Mozambique

Duration:  January 1st - August 17th 2005

Organisation:  Barra Reef Divers

Conned:

Gap years are meant for lessons & experience - and this was certainly a lesson learnt!  If you visited my gap site earlier in the year, you would have noticed me ranting & raving about a certain 'Porcupine Volunteers' that was going to take me all over Southern Africa.  Click here for a reminder...

I did meet up with Fred Voss and after hanging around a few days in a backpackers in Komatipoort, his colleague (at the time!) Eric transported me across the border to a place called Praia da Barra, Inhumbane, Mozambique.  Here I was supposed to work on a turtle rehabilitation project, while doing a bit of diving with tourists on the side for a couple of months, before Fred transferred me to another project elsewhere in Southern Africa, and so on for the remainder of my 6 months there. 

Weeellll...suffice to say that obviously things changed a wee bit, and Fred did a bunk and fled the country to Swaziland.  Both sides were conned by the middle man (see Journal for more details).  I was lucky enough that Russel (owner of Barra Reef Divers)  and Eric (prominent shareholder of Barra Reef Resort) allowed me to stay on and make the most of the experience while I was there.

What It Is All About:

Barra Reef Divers are a Dive Charter and Dive school that offer world-class diving, internationally recognized scuba courses and a host of other water sport activities. They operate from Barra Reef Resort , which is situated on the borders of Inhambane bay and the town of Tofo.The team consists of qualified and highly experienced instructors , dive masters and skippers with a zest for life. Coral reefs are scattered all over the sea bottom in the close vicinity of the very protected launching site and varies from only a view meters to over 40 meters deep and therefore cater for the beginner as well as the advanced diver This is the divers chance to indulge him/herself in coral reef diving "par excelance" and to experience the sight of huge Mata rays, whale sharks, enormous moray eels, vigorous game fish, massive potato basses and even an opportunity to meet dolphins and humpback whales eye to eye. Nowhere else in Mozambique are mantas so common and it is no wonder that the Inhambane coast is lately being called, the Manta Coast!

They also have the Inhambane bay and lagoon (only minutes from our site) to offer and the beauty thereof equals any time that of any of the Indian ocean Islands. Sunset cruises, sailing, skiing, kayaking;...paradise! The twodive boats (6.3 and 7.5 meter) and can put up to 26 divers a time to the water. Their compressor is new and they also have sufficient air banks to easily supply air as needed. Ample scuba and software sets for hire. The divecentre are also equipped with full training facilities. Barra Reef Diversoperate on an international level.

Reflections [21/08/2005]:

Wow.

Barra was fantastic for me - for better or worse.  Certainly the most different of the three experiences from my expectations at the beginning of my gap.  Not as animal-orientated as I hoped, but, God, did I get up close to some of the most amazing aquatic life in the world.  Nonetheless, this experience was predominantly people-orientated, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because I learnt so* much on that front too >> apart from which, I got my *DIVEMASTER* certificate!!!:D:D 

In addition to the actual divemaster side of things, Barra Reef trusted me with so much more than I asked for.  I found myself  helping out with the management and administrative side of things at the dive centre, taking out trips on my own and behind the bar in the Resort itself.  I got to a glimpse at how businesses are run, marketing & PR necessary to such a remote location, as well as the good relations needed with the Mozambican government itself.

Mozambique is but a decade from the end of its independence from the Portuguese and the resulting civil war, so its still certainly in recovery.  As soon as I crossed the border I noticed the whole new atmosphere change from South Africa.  Firstly, everyone still adopts the language of the foreigners that used to own them - Portuguese.  However, Mozambicans have their own clear national identity and individual cultures.  Unfortunately, the government (operating in the far south of the country) is extremely beaureaucratic and hence corrupt - but, hey, this is Africa, right?!

Praia da Barra as a place is absolutely beautiful, certainly one of the most stunning places I've been this year.  It's just one huge, pristine, empty beach with a couple of lodges dotted up and down it.  Barra Reef Resort was at one far end of it, and round the corner was 'White Sands' and the Inhumbane estuary - even more of a eye-widener.  What did I exactly get to see?  Flamingoes, turtles, manta rays, whale-sharks, bottle-nose dolphins, humpback whales...just to name a few;)  You could wake up in the morning and see the day's forecast just because of the vast sky practically all around you, as well as obviously the tale of waves and wind right in front of you.  My favourite time was at night with the palm trees swaying under the exquisite Milky Way and the moon (ever different) above you.

