Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dhow Safari in the Bazaruto Archipelago

Next morning, decide to go Dhow Safari, the dive being off because my nose is slightly blocked, which is not good for equalising one’s sinuses. A hearty breakfast of Bacon Beans on toast again, then a short walk down to Dolphin Dhow, where I pay the chap 1,300M, about thirty pounds, for the privilege of the day ahead. Cash only of course. Ben and Shenaaz turn up shortly after me.

This done, I’m issued with some very dodgy bent flippers. Bent as in a warped almost 90 degree bend half way along them that is clearly not there for dynamic streamlne purposes. If anything, it looks like they’ve been left in the sun and have melted over the edge of a table or similar. Down on the beach, the dhow awaits us, it’s an old boat, but sized for our group of perhaps 10 people, and disappointingly it looks like they’re not sailing it out.

We are however pleased by the canopy providing some shade from the already intense sun, bear in mind that it is shortly after 8am as we set off. What will it be like mid-day? I shudder to think. I’ve brought cream, factor 15 (the highest I’ve ever used!), plus a t-shirt as I don’t want to expose my back whilst snorkelling - it’s still tender from the whale shark swimming in fact.

We chug slowly out to the nearest island, Margaruque, south of the other two islands. As we near, it looks like there are some resorts on the beach which have been badly battered by the tropical storms. I later discover, getting closer, that they are in fact being newly constructed!

We follow the beach round to the northern side, where we moor up just off the beach.

Our boat

Where we were stuck for the next few hours

It’s an interesting set-up, with rocks lining the shore just under the surface (at high tide as it is now, later they will be exposed), creating a little lagoon against the beach, and also providing something like a reef for fish life, hence the “Ocean Safari”, i.e. us doing a bit of snorkelling.

Up until this stage, my South African German friends and myself had been rather cynical about the whole trip, however on getting underwater we found that the snorkelling was surprisingly good. There was evidence of reef, long since destroyed, but there was plenty of small underwater action, with lots of small box fish of a few different varieties – I love box fish, they scoot about like little hovercrafts underwater, and also some good sized parrot fish ambled about below.

Our crew were cooking lunch on board our boat in a little braai box which had been constructed at the back. Whilst this went on, I went for a walk along the beach.

The island takes a couple of hours to walk round completely, something I wasn’t prepared to do in this head, but it still made a pleasant stroll along the hot sand with an occasional paddle to keep one’s soles temperate.

I reached the luxury places being built – with their white-washed walls and thatched roofs, they certainly look very nice. Hearing a noise behind the bushes lining the beach, I walked through, to discover a runway sitting tucked away, invisible except from the air.

As much space as Heathrow

In doing so, I had walked on some darker coloured sand, which quite literally burnt my feet – I had to hop as quickly as possible to the water, where perhaps I imagined hearing steam issuing from the undersides of my poor toes!

Just as well I escaped:

Damn lovebirds, aka Ben and Shenaaz

Only birds for me

Interesting bits and bobs

Back for lunch

Back at base, there was a big argument going on between different groups, involving locals and Afrikaans people about a particular spot in the shade and who had rights over it. By this time several boats were moored up – it seems strange that it should be so crowded here when the whole island is similar – why don’t we just go a bit further round? Anyway, like South Africans, Mozambicans talk a lot but rarely end up actually fighting, so soon it’s resolved, and we take our places for food.

The chap brings our food out from the boat, and all eyes watch nervously as he treads over the rocks coming in to the beach with a large tray. When it comes, the food is marvellous, with really tasty fish, a spicy tomato squid dish, salad, rice, bread and fruit for dessert. One wouldn’t expect them to be able to cook up this given their facilities.

Perched between the legs

After eating, I do a spot more snorkelling, this time looking down and just drifting with the current along the rocks, before having enough, clambering clumsily over the sharp rocks with my bent flippers on before walking back along the beach.

Helps when the gun-boats come past

My houses weren’t quite ready this time

Leaving the island

On the way back, after clearing the island, to our surprise and delight they drop the sail and turn off the motor. At almost the same speed we idly cut through the small waves over the shallow water. We’re told that it is possible at low tide to walk in shallow water almost the whole way across to the island, with a brief swim between the two sandy spits in the middle somewhere. Not something I’d like to attempt without someone knowing where they are going.

The sail comes down

Those who managed to snag a whole bench have a nice snooze on the way back, I merely dip my head and jerk it back a couple of times, but it’s not long before we’re back and being drenched by a big wave as we draw up to the shore. Camera and wallet nicely soaked, marvellous. Overall, it’s been a good trip, and I’ve enjoyed it. Possibly slightly over-priced for a return boat trip and the loan of snorkel and flippers for a couple of hours, but the food made up for it, plus the interesting underwater life accessible.

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