by John Kinsella
Mention Mozambique and most divers immediately think megafauna. Whale sharks and manta rays prowl the plankton rich water year round and humpback whales pass by, seasonally, on their way through the Mozambique Channel from the Antarctic. But there’s much more.
Mozambique, located on Africa’s southeast coast, has more than 2000 kilometres/1250 miles of coastline bathed by the southerly flowing Aghulhas Current. Some of the best of this, from a diver’s point of view, is served by a thriving recreational scuba diving community catering to divers of all tastes whether they’re looking for a simple tent in a beach camp or a luxurious spa and resort.
To the north, the Quirimbas Archipelago, stretching between Pemba and the Tanzanian border, is home to the recently designated Primeiras and Segundas Marine Protected Area (MPA). The largest MPA on the African continent, it protects rich coral reefs and mangrove forests and is an important nursery for myriad reef fish and five of the ocean’s seven marine turtles among other notable denizens.
To the south, the Maputo Protection Area spans the coast from Ponta de Ouro to the Maputo River providing a haven for nesting marine turtles and conserving the offshore reef ecosystems.
Off Praia do Tofo, Inhambane, whale shark alley (a plankton rich current fed corridor) attracts whale sharks all year round. Sightings are almost guaranteed. Guides keep watch and arrange entries to coincide with the passing of these iconic marine giants. This alone will put Mozambique on many divers’ bucket lists.
HOT DIVE SITES
PONTA DO OURO
Doodles (16 metres/50 feet)
This dive is on a long, interesting reef, with small drop-offs and sand patches, which narrows to the south. It’s a popular spot for training new divers. Schools of juvenile reef fish, shrimp, snappers, boxfish and turtles call the colorful hard and soft corals home. Often, divers can expect to share the reef with friendly potato bass, which can reach a length of 2.0 metres/6.5 feet and can weigh as much as 110 kilograms/240 pounds. Game fish and dolphin are also sometimes also sighted.
Pinnacles (29-43 metres/95-140 feet)
Pinnacles is a deep reef known for Zambezi and hammerhead shark sightings. Big potato bass also patrol the waters and formations of rays floating past are not an uncommon sight. Thick coral formations hide eels and reef fish and various game fish species are almost always in attendance, prowling the frequently strong current on the lookout for their next meal. This is obviously for the well-trained and experienced diver.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort in Ponta Do Ouro
The Gap (to 40 metres/120 feet)
This is a spectacular wall dive, located on the edge of the continental shelf 600 metres/2000 feet from shore on a drop-off of 80-120 metres/260-390 feet. It’s a prolific feeding ground for big game fish. The dive starts at around 10 metres/33 feet (depending on the tide) and, for the appropriately experienced diver, features dramatic structure adorned with large gorgonian fans at about 37 metres/120 feet. Sunfish and devil ray encounters are a real possibility here.
The Playground (12-15 metres/40-50 feet)
Here’s a shallow wall dive with overhangs and caves packed with crayfish, zebra lionfish, fire fish and scorpion fish on the northern side of Pemba Bay, the third largest natural bay in the world. It’s a great macro site, popular with photographers who seek out the resident Mauritian scorpion fish and leaf fish. Blue spotted rays are frequently spotted here too. This site takes its name from the bottlenose dolphins who are regular visitors and seem to enjoy themselves in the area.
Edge of Reason (to 850 metres/2750 feet)
Off Medjumbe Island lies a drop off that, according to the charts, goes straight down to more than 850 metres/2750 feet – obviously well past recreational scuba depths. Overhangs and caverns at 20-30 metres/70-100 feet harbor species such as humphead wrasse, groupers, reef sharks, snappers and unicorn fish. The dive site gets its name from the sensation that flood you as the wall plummets to the deep blue waters below.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort in Pemba
Praia de Jangamo
Kingfisher Reef (25-40 metres/80-130 feet)
The dives sites of this reef system are some of the Africa's most well known and are rated as some of the best dives in the world. The reefs here offer a huge diversity of marine life, including numerous giant manta rays visiting cleaning stations. Sites include: Manta Canyons, Greentree, Manta Pinnacles, XTC and Hogwarts. Recommended for advanced divers with deep diver training.
