Mozambique’s many faces

It takes a lot of pushing and shoving by all of us — a boatful of snorkellers — to shift the Rubber Duck into the shallows before we all clamber clumsily in. With a spurt of engine power, the boat slices through cresting waves towards heaving walls of water that appear insurmountable, yet the vessel rides them like a buoyant duck. Er … that’s why it’s called what it is…

Other dive boats on the ocean are kind to us — they gesticulate towards a nearby Whale Shark. ‘Go, go, go!’ our young boat guide urges. We all adjust masks and snorkels, then spill overboard as elegantly as possible so as not to displace too much of the ocean skyward. Not such an easy task as a tangle of arms, legs, fins and snorkels thrashes the water. You have to adjust your gaze to the watery depths fast, locate the moving shadow, then fin like mad to keep up — bearing in mind the bubbles, swirling hair and a whallop on the jaw from a fin. It’s a pure rush when the dark shape looms gigantic below you, white spots and coarse skin clear in the turquoise water. But a whale shark moves fast and descends quickly to the shadowy depths … so there is much heaving and clambering — and spectacular bruising — to get back onto the boat for the next sighting.

Lady Luck is surfing with us today. A pod of Common Dolphins leaps and curves and dives around us. Some snorkellers watch from the boat, others tumble into the water to catch them nose-diving and nimbly streaking away. Then it’s the glistening curved backs, like polished rock, of humpback whales — a giant curve and a tiny one, mother and baby, rising and sinking in a flurry of spray and fins and tail flukes. We’re enthralled.

Sadly, no photographic evidence. We were too busy trying to navigate water bubbles. And breathe. But terrestrial evidence, there is plenty. And after the terribly upsetting destruction waged by Cyclone Idai in March — Beira was my childhood haunt, after all — it’s good to remember Mozambique’s prettier faces. Full admission here: not a single photo is mine (all Hirsh Aronowitz). Before the days of my pocket-size Canon.

I have to qualify us driving on those pristine sands in the top photo … this is BD Point (as in Bartolomeu Dias) which is only accessible at low tide, with a permit, to get to one’s beach accommodation. The Point is near Inhassoro in central Mozambique.

With Cyclone Idai still clear in our minds, at Pomene, between Vilanculos and Inhambane, we walked beneath thunder-brow skies the colour of indigo while exploring the crumbling ghosts of a once elegant Portuguese hotel, still clinging onto its vestiges of colonialism … painted ceramic wall tiles and red clay roof-tiles.

Admittedly, Mozambique does have its road issues … neglected infrastructure, miles and miles of sand to traverse with the requisite punctures to sort out, national roads that are, well, embarrassed to moonlight as roads.

Nevertheless, we love, love, loved our time in Mozambique. And we made it through without a single bribe.

If you liked this, you will enjoy our adventure stories of our travels all over the place here