And when I had enough of the beach for a bit , I could escape across the border to South Africa with my visa extension as an excuse!  Took a fortnight or so off to explore more of Southern Africa by myself and because you met so many people in Barra (mainly South Africans on holiday) you got to stay and visit friends, seeing the world from their point of view.  It was difficult not to offend and get to see everyone!  However, in the end civilisation got too much and I could wonder back to paradise.:)

Every night (or day!) in Barra, whether a Monday or a Friday, had potential to turn into a late one!  Nonetheless, party hotspots were a bit limited...three main lodges up and down the beach; or perhaps some braai (sp.?!>>a barbecue for the English among us!) at a the 'house of a local'; or a bumpy ride round the corner to backpacking Tofo; or for the 'real locals' a familiar '2M' or 'Manica' in hand among many bopping to a sort-of reggae-Latino band in literally a 'stadium that rises out of the sand'. 

Again, there are so many people that I owe this experience too.  Firstly and foremost to Louise Magil, the one I could turn to no matter what, but especially for a laugh when I needed it.  Thanks for keeping me sane;)  Plus, to her guy (lucky she got there first!), Tony, I love your silent presence - stay cool dude! 

Next, though certainly not least, to Ruan, my friend, mentor, instructor and tipo bud.  Thanks so much for everything and you know what!  Your constant simple being was a great comfort to me.  Someone to rely on.  Sorry we never properly had 'the conversation', but once you got going you couldn't stop my laughter.  Also, to my other mozzie girlfirend of the year, Kate - I'm so glad you turned back...again...and again;)  I truly wish you both the best wherever you may wonder.

Also, to Russel - thanks for everything you've done for me, little man!;)  I never would have got where I have now without your constant support - hope I didn't get in the way!  Wishing you the best for all your ventures both above and under water  Plus, to Mel & Eric - thanks so much to you as well for putting up with me in more ways than one.

Then to everyone else - my dive guys, Berto, Vasco & Fernando; the Armandos behind the bar; waiters & 'kitcheners'; 'the ladies'; George, Chiwali & the guards who watched my back.  Also, to all the members abso-fabo Barra society - especially Dennis & Thelma for knowing how to make me smile:)  Thanks to all for putting up with my foreign views and also for your unrivalled hospitality.  Finally, thank you to all the divers that passed the Barra way, not only for the dives themselves (which were so* amazing!), but also for all your complete affability and warmth to a complete stranger.  You broadened my horizons more than you realised.

I simply can't really explain what exactly I found in Barra in such a short space, so you will have to get a bigger glance in my journal, logs & emails that I'll soon post up, but it certainly was something in that 6 months which turned into almost 8!  As I have done before, I'll round off my experience (and hence my gap!) with what I now miss about it now back among 'civilisation' and the 'real world':

I miss waking to the sound of the waves and palms in the breeze.  I miss walking everywhere barefoot.  I miss the squeaky sound the sand made because it was just too fine.  I miss rolling off the back of one of the rubberducks into the oblivion of the deep blue.  I simply miss the fish.  I miss the absolute tranquility and wonder of diving, yet I also miss the complete ecstacy of galloping down the beach and round the point on 'Hot Stuff'.  I miss the weekend rides into Tofo through all the local villages with children screaming 'cavalo' after us.  I miss the local concerts and stadiums rising out of the sands.  I miss my long chats with Squeeze.  I miss the locals' handshake, the yells of 'bom dia' thru the palms.  I miss the sudden thump of a coconut falling, which never failed to give me a start.  I miss jumping down onto sand after Ruan's as ever exhiliariting beaching with the huge stretch of paradise in either direction of me.  *There is no such thing as a bad dive.*  I miss the kitting-up.  I miss the giggles of the ladies in the laundry when we both equally helplessly don't understand each other.  I miss Isaac's pancakes and french toast;)  I miss Rodriguez' defining presence and Raoul's funny giggle.  I miss all the waiters - Tunito; Juao; Ricardo & Domingoes - each with their own unique personalities.  Plus, I miss Armando & Mandinho behind the bar - always ready for a chat.  I miss Tony's wave from reception.  I miss all of Mel's pack of dogs of all shapes & sizes always up to some mischief or other on the beach, or making themselves at home around the resort.  I miss Savannah and all the other locals' dogs named after local beverages.    I miss the meeting of new people, especially when they're in the holiday mood;)    I miss settling down with a shandy and a good book in hand on the deck for a sundowners - ever different.  I miss wondering 'home' to my wee room at night after a bar shift through the swaying palms with the stars & moon spread out above me.  I miss the thousands of currency.  I miss the bumpy trips into 'town'.  I miss watching the dhows at their work.  I miss the women wondering up and down the beach with goodness knows what balanced precariously on their heads.  I miss the any excuse for a party and the pure generousity and hospitality of the locals.  I miss the quirks of Barra society.  I miss Tipo Tinto.  I miss Paradise.

"Is it that crazy people are attracted to the beach, or just that the beach turn people crazy??!"

© Zoe Demery 2012