Mezmerising Mozambique

Author: Alison Bygrave

Here at Divequest we are extremely proud of our world-wide dive program, each destination hand picked to offer you incomparable service, world class diving and an outstanding holiday experience and customer service from your initial enquiry, to returning home with your underwater photos, new found diving friends
and happy memories.

Nevertheless we felt we had an unexplored corner of the globe, not for the faint hearted but for the adventure seeker looking for a diving destination totally off the
beaten track and the tourist trail…

Alison has been on her travels and found it and we are very proud to add it as a new and exciting destination for 2011… she tells all below!

When I thought of Mozambique and South-eastern Africa the first thing that sprang to my mind was a game safari. As well as being a passionate lover of the underwater world I have a great love of all animals and a game safari has been on my wish list for many years. But how could I go on holiday and not go diving?! By finding a destination to combine the bush, the beach, humpback whales and the underwater world!

Accompanied by two good traveling companions, my adventure started in Gorongosa National Park located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley in the province of Sofala in Central Mozambique. We stayed at Explore Gorongosa, currently the only private tented camp in Gorongosa National park. The camp comprises a handful of spacious and quirky mosquito-gauze tented suites each decked out with an enormous king-size double with an alfresco ‘in-tent’ bathroom comprising an eco loo and a ‘wash in the wild’ shower giving you a feeling of privacy and freedom all at the same time! Where else can you sleep in the middle of a floodplain under a canopy of stars surrounded by 4000 acres of nature?! You may be in the middle of the bush but the mouth watering food and wine is comparable with an award winning restaurant and the dining experience takes place under star light. When not out on safari you can relax in your tent, borrow a book from the library, swing in a hammock, sit by the campfire, or hang out at Chitengos swimming pool and bar area located about a 10 minute drive from the camp. The stresses and strains of 9-5 life are a world away!

Early morning and late afternoon after our tea and freshly baked campfire cake ritual we were led on a three hour drive around the park by our expert guides Rob
and Neil to view the great diversity of animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. The park is part of a huge restoration project since mammal numbers were reduced by as much as 95% and ecosystems stressed during Mozambique’s many years of civil unrest. The Carr Foundation has teamed up with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem and to
develop the ecotourism industry to benefit local communities. Since 2006 large numbers of animals have been reintroduced and the park is now a happy, vibrant
and healthy home to hundreds of beasts!

The park drives traverse various ecosystems including floodplains, miombo forest and lowland savanna. From wandering warthogs, bounding baboons, enormous elephants, hungry hippos, roaming reedbucks, inquisitive impalas, crawling crocodiles, wild wildebeests and 400 species of birds that would even impress David Attenborough, this place is without doubt where Noah left his ark! So much so, that National Geographic have just been and made a documentary entitled 'Africa's Lost Eden'. We were lucky enough to capture the magnificent sight of 125 plus elephants, adults and young plodding towards the water hole for a late evening drink and on our last morning we watched hundreds of Yellow-billed Storks fishing for their breakfast and in the midst of them a crocodile crawl onto the bank with a mouth brimming full of silver fish
glinting in the sunlight. He promptly dropped them on the sand bank and ate them one by one, much to the dismay of the surrounding birds who stepped forward but at the last minute did not dare challenge him for one in case they also ended up as breakfast too!

Explore Gorongosa cannot promise exactly which of the wild animals you will see but they can promise an experience that will leave incredible memories that last a lifetime.

We sadly said our goodbyes all wishing we had booked more nights. We had gotten used to the bush lifestyle of swinging in hammocks, showering in the wild and listening to lions roaring while tucked up in our beds, but it was time to move on to our next adventure!

The transition from the basics of the wild bush to the luxury of the beach was a change to behold indeed! Nuarro Lodge surpassed all our expectations. The lodge stands amongst sand dunes, surrounded by native bush and is nestled between secluded beaches. Nuarro is a projected founded, managed and built by its owners who all share a true passion for the local environment. Built with local materials by local people it incorporates genuine ecological awareness and social responsibilities. The impact Nuarro Lodge has had on the local community with employment, education, health and wellbeing has empowered the community and improved their livelihoods and is truly astonishing and yet so humbling to witness at the same time.

Our stay at Nuarro was idyllic, and knowing that by visiting this awe inspiring paradise we were having a positive impact on eco tourism was good for the soul. As the first morning at Nuarro dawned the sunlight beamed into the chalet where from the comfort of my king sized bed I could breath in the heavenly sea air and hear the arrival of my morning coffee being delivered to our private
ocean facing veranda. All of this was accompanied by the sound of the whales singing in the bay! It did not take long to awaken from a light slumber and wander nonchalantly down to our al fresco breakfast to enjoy local fresh fruits, granola, freshly baked breads, muffins and cooked to order omelets, eggs and crepes served by the every attentive
staff with beaming smiles.

