Fantasy Under Mozambique's Sea
For an underwater experience of some of the world's most rare and majestic sea creatures, take a dip in Mozambique's natural aquarium.
Mozambique may be most famous for its white-sand beaches and colonial Portuguese architecture, but its real treasures lie beneath the surface.
There's no need to strap on an oxygen tank to get up close to Mozambique's sea life – a simple snorkel and a pair of goggles will get you front row tickets to the best underwater shows.Those who dip below the warm waters of the Indian Ocean will be in good company: giant turtles, angelfish, whale sharks, parrot fish and psychedelic sea apples lurk here.
The best time for whale shark sightings is between November and May.
These shy creatures tend to slink away from boats, but there's a good chance of spotting them in the offshore area around Tofo beach, about 500km north of the capital, Maputo.
The elegant grey reef sharks are more common. They can stretch up to two meters in length but are not dangerous.
Angelfish, with their psychedelic signature stripes, light up the show with flashes of blue and yellow while strange sea apples blush red and purple, catching plankton with their violet tentacles.
The shabby-chic beach resort of Tofo is one of the world's best spots for snorkeling with whale sharks and has a whole underwater stretch named for the great grey creatures: Whale Shark Alley.
Tofo is home to shallow-dive and snorkel spots such as The Chamber of Secrets – great for butterflyfish, lobster and octopus sightings – and Clownfish Reef, also good for sweepers, morays and spiny lobsters.
Heading further north, the Bazaruto archipelago – roughly 700km from Maputo – has increasingly rare inhabitants, dugongs.
The island chain is home to some of the last remaining population of these protected marine mammals.
They can grow as long as three meters, and the males often sprout tusk-like fangs used for uprooting sea grass and waging battles against competing males.
The high-end luxury lodge Azura on Benguerra Island – one of the five islands in the archipelago – has an excellent dive school that leads snorkeling trips around the coral reefs.
You might also spot loggerhead turtles, puffers, clown fish and chocolate dip fish, as well as humpback whales during the June-December migration season.
If you opt to transfer to the lodge by light aircraft, you'll see the shadows of dugongs and sea turtles set against the turquoise ocean below.
On the other side of Benguerra, the luxury &Beyond lodge also has a wonderful dive and snorkel school, with the unusual advantage of swimming with another mammal: horses.
Mozambique Horse Safari has a base here, offering a rare chance to slip off saddles and ride bareback into the Indian Ocean.
Basing yourself in Vilanculos is a more affordable way of exploring the reefs around the Bazaruto islands, including those around the island of Santa Carolina.
One of the best places to stay in Vilanculos is the Casa Babi guesthouse attached to Odyssea Dive Centre.
Head even further north, to the atmospheric Ilha de Moçambique, for fresh fish suppers, crystal clear underwater viewings and sea kayaking.
Or to the spectacular Quirimbas archipelago, home to some of the most colorful coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.
Closer to the capital, Inhaca island – an easy weekend trip from Maputo – offers snorkelers sightings of spotted rubber lip fish, jewel damselfish and butterflyfish, as well as the occasional turtle.
The road to Ponta do Ouro – close to the South African border – is quite rough and the rugged, lesser-known town exudes a sense of adventure, with the added advantage of a chance to get up close with wild dolphins.
Source: The Africa Report