Columnist snorkels with whale shark off Mozambique
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With its colonial architecture, Mediterranean-meets-African culture and world-class diving, Mozambique is very cool.
Tofo beach, a popular backpacker hangout located a few hours north of the capital, Maputo, sounded like the place to be: sandy white beaches, tall coconut palms and great snorkelling.
After a long drive, I checked into Bamboozi Backpackers, a compound of thatched huts by the beach. By far the best budget accommodation in the area, it offers camping, dorms, fully equipped A-frame chalets, and a rustic but romantic honeymoon suite overlooking the Indian Ocean.
In addition to great food, a chill vibe and a sociable atmosphere, Bamboozi has an on-site dive centre offering PADI open water certifications. They also offer “ocean safaris,” a two-hour snorkelling trip with manta rays, whale sharks and dolphins.
I joined a group of fellow snorkellers, hopped in a speedboat and scanned the blue waters for marine life.
Ian, a Canadian-born dive instructor, pointed to a brown blob beneath the surface. “It’s a whale shark … get flippers and masks ready,” he commanded.
The speedboat stopped and we all slipped into the ocean. The monstrous polka-dot fish was easy to spot as he approached with a wide open mouth.
The whale shark is the world’s largest living fish. Despite his threatening size, this guy eats plankton, not humans. A fellow diver plunged below the surface to get a better look at the speckled gentle giant. The beast looked pre-historic, a monster compared to the tiny human treading water beside him.
I surfaced to catch my breath, clumsily removing my mask. The scene was just horizon and open water. Da na ... Da na ... the Jaws soundtrack crept in involuntarily. I knew it was silly — there weren’t Great Whites in these waters, but imagination is a powerful thing.
As I swam quickly toward the boat, I looked to find little clumps of transparent-bluish goo wrapped around my left arm. I’d been stung by blue-bottle jellyfish — it’s unpleasant, not deadly. In the boat, some white vinegar neutralized the sting within minutes.
The movie soundtrack in my head had stopped playing and I was ready for more snorkel time.
Julia Dimon is editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for independent travellers. She can be reached at www.thetraveljunkie.ca.
For more information on Bamboozi Backpackers