Overcoming Seasickness And GoPro Loss in Beautiful Mozambique

You just got a rundown of my safari-hopping adventures across Africa. But I cut things off abruptly. There is still a safari left, and again it involves water. 

Right after my boat safari in Zambia’s Chobe National Park (remember all those wading elephants?), I hopped and skipped my way over to the East Coast of Africa, where I was in for another water-based animal watching adventure. Maybe in reality this was more of a snorkeling trip than a safari, but it is formally referred to as a safari, and due to unforeseen circumstances, it became quite an adventure. 

Mozambique, located in southeastern Africa, has a long Indian Ocean coastline. Mozambique is a Portuguese speaking country, or at least that’s its official language. The Portuguese colonized Mozambique in about 1500, and only in 1975, did the country gain its independence. 

Shortly after its independence, the country plunged into a civil war that spanned about 15 years. Mozambique emerged from civli war in the early 1990s as one of the poorest, if not the poorest, countries in the world. Since then, Mozambique’s economy has grown, but the country remains one of the world’s poorest and least developed nations.

Lovely Mozambique has quite the coastline.

My main aim of visiting Mozambique was to experience its beautiful coast and, specifically, to spot and photograph manta rays. I ran into some troubles along the way. 

What it’s like to spend a night in aiport transit

I traveled to Mozambique directly following my safari in Zambia. But I certainly didn’t fly direct. Mozambique is a bit difficult to reach. It has two international airports. One is in the capital Maputo. The other international airpot is located in a small town called Vilanculos. 

Vilanculos only has a population of about 25,000 people. But it is the gateway to the popular Bazaruto Archipelago, which gives it a strategic location. The town now draws a lot of tourists. 

The plan was to fly to Vilanculos with a stopover in Johannesburg, South Africa. I flew to Johannesburg, and for the first time in my life, I spent a night at a transit hotel within an airport. The Protea Hotel by Marriott is a 45-room hotel within the international terminal at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport. I enjoyed my stay at this very unique Marriott.

Life in transit

So why might I spend the night in transit? Well, for one, looking back at my South Africa trip, there was a bit of a problem toward the end. No, I’m not talking about when my my friend and I had to literally step on the gas to escape in Johannesburg. Rather than running away from the locals, I turned into another kind of fugitive. I got a speeding ticket and didn’t pay it.

It’s not that my affinity for keeping the government’s hands out of my pockets is so deeply rooted that I refuse to pay speeding tickets. I tried to pay the ticket, but the online payment system didn’t work. This left me concerned that I may incur problems from the South African authorities upon entry into South Africa.

Conveniently, the way the transit hotel works is such that you do not need to pass through immigration. You just show up with your boarding pass and hand luggage and get a room for 24 or 12 hours or for however short of a stay you need. 

I wanted to experience spending a night in transit. What I got was indeed an interesting experience. Take dinner for example. I had to pass through security control in order to get something to eat. Then I had to retrace my steps, going the wrong way through airport security to get back to the hotel. It was weird, and I was getting a lot of stares, but you are allowed to do that when you stay at the transit hotel.

Staying in this hotel made for a completely new feeling. Even though I needed to awkwardly go back and forth through security, I found myself walking very relaxed through the airport, as I didn’t need to carry my luggage around. I got a lot of work done at the Marriott inside the international terminal, and the next day I flew to Mozambique.

Incredible arrival in Mozambique

Arriving in miraculous Vilanculos

Luckily, on the Johannesburg-Vilanculos flight I was seated at a window. As we were arriving in Mozambique, the views were amazing. From above, I could see islands — basically desert islands with lots of sand dunes — and thousands of colors in the sea. I had never seen something likes this before. It was easily one of the most amazing flight arrivals of my life.

I spent my first two nights in Mozambique at a hotel called Vilanculos Beach Lodge. It was a very nice property located right on the beach. The beach itself is not beautiful, but it has quite a tide. And at the hotel there is a nice infinity pool, as well a beautifully landscaped garden. I stayed in a nice, little hut with a cool bed. 

The incredible setting of the Vilanculos Beach Lodge

On my first night at the Vilanculos Beach Lodge I handled some consulting calls and enjoyed a very nice dinner. I also walked around and took a look at the beach. 

Can’t go wrong with this

The following day I ventured to the Bazaruto Archipelago. The archipelago consists of six islands off Mozambique’s Indian Ocean coast. One of the islands is Benguerra, which is pretty well known and has a Anantara resort that is very pricey. The resort was too expensive for me to stay at, but I still got to visit the island.

The Bazaruto Archipelago

An archipelago visit

I headed to Benguerra Island in a traditional dhow. Prevalent in the Indian Ocean region, dhows are boats that often have triangular sails and can also function as motorboats.

Traditional Mozambican sailing

The dow I sailed in traveled very slowly, so it took a while to get to the island. Three Africans were steering the boat. We spotted a dolphin along the way. which was nice. Eventually, we passed multiple islands and arrived at an approximately 5-mile reef. We went snorkeling at low tide. The marine life was actually very good. I saw lots of fish and some nice coral. 

