Scaling Sand Dunes in Mozambique

Fishermen in Mozambique. photos by Jennifer Delaney.
Fishermen in Mozambique. photos by Jennifer Delaney.

Magnificent Mozambique

By Jennifer Delaney

Touching down in Vilanculos, Mozambique “airport” – a grass field with barbed wire at one end, and chickens which scattered as we came into land, I knew instantly I would like this place. I was not disappointed.

Vilanculos is a sleepy coastal town more famous for the Bazaruto Archipelago off its shores. Miles of low lying sand banks which are exposed when the tide goes out create a majestic backdrop. We chose to stay in the town and take a day excursion to the islands which helps avoid the high end resorts and gives you a flavor of the local life.

We spent a day out on the islands, climbing sand dunes combined with two dives, and we had the place seemingly to ourselves. Lunch felt well deserved after leaving our tracks up the towering dune in the midday heat. The view from the top was breathtaking –- turquoise ocean for miles.

The diving was rich in marine life helped by the currents carrying plentiful plankton to the reef. Highlights included a blue spotted puffer fish, two honeycomb morays and both a loggerhead and green turtle. Not to mention the dolphins that accompanied us home.

Inside Zombie Cucumber, a backpacker hostel in Vilanculos. photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.
Inside Zombie Cucumber, a backpacker hostel in Vilanculos. photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

We booked our diving with Odyssea which I would recommend. Not the sort of dive school where you feel like family but Christina was a very good guide and the outfit was professional.

We stayed at Zombie Cucumber a backpacker hostel which was very homely and Sabrina is a fountain of knowledge about the area, most importantly what to eat where and when. That is when Sabrina isn’t cooking herself – her crab curry was to die for. Varanda a few blocks down ocean drive also shouldn’t be missed. A spare afternoon? Take a walk to Archipelago Sun and enjoy lunch on the terrace with a few cold ones taking in the view.

Happy Kids at Happy Africa

Being ambushed as our truck pulled into the school yard by a troop of eager, smiling and uninhibited school children was another highlight. We had found through Stuff Your Rucksack and overwhelmed with support from family and friends we had managed to collect 20 kilos of children’s books, coloring pens, paint, magazines and toys and were determined to deliver them in person.

We spent a whole morning seeing the pre-school in action. The youngsters lapped up all the attention we could give them – climbing, jumping, clapping, playing football or just holding hands and wearing our sunglasses. A round of “duck, duck, goose” will be long remembered. The pre-school runs from 8-11am five days a week, with as much importance attached to providing nutrition for the children as classroom time. It was a humbling experience and a highlight of the trip. Next time, Stuff Your Rucksack!

Europe has the clock. Africa has the time.

Breakfast for the kids at the pre-school.
Breakfast for the kids at the pre-school.

Waving goodbye to Vilanculos we took a “chapas” down the coast, which resembled musical chairs in the back of a combi van. People crammed in, legs and arms flailing, and practically pushed out again at their designated stop.

We took to a dirt road and as we drove through a myriad of towns along the way the locals smiled and waved through the clouds of dust.

The women carry their daily wares piled high on their heads from which we were sold an array of goodies through the windows. 12 hours of travel later, Sweaty and sandy we arrived in Tofo, pulling up right in front of a

man selling fresh coconuts. Not much can beat that coconut juice fresh from the source.

Africa’s Galapagos

An ocean marvel was next to leave us humbled. We went scuba diving with manta rays. 6 or 7 of them in total including one 5+ meters across, starring in our very own episode of Oceans. A true Galapagos moment. At one point I was crunched down behind the reef as one of the mantas swam right over the top of us. I had to remember to breathe.

Manta ray in Mozambique. photo: Tropical Sky Scubadiving.
Manta ray in Mozambique. photo: Tropical Sky Scubadiving.

This area of coast line is one of few places in the world you can get so close to these magnificent creatures. The local researchers who conduct much of their ground breaking work in Tofo itself are very generous with their time, giving lectures on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Casa Barry which shouldn’t be missed.

While in Tofo we stayed at Bamboozi Lodge which has a wide range of accommodation and lots of space, at the far end of the beach. The bar serves fantastic food at great value – everything from the prawns to the “peri peri chicken” deserve trying. The attached dive school Liquid Adventures looked after us extremely well and comes highly recommended.

Sand dunes in Mozambique. photo by Jennifer Delaney.
Sand dunes in Mozambique. photo by Jennifer Delaney.

All too soon our incredible journey through Mozambique came to an end, last stop Maputo. A run down city with mere hints at its earlier glory. Itineraries should include the train station, lunch at the fish market and a sundown Gin & tonic at the Hotel Polana.

Market women in Mozambique.
Market women along a road in Mozambique.

Mozambique had wowed and humbled us both on and off its shores. A truly magnificent trip. Don’t wait until your friends have already been!







Jennifer Delaney.

Jennifer Delaney
is an economist with a lust for travel. Scuba diving and elephants are among her favorite things. She lives in New York City.
Visit her website, Jennifer Travels.

Read more articles about Mozambique on GoNOMAD

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