With plenty of fuel, and no major hiccups at the border (getting past Mozambique borders officials is not always without financial hazard – officials are poor and will take whatever opportunity to supplement their meagre salaries) I was on my way. I stopped overnight at Chimoio and realised my rear-right brake-pads had worn down to the metal – probably as a result of the leaking airbag suspension and subsequent excess pressure in the brake. It was quite worrying. Chimoio, is far from anywhere metropolitan and a new set of pads was going to be a chore. In the morning I drove slowly to the only place that did brakes. They didn’t have any and had no idea how long it would take to get more. As I contemplated driving without the pads, and where the next obvious place could be, the mechanic (a Zimbabwean chap) set off to the building next door, indicating I should follow. Another Zim chap, of afrikaans background cheerfully informed me that he could re-do them but I would have to wait 3 hours because they had to bake the ‘pads’ so the new carbon material stuck. Now that’s what I love about africa – can’t buy parts for love nor money, but if you have some time they can fix it. For the equivalent of R100 (£8) I was on my way before noon – Vilanculo here we come. I skipped Beira and drove straight passed Inhassoro, arriving at Vilanculo before it got dark. There were plenty of places in the Lonely Planet and I found my camp easily enough.
Here, under some trees, I set up camp and went to check out the braai area and bar facilities. As ever, someone friendly offered cold beer and proffered a menu, tips of what was going on, etc. The Bazeruto Archipelago National Marine Park was just off the coast and warranted a visit, however, a careless tourist could find themselves being fleeced for boat rides. I bid my time, chatting to locals and working out who the shady guides were. A diving company wanted to charge Meticais 4500 for a day trip with 2 dives, but you had to bring you’re own water and food. Odd. And when they weren’t really interested in my Padi qualifications the Klaxons sounded. Eventually I found a firm – Blue Dolphin – who took you to the closest island, provided snorkelling clear, refreshments and lunch. After some haggling ( a must in africa) I settled on M1400. Others went for M1200 but no extras, which initially appeared a good saving, until lunch was produced! Freshly cooked fish and rice, with juicy tomatoes, mangoes and a range of tasty titbits – were excellent. To walk it off I disappeared off and took some photos.
I wandered off just taking in the expanse of beach and lack of human presence, less for our party. You cannot camp on this island and so it is almost untouched. The bird-life reflected that. The Blue Dolphin dhow is anchored just on the beach, and even the cooking was done on it so nothing is left behind when we leave.
set up camp and headed off to find the Dive Club –
These guys were much better organised than the Vilanculo lot. After checking my Padi details, form-filling I was given the briefing and booked up a 10 dive package for the next 5 days. I had dived at Ponta do Ouro in 2010 and this was to be my second bit of diving in Mozambique, so I was really looking forward to it.
Over the next week, I did a series of dives, seeing huge black manta for the first time, loads of kingfish, barracuda, grouper, nudibranchs and plenty of moray eels some , quite big.
One afternoon, I went out with a group looking for whale shark. These gentle beasts grow anything up to 9 metres long and only eat plankton. Nevertheless, it is with some trepidation that you drop into the water alongside and fin like mad to keep up. The emotion is immediately replaced by excitement and wonder and the temptation to reach out and touch it almost overcomes you. However, they have a slimy mucous which covers their exterior and holding onto them is said to expose them to harmful bacteria – so where possible leave alone. I say possible, the whale shark can bomb along at a fair rate of knots and sometimes to have to anticipate the direction and get in the water ahead, to watch as they swim by.
On one attempt, the boat driver had got in front of our whale shark and we had misjudged its speed. So when I dropped into the water and turned to face it, I was too late and it was approaching head-on. After some helpless thrashing to attempt to move sideways, it merely head-butted me and I was washed away down its flank as it dipped under the boat. I am not quite sure what it thought of the incident but those on the boat were in stitches after watching my calamitous and frantic efforts: it took some time for the laughter to die down and even on the way back to shore, a glance from one of the party would be followed by a laugh. What a fantastic experience. I wanted to stay at Tofo, but realised I still had to get to Maputo, and then down to Joburg where Terry would be flying into from Dubai. It was Terry’s first Xmas in SA for a very long time and I was looking forward to finished off my trip along the Garden Route back to Cape Town – where I started.