Back in the dhow, we set sail for the main island of Bazaruto. Upon arrival, I found Bazaruto has very high sand dunes. I climbed some of the sand dunes with my guide and driver. At the top of the dunes we would enjoy nice views of Bazaruto and the surrounding islands.

Dunes like this make for good Bazaruto views and fun.

This sand dune-laden island is very barren, yet it also has a lot of trees. Apparently, there is a village on the island where local islanders live, but I didn’t visit it. I just saw a group of divers relaxing at the beach.

Bazaruto vegetation

I returned to my boat for lunch, which instantly made me very nervous. The Africans with whom I was traveling were cooking on an open fire on a wooden boat. Somehow nothing burned. The chicken they cooked turned out to be one of the best chickens I had ever eaten. It must have just been killed right before they cooked it. 

The archipelago, as a whole, is considered to be a rather untouched Indian Ocean paradise, which you can see in the photos. 

More Mozambican beauty

On the way back to the mainland, the trip was taking too long, so the crew on my dhow erected the boat’s sail. That way we were sailing, in addition to being powered by a quite weak motor. I found sailing on a traditional boat that Mozambicans still use for fishing to be a memorable experience. 

The Mozambican backpacking scene

The following day a young man picked me up in a car and drove me to Tofo, a Mozambican beach that’s famous for its marine megafauna (large sea creatures). It’s about a 6-hour drive down the coast from Vilanculos to Tofo. We made it in 4 hours. Needless to say, my driver was going very fast, well above the speed limit, I assume. For a poor country, I’d say Mozambique has a very drivable coastal highway. 

On the road to Tofo

Tofo is relatively undiscovered, yet it’s developing a reputation as a hub for backpackers in Mozambique. A lot of South African backpackers and other young people visit Tofo. The area is basically a beach with some huts, restaurants and hotels. I stayed in a hotel by the beach that was basically a big white house or villa.

To reach my hotel, you need to drive over sand. This created a problem for my driver, as he did not have a four-wheel drive. It was quite tricky for him to drive up the sand, but eventually he managed.

Tofo life

The hotel was very nice. It had a good restaurant, and I was staying in a room overlooking the beach. The views were great, especially at low tide, and the beach was very accessible. 

Low tide

I spent my first day in Tofo walking from one beach to another, watching the tide come in and getting a look at fishermen and the area in general.

Another angle

Tofo apparently has nightlife, but it was low season and there weren’t so many people around. Also, I wanted to focus on marine life, so I skipped out on the nightlife.

The ocean safari

Tofo’s main draw is its Marine Megafauna Institute. The institute specializes in research on whale sharks, manta rays, giant manta rays and other sea life. I wanted to go snorkeling or diving with these large sea creatures, particularly the manta rays… well, the giant manta rays, too.

The area has marine megafauna because of the currents and because the waters are rich in plankton. The plankton actually swim in the water just 100 or 200 meters off the coast, attracting the large sea creatures that congregate in the area.

Ready to launch

It was time to go on safari… ocean safari. I picked a provider that was offering daily boat trips of two to three hours. Aboard Zodiac dinghies — small inflatable boats commonly used by divers — we would zigzag across the ocean while keeping close to the coast. I did this on two consecutive days and tried to swim with whale sharks and, of course, manta rays. 

On the first day of my ocean safari, there was a large group. We were 12 people. A tractor hauled the dinghy to the ocean, and then we had to push the boat through shallow water for 100 meters. Once the water got deeper, we hopped aboard the dinghy and quickly felt waves crashing upon us. The waves were about 2 meters high, and we were getting wet. When it came time to start diving, the women would jump in first and then the men. 

Getting seasick

Beautiful setting yet rough sea

Unfortunately, this ocean safari would not turn out like my voyage to Antarctica, during which my fellow passengers got seasick and I managed to avoid catching the bug. It is very common to get seasick aboard these dinghies, as the ride is quite rough. Big swells come, and you really feel them, especially if the boat is staying in one place. After a while, you naturally get seasick. 

This basically happened to everyone. On the first day of the safari, I made the miscalculation of thinking I could withstand the ocean’s swells without taking seasickness pills. This made much of the first day a very tough experience for me. The following day, I did take medication and found it did not kick in so quickly, but eventually it worked well.

Coping with GoPro loss

The first day of the ocean safari was doubly rough. The double trouble came in the form of seasickness and what happened to my GoPro. Just one month prior, I bought the GoPro in Puerto Rico. A couple days prior, I used it to take some nice underwater shots in the Bazaruto Archipelago. But you don’t get to see those photos…

I jumped out of the dinghy and into the water after quickly spotting a manta ray. I was excited. Here was my chance to snap a photo of a manta ray. Then it happened. 

Someone else who was on the safari kicked me in the arm. I lost my grip on the camera. I immediately tried to grab the camera, but it was already too late. The GoPro was sinking. Down it went, plunging about 20 meters to the ocean floor. And that’s where it now lies. For anyone who would like to retrieve my GoPro, its on the ocean floor about 200 meters off the coast of Tofo, Mozambique. If you retrieve it, you are welcome to attend Heuereka and bring the GoPro as a birthday gift for me. Usually I don’t accept physical presents because I travel around the world with hand luggage. In this case I’ll make an exception.

