Sunday 18 & 19 February Barra Beach, Inhambane & Vilanculos

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February 18th 2018
Published: February 23rd 2018
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Sunday 18 February Barra Beach, Inhambane & Monday 19 February Vilanculos

Up at 5.20am, breakfast at 6.00am (boiled eggs, toast and cereal) and away by 6.30am. It was still sprinkling with rain and the power had gone off early in the morning, so no air-conditioning. It was cooler, so that didn’t cause any issues.

We stopped off at Inhambane for supplies. This gave us a chance to walk around the town, including the markets. It was a little too early (8.00am) on Sunday morning, so the activity hadn’t started. I came across a church where many people were singing and the minister at the front was definitely preaching forcefully. The singing was beautiful.

Inhambane was a very typical African minor city with tired looking buildings, some abandoned but some in excellent condition. Most of the retail outlets were closed at that time, on Sunday.

I saw the war memorial which recognised those lost in the long civil wars. Did you know that the Mozambique flag has a AK40 gun on it?

We were then on our way to Vilanculos stopping from time to time for the usual breaks. The speed restrictions of 60kph made it slow going, but we were traveling through many villages.

We eventually arrived at 2.00pm for a very late lunch but the apartments we were staying in were beautiful. Helena from Sweden stayed in the single bedroom and Tom and I in the double, both rooms with an Ensuite. Our balcony looked out over the sea and as we were on the 2nd floor the view was spectacular. The locals small dhow boats with a single mast were dotted along the beach. The resort had a pool which was just below our apartment. There was no wifi available but up until now, wifi had been good, although occasionally slow.

After lunch I decided to go for a walk along the beach. It was beautiful, particularly as we had left the rain behind. The temperature was balmy with some humidity.

I walked almost into town (45mins) coming across boys playing soccer on the beach. There were plenty of other activities going on as it was Sunday. I saw 2 ladies, both with 2 large bowls filled with fish that were netted off the beach. They put their load on their head and started walking back on the road to sell their fish at the roadside markets.

All along the beach there were various standards of resorts. Vilanculos was known for tourism and fishing and since the country had become safe over the past 5 years, and gas has been discovered in the north, mainly by the Chinese, tourism has started to take off.

I then headed for the road one block back from the beach, bush bashing through one of the resorts. I then spotted the 2 ladies carrying the bowls of fish on their head. One of them suddenly stopped, lifted her wrap-around skirt up, did what she had to do (!!) and then kept walking, all with the fish balanced on her head. She didn’t worry that I was behind her.

For another hour, I walked along the road, soaking up the village atmosphere and saying hello to all the locals. When I got back to Golden Sands Resort, the big gate was locked, and no one was there to unlock it. It was around 5.15pm. I couldn’t squeeze between the gates and the hedge-fence because the hedge was made up of very prickly bushes so I ended up walking down a path then did some bush-bashing down to the beach and then walked to our resort from the beach, the way I walked down to the beach at the start of my walk.

At 5.30pm, after a much needed shower, everyone came to our balcony for afternoon drinks (except Helena). It was very pleasant, watching the sun set, although we were facing east, the sun’s reflection on the clouds was beautiful. Dinner at 7.00pm in one of the other apartment’s down stairs balcony, cooked by our tour cook, followed by some more exchanges of travel stories and worldly and cultural discussions. I learned that the African guides dodged 2 subjects; one is sport and the other is politics. They believe too many people are passionate or with strong views on these subjects. With the tribal and colour issues, this was the reason for not discussing politics however with Australians, we always encouraged the sport discussion.

Monday 19 February – Vilanculos

We were looking forward to this day as we were going to Bazaruto Archipelago.

We boarded a traditional Dhow this morning and set sail to the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, one of the largest Marine reserves in Southern Africa. We spend the day exploring the islands, snorkelling and enjoying the beaches of this island paradise.

The Archipelago was declared a National Parl in 1971. It consists of 6 islands, the 4 main ones being: Bazaruto, Magaruque, and Santa Carolina (also known as Paradise Island). The islands were formed from sand deposits by the Limpopo River, which has since shifted its course. The 3 larger islands were part of an extensive sand-pit peninsula, once attached to the mainland, and since separated as the continent dipped into the Indian Ocean over millions of years. Only Santa Carolina is a true rock island and is consequently surrounded by deeper water than the other 3 islands.

We stopped off at Bazaruto Island and climbed to the top of the sand dune for a spectacular view. There were small palms and casuarina trees, mainly around the fresh water lakes. We saw lots of signs of goats which did well on the island.

We also stopped at Magaruque Island and saw 100s of crabs scurrying around.

Due to the protected status the Archipelago is an unspoilt ecological gem boasting 180 species of birds, endemic butterflies, and even sui antelopes, none of which we found! They are covered with sand dunes and fresh water lakes.

The stunning coral reek which surrounds the islands hosts over 2000 species of fish. A diversity of coral creates perfect diving locations, regarded as some of the best spots on the world. We made the most of this with spending several hours snorkelling with under-water camera in hand. The water was 28.2 degrees. It was magnificent.

The Dhow followed us along the reef being unable to anchor due to the coral. We saw so many fish, a turtle and coral in beautiful condition. Most of the time we were under motor but on the way back home, the captain (another local African) raised the light canvas sail, probably for the experience for we tourists rather than for moving the Dhow as he kept the outboard running.

For more than two thousand years, lateen rigged dhows have been sailing the Indian Ocean, linking economies and people, and creating a cosmopolitan maritime Indian Ocean culture. For centuries, Arab shipwrights crafted boats using sewn construction – literally sewing the planks together with coconut fibre cord – but this craft has more or less died out, being superseded by nail construction. The last time we went on a dhow was in Dubai.

Our guide was a Frenchman who has made his home in Vilanculos and was very informative. We firstly went to his office to get fitted with coral boots. Fins and snorkels were already on board the Dhow. He also gave us waterproof bags to but our clothes and other belongings in.

We also had a cook on board who immediately offered us tea and coffee when we boarded the Dhow. Placed in the wooden boat, on sand, was hot coals which he placed the kettle on …. In a wooden boat. Now that was a new sight! He prepared us a magnificent fish, coleslaw salad with rice and bread lunch, served with a tomato and vegetable sauce which we poured over the rice and fish. It was very tasty.

The water was crystal clear and like a mirror. We were very, very lucky with the weather. In saying that, we did go through a rain cloud which we were all prepared for with our rain coats and all our bags and clothes placed in rain-proof bags. The rain cloud past as quickly as it had appeared. We stopped off at one of the smaller islands and watched the crabs run away from us as well as seeing some lakes. It didn’t take us long to dry out completely.

But the best time was the snorkelling. We return in the afternoon having a swim in the pool immediately with a celebration beer in hand. It was an infinity pool which was fantastic. We were all a little bit burnt but very, very happy with the whole day’s experience.

Over dinner we were all full of stories of the day as our guide didn’t come with us but our cook, Annelisa did as she was preparing to be a guide for the exact same tour in a month’s time. We learned that she could not swim so I gave her some instructions. She could float on her back and now she can float on her stomach. Hopefully she will now have the confidence to keep learning. After dinner we enjoy a well-earned night of rest, going to bed early as we were having a 5.30am breakfast for our 400+km drive the next day.

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