V nearly rides a Sea Turtle

Trip Start Jan 20, 2005
Trip End Dec 27, 2005

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Flag of Mozambique  ,
Thursday, July 21, 2005

I have to say that Mozambique has been everything we expected and more. It is a spectacular country rich with culture, with stunning beaches and aquatic life, which has not yet been touched by mass tourism. This means that the people are very friendly and the beauty of the country not stunted by big hotels and tour buses. Don't get me wrong; mass tourism has its advantages. You can't get a bagel and coffee in the morning and the bus rides on rough roads are extremely long, crowded and test your patience to degrees that only travel in Africa is capable of reaching. We're loving every bone-jarring moment of it (well, maybe not the one where we were urinated on in the bus, but other than that, its been fun in a masochistic sort of way).

Last I wrote we were enjoying the white sandy beaches in Tofo. The diving there was incredible for large animals. We went on a dive to Manta Reef and dove to about 75 feet and let the current carry us past two manta ray cleaning stations. This is where these huge mantas swim to be cleaned of parasites and bacteria by little fish. Just seeing these 8 foot across giant wings glide gracefully through the water towards you is awesome. They glide in and out of visibility as they circle around. We must have seen 6 different mantas. We also saw some great corals and a leopard moray eel which was bright yellow and had pretty nasty teeth. Unfortunately though we didn't spot any whale sharks. Maybe next time. The swell in the ocean the day we went out was pretty nasty though. Some were like 15 feet high and getting to the dive site took a little too long. Only one person lost their cookies though and they weren't near us so it was all good.

We really enjoyed the beach. We cooked dinner a couple nights and V made up a great big Prawn dinner for about 7 of us. With some battered pans and a gas burner, a little oil and seasonings, tomatoes, and some fresh prawns we bought from a fisherman on the beach (11 pounds for 15 dollars!!!) she was able to whip up an amazing spaghetti feast for us all. We stuffed ourselves after diving. Nothing like eating the little cute creatures you see diving, heck the whole time I am under water I am picturing all my little aquatic friends bathing in butter and lemon juice.

From Tofo, we headed north to Vilankulos which is right on the Bazaruto Archipelago. The trip north took 1 hour in a Chapa (little minivan), 30 minutes on an overcrowded, chugging old ferry, then another jam packed bus for 6 hours. Arrival in the tiny little town of Vilankulos was welcomed and we found a nice place to stay on the beach with hammocks (the sure sign that your cubical is far, far away). The Bazaruto Archipelago is a chain of a dozen or so islands along the coast all protected as a national park. The azure waters, sandy beaches, palm trees, untainted coral reefs, plus tropical fish make this place a paradise. The water is a little chilly, but the sun is strong and a wetsuit is handy. The water around the islands is so shallow that at low tide, much of the bays disappear and it feels like you can wade to some of the islands. This also means that because it's so shallow the sunlight brightens the waters to an amazingly bright turquoise. This place is a tourist brochure's cover page.

We spent the first day just wandering around the little dusty town, doing some shopping in the market and finding a fisherman to ferry a group of us out to some of the islands the next day to do some snorkeling.

The next morning we set off early to the islands in our dhow (sailboat, Africa style). Our captain and his mate only spoke Portuguese, but we felt ok. The 20 dollars per person we paid was supposed to include the 10 dollar national park fee and they assured us they had tickets for us. When we got to the first Island, we threw our gear under a tree then headed into the water for a swim along the rocky shores where you saw all sorts of life, but the water was rather cool. It was easy to warm up on the white sand beach though. 20 minutes after arriving we were visited by a guard who wanted to check our tickets. Sure enough the tickets were expired and he began ranting and raving, yelling at our guides in Portuguese. Typical, they'd not bought the tickets to keep the 10 bucks each. The guard played his hand well though, demanding we leave the island, giving the guys a good work over until he spoke via cell phone (you can't get away from the damn things) with our guidesº boss who I am sure promised the guard a nice kickback and he turned all smiles and said we could stay no problem. We hung out a while then motored to another island. By this time the wind had kicked up and the swell was big enough that every 10th wave washed over all 8 of us on the boat. Chilly water. Virginieºs laugh made us all forget the cold though as she apparently found the trip immensely funny as she was drenched quickly at the front of the boat. Somehow, I always managed to sit behind a group of people (don't know how that happened - just lucky I guess?). The second Island was even more beautiful than the first and we just warmed ourselves under the sun. This little 15 horse power motor on our dhow was so slow though that the trip back, even though we also used the sail, took us over 90 minutes.

That night V whipped me up a coconut prawn curry with stuff we found at the market and we ate like kings again. I'm loving these little backpackers where she can get her hands on some cooking utensils again. Its a nice change from eating out all the time too. She even sautéed me up this nice big snapper that a fisherman pushed on me for an extra 2 dollars when I bought the prawns.

The next day we signed up for a couple dives with the local dive company. We took a really nice speedboat out to 2 Mile Reef in the heart of the Archipelago for some amazing diving on a stunning reef. It was a really calm day and suiting up on one of the white sand beaches of a small nearby island got you in the mood for some underwater aquatic relaxation. Our first dive was a drift along some underwater cliffs on the reef. There was an amazing amount of coral. At one point I was looking over at Virginie as she messed with her weight belt and all of a sudden a turtle the size of a VW Bug floated out from behind a choral covered rock behind her. It was huge; its shell must have been 4.5 feet in Diameter. I saw her look up and she seemed shocked to have the sun eclipsed above her by this big creature. She finds them so cute mostly, not sure such a monster would make me that comfortable. After the first dive, we headed to an Island for lunch. We climbed up the beach and then scaled a sand dune that must have been 100 feet tall for lunch overlooking the archipelago at low tide. It is so amazingly beautiful at low tide because the water is so shallow and the light penetrates to the white sand giving off varying shades of turquoise blue. Stunning setting, for some cheese sandwiches between dives. The second dive was just as nice and we saw a huge stingray and some nice Moray Eels. What a perfect day.

We were all rested up and ready for an adventure. We were about to get it.
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