In Search of Dugong or exceeding expectations in Mozambique

My husband and I have come to Mozambique in search of the rare, almost extinct dugong but what we found was so much more fulfilling and exciting that the dugong search has become just one more thing to do in this beautiful unexplored country.

We headed for Bazaruto island in the Bazaruto archipelago (a short flight from Vilanculous on the mainland).Bazaruto is a far more peaceful destination than you imagine with it`s empty beaches, huge sand dunes, colourful birds chirping each morning as they are busy building nests that look like an exotic fruit hanging from the branches while fishing boats gracefully float in the ocean. When the tide is out it exposes beautiful sand banks in azure and indigo waters, all different shapes and sizes. It makes the place look magical - a combination of blue, turquoise, white and sunny yellow. Climbing flowers in the sands, the colour of violet and in the shape of petunias create that stylish carpet that you need for beach decoration. Herons wading in the shallows, guinea fowls pecking something in the grass, shells covering beaches. The sun is pleasantly warm, not burning hot, while the sand is fine and soft under your feet.

We stayed at Indigo Bay - the luxurious hotel on Bazaruto. The hotel occupies its own private bay and despite having 50 rooms (beach and hill cottages) is very spacious. We didn`t see many guests during the day as they all seem to be honeymooners and we had the whole bay to ourselves. There are walkways everywhere, two pools , two bars and hammocks in the gardens. The rooms are so extravagant, it makes you think of the Ritz: 2 showers-inside and outside, a bath with ocean view and a huge very comfy bed. There is a beautiful veranda to sit and enjoy the view.

Huge sand dunes cover one side of the island. There are huge fresh water lakes full of crocodiles and excursions are offered to Pansy and Paradise Islands. The whole atmosphere in Mozambique can only be described as “warm”: it warms up your skin, heart and soul. Air temperature is a balmy 26-27°C, the temperature of the ocean and the swimming pool is similar. Gentle breeze and soft sand embrace your skin like luxurious velvet . It`s a simple pleasure-lying in the sand on the beach as it feels like a duck feather duvet, listening to the sound of birds and gentle splashes of the ocean in the distance.

Having previously done some sledging in Norway we were curious to try this in the sand dunes of Bazaruto. It`s fun going down on your board and a great way to spend your afternoon on Bazaruto, just make sure you choose a dune that doesn`t end up in a fresh water lake where the hungry crocodiles live. The dunes are mystical and magical, especially at sunset when the purple/red African sun goes down. Climbing up the dunes is hard work, harder than walking in the mountains but the sheer pleasure of sliding down is your reward !The following day we went on a boat trip to the romantic Pansy island just off the cost of Bazaruto. It`s named after the beautiful shells covering it`s sands, each one with a carefully engraved pansy on it. Who creates it and how is a mystery but I am sure people of Mozambique will have a legend to tell you about the Pansy shells...This island is not actually an island, it`s just a huge sandbank but when the skipper of the boat will put up a tent for you to create a romantic hideaway you will consider it an island of love. We lazed about under a tent, had some drinks and walked around the island hand in hand. The tide was quickly going out exposing more and more white sand. The colour of this sand was white and it created a perfect contrast with sandy dunes of the Bazaruto in the background.

There is a sense of tranquillity about Bazaruto, that is always searched for but rarely found. You dream that one day you will find peace for your heart and soul but you never imagine it will be in Mozambique. And, as for the elusive dugong, he did pop out on the surface of the water for us like a brown wine cork, as if to say “Tenha um bom dia”-“Good day to you”. Farewell Mozambique.

J Hancock

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