't get much diving or snorkelling done. 

We did go to Inhambane though.  The bus journey in was absolutely crazy, I've never seen so many people in one vehicle before, they were practically sat on our laps.  We went to the markets and I loved it - locals with no English trying to sell us fruit and veg and all touristy bits and pieces.  I loved the banter and am looking forward to getting back there sometime.  We got to taste a really weird fruit that looked a bit like weetabix or something inside and tasted a bit like sweet woodchips, not something that we bought

The following day I started the training for my advanced diving.  I was pretty nervous about diving again but it was a bit of an adventure.  We had to push the boat 180 degrees to face the see and then drag it into the sea.  Depending on where the tide is and how many people there are this can be pretty hard work, particularly when you're fully kitted out in a wetsuit which is not made for aerobic activity.  It quite baywatch as we all sit into the boat and fly over the waves.  I had a new technique for getting into the water to learn - you roll backwards off the boat into the water and instead of checking everyone is ok at the surface you just head straight down to the sea bed - I like it and was the first one down on my first attempt!  It was a spectacular dive, there's so much going on around here - I spotted a ray, a moray eel, a crab and we also saw a massive moray eel, lion fish and octopus - a first for me. 

The weather turned again towards the end of the week and on Friday, my birthday it poured rain most of the day and we had a power cut, so we had no hot water or light.  It was so miserable outside that we were sat in with torches at 11am trying to read our books!  We managed to get out for dinner that night though and we went to a restaurant where they had clay ovens for pizzas - at least the electricity wouldn't be a problem there!  The girls surprised me with a load of little bits and pieces and some beautiful jewlerry.  After dinner we had a bit of a wander round the local backpackers in Tofo - there's not a huge amount of choice but we had a good evening. 

My dive the next afternoon didn't go so well - I was supposed to be proving my buoyancy skills - meaning I could float mid water but had difficulty getting down to begin with, not great.  We had the rest of the weekend off and didn't get up to much really.  We did an ocean safari on the Monday and it was our first encounter with whale sharks.  The visibility wasn't great and to see these massive sharks (7 metres) coming out of the gloom towards you is a little scary!  It was pretty cool once you get used to it though. 

On Tuesday I did a double tank dive (we don't come back to land between the two dives) and succeeded in ticking off my photography and deep dive - only two more till I get my advanced qualification!  Again, the amount of fish and things to see down there was spectacular and I hope I've got some good pics to take home to prove it now. 

In between whale watching (sitting on a hill for two hours with binoculars counting humpback whales as they come past on their migration), ocean safaris and diving the second week went pretty fast.  I've snorkelled while a manta ray swam just under me, I've taken pictures of whale sharks from a couple of metres away while frantically snorkelling to try and keep up, we've seen hammerhead sharks, a mother and baby humpback playing only 20 metres away, a leatherback turtle, loads of rays, octopus, the only thing I've missed so far are the dolphins.  In the house there's not an awful lot to do so I've read a couple of books already. 

More in my next addition!
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