The daily agenda at Nuarro depends entirely on you. You can while away the day on the beach, enjoy a massage, visit the local community and take a trip up to the top of Baixo Pinda lighthouse from where you get the most incredible views of the community and the turquoise ocean waters shimmering in the sun. You can use the complimentary mountain bikes or go for a hike if you’re feeling energetic, or you can DIVE DIVE DIVE!! Which of course was the top of our agenda and the real purpose of the holiday!

The dive centre is fully kitted out with impressive top of the range equipment and the dive staff are only too happy to take you out to explore. My favourite dive was the fascinating house reef where I spent most of my time! A 2 minute walk from the dive centre down to the beach and you were submerged! The dive started off with sea grass, the sea bed littered with brittle stars, sea urchins the odd leaf fish and a sea snake. As I continued out to the continental shelf I discovered many coral heads with crevices occupying mantis shrimp and crabs. Many small species of reef fish swim around this area such as
anthias in their hundreds, dottybacks, cardinalfish, butterflyfish and wrasse. Anemones sit like treasure troves containing protective clown fish and their young and crabs can be spotted mingling amongst the tentacles. After 15 to 20 minutes of exploration you reach the drop off marked by five impressive coral pinnacles which are teaming with congregating snapper and schools of trevally and fusiliers. Rich coral growth covers the wall as it slopes away from 35
to 60 metres and then gradually disappears into the abyss. At night when the bioluminescence is active this is a photographers playground with great opportunities for spotting shrimps (especially mantis shrimp), crabs, gobies, egg cowries, nudibranchs, flatworms, coral heads full of chromis, butterflyfish, wrasse, damselfish, large schools of tangs, Bluespotted Stingrays and Moray Eels.

I also explored by boat Nanatha Point, home to a phenomenal gorgonian forest, and Baixo which was an hours boat ride away but the stunning view on the
journey out and back made the journey well worth it. The dive here was a fast drift dive where we dropped onto a wreck but we did not have much time to investigate as the strong current took us like two super heroes on our way! What followed was one of the most beautiful coral gardens with abundant fish life as far as the eye could see. By this point the current had slowed down and allowed us
to weave in and out of the various channels, for those of you that have been to the Red Sea imagine the garden of Jackson Reef in Tiran, 15 times the length and you will have an idea of just how beautiful this dive site was!

I have saved the best until last - our spellbinding encounters with the Humpback Whales! Almost every day the whales came to the bay and performed their noisy acrobatics. Breaching, spy-hopping, lob tailing, fin slapping-we witnessed it all. The kayaks are always available to take out and they make it easier to get close to these magnificent creatures which we did a few times but speed is of the essence so on several occasions we jumped into the every ready rib boat and motored out. The skilled boatman would watch the pattern of the whales and the direction in which they were swimming and would take us further out to sea to make sure we were in their line of destination. He could even tell them apart from their varying tail fluke patterns! For a creature that weighs approximately 35-40 tons they can be surprisingly quiet and pop up when you least expect them. At that moment poised on the side of the boat, mask and snorkel on and camera tucked under your arm you gently slide quietly into the water and wait for them to approach with a fast beating heart. We were blessed to see a mother and her calf swim towards us and then with the calf swimming directly over the top of the mother they descended down into the deep blue until they disappeared out of view. This was a hypnotic sight which will stay etched in our memories forever.

The whales are in the bay from July until early October so if you fancy a slice of the action combined with a game safari to make a perfect holiday snap portfolio be sure to check out our new 2011 brochure for further details!

Coral Gardens off the beach at Nuarro. (Nuarro Lodge)

Whip Coral (Nuarro Lodge)

White-mouthed Moray Eel (Nuarro Lodge)

Fighting lions (Ant Kaschula)

Alison's best friend, Walter the Warthog (Alison Bygrave)

Yellow-billed Storks get a visit from a hungry crocodile (Alison Bygrave)

Richard observes the sunrise in Gorongosa (Alison Bygrave)

Nuarro Lodge from the sea (Una Lordan)

A Humpback Whale breaches in the bay (Alison Bygrave)

Chalet interior at Nuarro Lodge (Alison Bygrave)

Model available for small additional fee (Alison Bygrave)

The view from Baixo Pinda lighthouse (Richard Jennings)

The locals are extremely friendly and inquisitive (Alison Bygrave)

Alison takes a tour of the local village (Richard Jennings)

A fisherman surveys his catch (Alison Bygrave)

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