Mostly I dive Aliwal Shoal and Landers Reef, both of which are just south of Durban. However I dive Sodwana Bay, just south of the Mozambique border, a lot too. But every now and then, when the planets line up and the world seems too busy and hectic I feel the need to cross the Mozambique border and slow things down a bit. And there is only one place I know in Mozambique where the world does not seem to spin crazily, where cell phones do not work and the Internet seems worthless.
This little jewel of a destination is Ponta Mamoli.
The journey to Ponta Mamoli, once you cross the border, is deliciously exciting and otherworldly. Adventurous, anticipatory yet simple and beautiful it is a journey that feeds the soul. It is 4×4 country: characterised by vague sand roads that dip and climb through dunes, coastal forests and spectacular wetlands – a delight to the senses.
After a week spent diving at Sodwana Bay, my companions and I head off to Mamoli looking forward to 3 days of tranquility. We cross the border with minimum fuss and settle down for the drive to Mamoli. As is traditional whenever I cross over into Mozambique, I select Dylan’s Mozambique (off his magnificent Desire album) on the iPod and crank the volume up loud. With Bob’s words lifting our spirits, we bump and grind our way through the dunes.
I’d like to spend some time in Mozambique,
the sunny sky is aqua blue,
and all the couples dancing cheek to cheek,
it’s very nice to spend a week or two …
We pass the turn-offs to Ponta do Ouro and Ponta Malangane and are embraced by the coastal forest as we track our way along the coast heading northwards. Ponta Mamoli is as much about getting there as it is about being there. It is truly about the journey and not only the end.
The scenery fills the soul and detoxifies it of the stresses and strains of city living. We pass simple homesteads where locals go about their business purposefully and joyfully. They wave to us as we drive past; huge white toothy smiles fill their faces. And Dylan’s lyrics slide into my consciousness:
there’s lots of pretty girls in Mozambique
and plenty time for good romance
and everybody likes to stop and speak
to give the special one you seek a chance
or maybe say hello with just a glance
Approaching Mamoli we pass large wetlands filled with spectacular birdlife. The wetlands resonate with the sound of millions of frogs calling to each other, seeking mates and asserting their positions.
Finally, we arrive at the resort and are greeted by our hosts who effortlessly help us unload our baggage and settle in to our respective cabins. I feel like I am floating on air as I either walk on the beach, a stone’s throw from my cabin, or sink into the luxurious couches on the deck overlooking the Mamoli Bay. It strikes me that although I know that Mamoli was once a titanium mine and the resort once housed the miners and employees I neither care nor want to care – what is important is now and how Mamoli embraces and caresses me with quiet sensual peace.
We arrange our dives and my companions and I agree to one dive a day leaving the remainder of the day for leisure, chilling so to speak.
Our first dive is on an exquisite little reef aptly named G-Spot. It is a deep dive (naturally) with the reef at just over 20 metres (24 metres on the sand). Visibility is delightful and we all become absorbed in the simple beauty of the reef. Time seems to stand still, but thankfully dive computers do not and we regretfully ascend when incessant computer beeping forces us to abandon our desire to ignore dive tables and flirt with decompression sickness.
Deeply satisfied we lounge on our RIB for the journey back to shore only to be accompanied by a pod of playful bottlenose dolphin searching for a snack. Sneaky little creatures that they are, they buzz our boat and then lurk just out of camera reach each time I slip into the water to try to photograph them. Satiated, we beach our RIB and stumble back to the deck to sleep, read, eat and sleep some more.
Dylan again …
magic in a magical land
Our second dive, the following day, is to a reef called fish basket. So named for the aggregations of baitfish that make their home on it. Another deep-ish dive at 20 metres we expect to dive in shoals of little fish but are very pleasantly surprised to discover something quite different. Right from the moment we roll off the RIB the excitement hits – a large blacktip shark speeds in to investigate us. It gets close enough to figure we are not worth investigating further and then disappears in the blink of an eye. It all happens so quickly it seems to happen between heartbeats. Adrenalin pumping we drift through shoals of baitfish to the reef below to be met by the resident population of lionfish. I lose count when I get to 20-something lionfish. They patrol the reef like squadrons of fighter planes looking for trouble. An enormous ray glides over the sand towards us to investigate the activity and then speeds off realising we are just noisy ungainly divers disturbing the undersea rhythms. All this in the first 5 minutes of the dive! This sort of reef appeals to me as a photographer. Small enough to spend quality time exploring the photographic opportunities yet large enough to attract fish life. Undisturbed, peaceful and delightfully full of aquatic life this dive is not to be missed. You really have to make the journey and find out for yourself.
Later that day, after sleeping off the morning’s dive and the filling brunch, we wander down to the rock pools to take photographs and explore. What a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Each pool brings its own excitement and new discovery and spontaneous activity.
Day three dawns somewhat overcast and the prospect of rain threatens. Despite this, the sea remains lazy and our dive guides are positive that we will dive today regardless of any rain that may come down. We head out to a massive reef and drop on Dory drop – so named for the abundance of Powder Blue Surgeon that frequent this part of the reef (yes, I know Dory was a Palette Surgeon but that’s the name they gave to the drop-off). We roll off the RIB into 20 metre-plus visibility just as the rain drizzles from the heavens. The sea is deliciously warm and the reef exquisitely picturesque. Average depth on this dive is 14 metres and we drift for 72 minutes over untouched, unspoilt and virgin reef. Above us, the rain paints ever-changing patterns in the surface of the water while below us the reef is a kaleidoscope of living colour.
And as we surface to climb aboard the RIB, the rain slows to a fine misty drizzle that soothes. Barry our skipper manages a smile through his rain-drenched clothing and guns the RIB shoreward. And as we head back to the beach, to spend the afternoon of our last day reading, sleeping and relaxing, Dylan’s words come floating back:
And when it’s time for leaving Mozambique,
to say goodbye to sand and sea,
you turn around to take a final peek
and you see why it’s so unique to be
among the lovely people living free
upon the beach of sunny Mozambique