I was ready, my snorkel and my goggles were packed and I was on my way to Mozambique. As I was incorporating a few days in Mozambique into a road-trip around South Africa, I didn’t have the time nor the budget to travel to the great snorkelling islands up north – so Mozambique’s southern coastline would have to curb my craving for a spot of snorkelling.
Unfortunately, despite multiple efforts by the Dolphin Centre in Ponta do Ouro, my first attempt at snorkelling in Mozambique was a bit of a bust – the dolphins eluded us and the wind had stirred in the sea resulting in poor visibility on the small snorkel reef.
Eventually it came down to our second last day in Mozambique – we would have to get some snorkelling in or go home disappointed. We were staying at the beautiful Machangulo Beach Lodge and we arranged with the dive instructor to spend the day snorkelling and picnicking on Inhaca Island.
We embarked just before lunch and after a tour of the virtually uninhabited side of Inhaca, our guide motored the boat past a rocky beach. It was pretty, but it didn’t look like much – some bare rocks jutted out of the sea, behind which was a thin sliver of beach. He had a look, told us we had to wait for the tide to come in and that it would be better later. I didn’t hold up much hope but reluctantly agreed as he took us around the corner to another beach.
There on that beach the cutest private picnic had been set up for us, complete with a cooler-box full of drinks, a gazebo, some comfortable deck chairs and delicious Mozambican cuisine. Now even if I didn’t get to snorkel, I would definitely leave Mozambique happy!
But a few hours later our guide came back and we went back to the rocky beach, where the tide had come up leaving only the tops of the rocks exposed. Our guide dropped us off at one end of the beach saying we should just float with the current down the beach and he would fetch us at the other end.
OK, so into the water we went and as I dipped my head below the calm surface of the water what greeted me was completely unexpected! There, were previously I saw nothing, were thousands of fish. As I swam through the biggest school of fish I had ever seen I also saw sea urchins, giant clams and a myriad of colourful fish that even the best aquarium would have trouble matching.
Rock lobsters poked their feelers out of their hiding holes and an electric ray lay very still on the bottom of the reef, pretending we hadn’t seen him. Just to the right of me the reef dropped off sharply into the big blue and larger fish came into view, just to vanish into the darkness.
As this special part of Inhaca we were snorkelling in is a protected marine reserve, and is only easily accessible by guests of Machangulo Beach Lodge, there are limited threats and few tourists swim here meaning the fish were very relaxed, not even bothering to move out of the way as we swam amongst them.
For me this was the snorkelling experience that I had been waiting for, in fact this was beyond my wildest imagination. As the outgoing tide carried me effortlessly from one end of the beach to the other – I marvelled at the underwater kaleidoscope of creatures that lived along that simple stretch of ‘rocks’ and sand.