Batfish Pinnacle (10 metres/33 feet), Devils Peak (16 metres/50 feet), Disney Land (32 metres/100 feet)
Ranging from less than 10 metres/33 feet to more than 30 metres/100 feet these reef dives offer are a wide variety of corals, small walls and swim-throughs. Large schools of reef fish, reef sharks, dolphins, turtles, octopus, and macro fauna such as frogfish, paper fish, porcelain crabs and shrimps make the reef their home. Recommended for all levels.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort in Inhambane
Manta Reef (21-26 metres/70-85 feet)
Tofo’s showcase dive, famous for two manta cleaning stations. It’s a gentle drift dive that begins with a negative entry into 26 metres/85 feet into the middle of a small amphitheater teeming with life. The first cleaning station is reached in a shallower sandy area at 21 metres/70 feet. Here, Mantas circle overhead to be cleaned by goldies, cleaner wrasse and butterfly fish. In good it’s possible to watch upwards of ten mantas circling overhead. This dive is only suitable for advanced divers with appropriate experience.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort in Tofo
Depths: Depths vary from shallow “house” reefs in 10 metres/30 feet or less to deep vertical walls in excess of 40 metres/130 feet.
Visibility: From 10 metres/33 feet and up, affected by tide and current. Plankton rich currents, which are great for abundant marine life, sometimes come with a visibility price.
Currents: Currents and tides can be significant factor depending on the dive site. Drift dives are common. Check with your chosen dive center or resort.
Water Temperature: 22-28° C/72-82° F
Dive Season: Year round.
Weather: This tropical climate has sunny days and fresh evenings all year round. The dry season runs from April to late December and the summer season goes from late December to March. Dry season is pleasant: hot during the day with warm yet fresh evenings. In July and August some people wear a light jumper in the evenings. Daytime temperatures vary from 22-32° C/72-90° F and seawater temperatures range between 22-28° C/72-82° F. Summer season is hotter with higher humidity and occasional short rain spells in intense brief showers, usually at night. Diving is excellent at this time of year with warm, calm waters and excellent visibility.
Access: Visitors from South Africa can drive to south Mozambique (check for specific requirements in advance) others will usually fly and avail of transfer services arranged by the dive center or resort of choice.
Skill Level: From nondiver to advanced.
Scuba gear: Ideally, bring as much of your personal equipment as airline weight restrictions allow. 3mm shorties or one-piece suits suffice.
Length of Stay: All lengths of stay are catered for, the effort required to reach some of the less travelled regions (in the north) warrant staying as long as possible.
• Whale sharks
• Manta ray
• Dugong - while it is unlikely to encounter them while diving, Mozambique is home to this rare relative of the manatee.
• Macro fauna
Language: Portuguese is the official language and spoken by nearly 40 percent of the population nationally and by more than 70 percent of those in urban areas. Other widely spoken languages include Makhuwa, Sena, Ndau and Lomwe. English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Mozambican Metical (MZN)
1 MZN = .033 USD = .024 EUR (24 January 2013)
US Dollars and South African Rand widely accepted.
Tipping: Tipping is standard. As a guide consider about 10 percent in restaurants, 30 MZN per bag for porters, 30-60 MZN per day for cleaners and maids and 120-150 MZN per person per day for tour guides.
Maputo International (MPM)
Inhambane Airport is an airport in Jangamo District, Inhambane Province, Mozambique (IATA: INH, ICAO: FQIN)
Religion: Christian (more than 50 percent) and Muslim (about 18 percent)
220-240 V AC 50 Hz
European plug with two circular metal pins or South African/Indian-style plug with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.
Entry/Exit Visas and Fees:
All visitors must have passports (minimum validity six months) and visas, obtainable from embassies, high commissions and consulates.
Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.
Many thanks to:
Pemba Beach Hotel and Spa
Simply Scuba Dive Charters
Jeff’s Palm Resort & Pro Dive Centre
Libélula Dive Centre
Topside images courtesy of Libélula Dive Centre