The GoPro cost $500. That’s an expense I can afford. The bigger loss was that I couldn’t take photos of the manta rays and whale sharks. Coping with this loss while being seasick did not make things any easier. 

Taking the plunge

Very seasick at this point, I jumped in the water and did not see a whole lot. So I got back on the boat and did my megafauna watching from aboard the Zodiac. While battling seasickness, I did manage to see manta rays off in the distance. Actually, there was also one manta ray that was just gliding underneath the boat. Most people didn’t see it because they were snorkeling in different spots. 

When things go wrong turn to pineapple pizza??

Though GoPro-less, things got better on the second day of the safari. At first, I considered skipping the day entirely because of the seasickness and camera loss. But I popped a seasickness pill and discovered that, without having to concentrate on taking any pictures, I could simply enjoy the experience. 

On Day 2, I saw lots of very large manta rays, as well as other big creatures — some about 10 meters long — that were swimming right beside us as we snorkeled close to the coast. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any whale sharks, another creature Tofo is known for. Whale sharks live in the area year round, which is a rare phenomenon, but we did spot any. That was okay considering we saw lots of the giant manta rays.

Since we were so close the coast, there were actually surfers next to us who were spotting manta rays while surfing. That made for an interesting sight. As for this ocean safari as a whole, though it started very badly, it turned out to be quite fun. And the ending was even more exciting! 

Unlike the launch, when you walk the boat out into the water, the ocean safari concludes with going the final 300 meters at full speed and beaching the boat. As this happens, you need to grip the boat very tightly so you do not go flying out. Then comes the… “boom.” And the boat is on the beach. Again a tractor arrives and hauls the dinghy away. This all makes for a funny, if not dramatic, ending to the ocean safari. 

I wrapped up my stay in Tofo with a little walk through the village, during which I had a chat with some Africans. It was then time to travel to the Mozambican capital Maputo. 

Rubbing shoulders in Maputo

The same driver picked me up in Tofo and we headed down the coast again. The drive from Tofo to Maputo is even longer than the drive from Vilanculos to Tofo. This drive is supposed to take about 7 hours. We made it in 5 hours. 

On both drives, we were basically traveling on the main road in Mozambique. It’s a pretty nice road, fairly scenic, though it didn’t give us much of a picture of the country as a whole.

Maputo is located in the far south of Mozambique. It’s practically at Mozambique’s border with both South Africa, not far from Kruger National Park, as well as Swaziland, which I also visited — before Africa’s last absolute monarch renamed the country Eswatini.

Maputo’s embassy quarter

In Maputo, I checked into a nice guest house in the embassy quarter of the city. The American embassy was just 200 meters away, and I was surrounded by other embassies as well. So of course, this was a very secure area. While entering my guest house, I needed to get by multiple security guards before even walking through the door. 

I went for a walk around the embassy quarter, primarily in search of something to eat, and found a very nice Italian restaurant. I ate some tasty gazpacho and bruschetta and ended up returning to the restaurant the following day. Now you know where that pineapple pizza came from. 😉

On my last day in Mozambique, I had a bunch of consulting calls, so I stayed in the guest house most of the time and didn’t see much of Maputo. I only saw the city center from a distance and was surprised to see that Maputo has a skyline. 

The Maputo skyline off in the distance

I actually enjoy short stays in embassy neighborhoods, where I get to mingle at bars and restaurants with diplomats and the globalist elite. Do you recall my stay at the Marriott in Paramaribo, Suriname when there was a UN event in town? Believe it or not, the diplomat life was once a life I envisioned for myself. I am much happier now as an ambassador of liberty, not any government, but I do like chatting with these people every now and then.

Going out with a bribe?

After Mozambique, I had one final leg of my Africa trip, Madagascar. Even though Madagascar looks like it is directly off the coast of Mozambique, I needed to fly back to Johannesburg in order to fly to Antananarivo, the capital of this large African island nation.

At the airport in Maputo, finally… after all my years of travel… I experience a bribery attempt for first time. It happened at security. The airport security guy went through my luggage and opened my money bag, where I store leftover cash from all the countries I visit. In a very proper manner, he counted all of the money, or at least looked at all of the bills, and did not try to steal any of them. After going through all of the cash, he asked me something like, “Do you want to sponsor me?” or “Do you have a little donation for me?”

How did I respond? I laughed it off. I said something like, “don’t try it,” and continued on as if nothing had happened. In reality, the experience felt weird. But now I know what if feels like when someone is trying to manipulate you into giving them a bribe. 

I managed to exit Mozambique safely without paying any sort of bribe. I guess, though, if the airport security guy wants to siphon off something of mine, he can go to Tofo Beach, head about 200 meters into the water and then dive to the ocean floor. Once he grabs my GoPro and comes back up to the surface and returns to shore, if he doesn’t want to attend Heuereka, then he can keep the camera for himself.

Stay tuned for Madagascar.