From bosveld to blue ocean! The Mozambique of my memories is a paradisical wonderland of soft, white sand, turquoise-green-blue water and good times around a fire as well as under the water!
Admin first… The road from Pretoria to Ponta Malongane via the Kosi Bay border post is notoriously Swiss-cheesed with potholes! And I mean it – drive 10km/hour if you want to keep rims intact. Often it’s necessary to weave all over the place just to find road to drive on. Construction is under way to fix this, but don’t hold your breath; construction has been consistently under way for at least 10 years, and serves to back up traffic more than lay any new asphalt. Apparently the road between Swaziland and Mozambique through the Lomahasha-Namaasha border post, is in much better condition (not a difficult feat, but still: yay!)
It’s only 130km from Mlilwane to border control, and another 185km to Ponta Malongane, but as with any border control I’ll err on the side of too much when budgeting time to make border payments and submit to inspections if necessary. I could enter simply having my passport with me, but since Kiernan is from the “land of the free”, he is expected to pay a gouging US$110 to get a tourist visa; driving across the border also requires inspection of original vehicle registration and licensing papers.
Ponta do Ouro is the best-known diving area in Mozambique, but Ponta Malongane (a mere 9km south), has a smaller rest camp with a full dive camp & gearing up area, where scuba divers can literally take their last swig of coffee, suit up and walk 100m to the beach! Furthermore, there are miles and miles (and miles) of reefs around here, and in great condition! Visibility is typically really good (+/-25m) and the reef is truly psychedelically entrancing – beautiful, vibrant and alive! My sister was lucky enough to see a whale shark mom & calf there on her first ocean dive! While I have yet to be this lucky, I’ve seen plenty of festive-looking nudibranches (their variety is overwhelming), triggerfish, stingrays, eels… you name it! It’s breathtaking! I don’t remember currents being strong, but swells get bigger and more liable to give you a good kotch over the side of the boat as afternoon wears on, so dives are done from early (frikkin’ early) morning until about lunch time. Don’t think your day ends when the salt water is rinsed off the wetsuits! You’re in paradise… It’s usually wonderfully sunny and lazy on the beach, the water is warm and you can roll around the waves in the afternoon. After the dives of the day the Nascer do Sol bar is ready to serve up divers’ favorite: R&R (rum and red raspberry cola). At sundown you can light a campfire and enjoy a last bite to eat before falling exhaustedly into bed.
Pre-book! It can be a little cheaper and definitely preempts holiday crowds. At the Simp,y Scuba website you can reserve a log hut (R510/night) or a campsite (R102 per person/night)*; 6 dives (3 dives per person), comes out to R1740 total and full gear rental will run up another R200 per day. Well… scuba diving is not an inexpensive hobby.
I’m limiting my plans in Mozambique to 3 dives per person, because from there we will drive to South Africa’s amazing, gorgeous scuba spot: Sodwana Bay (more on that shortly).
Also, after a day of diving you find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly exhausted at 9pm, and Ponta Malongane is worth spending some down-time at, even when not diving. I fully intend on spending a full day on the beach, reading something frivolous and inevitably getting sunburnt through my 1cm thick sunscreen.
A short distance from the dive camp there’s a little traditional market, with wood carvings, souvenirs and a hundred other knick knacks you can haggle over. Other places may take a bit more commitment to get to… or rather, more of a trek than I’d be willing to make if the alternative is “beach towell & book”.
Other scuba divers are usually very interesting, friendly people and when you’re at the camp or in the kitchen making dinner, the ice is kind of broken in initial conversation since you already know you share an interest. You can also jump-start conversation with “so…you dive here often?” ;D haha… no, not really. You’re much better off with the weather-small talk equivalent “good visibility, huh?”
Good people + fun = great, memorable times! 🙂
*tentative prices for summer/autumn 2015