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MAGICAL MALONGANE

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A school of fish in the waters of Ponta Malongane

Just a five-hour drive north from Durban (if you leave at 5am you’ll be unpacked and on the beach with a 2M beer in your hand by 11am), we arrived at the Kosi Bay / Ponta Do Ouro border post where the tar road disappears into a series of inexplicable sand tracks. With stamped passports in hand, the windows down and radiating mosquito spray, we changed into 4X4, turned up the volume on Bob Dylan’s song and chose the track that headed vaguely north east towards the small bay of Ponta Malongane.

A school of fish in the waters of Ponta Malongane

Soon after Dylan penned his hit song, Mozambique plunged into a dreadful 16-year civil war. The Mozambique he sang of was a far cry from that tumultuous time. Now, 26 years on, peace has descended upon the country.

The next bay north from Big brother, Ponta Do Ouro with its busy resorts, shops and restaurants, Ponta Malongane is a quieter enclave featuring miles of beach, indigenous coastal bush, a dive camp, a campsite and a smattering of houses. The sea water is warm, just how I like it, and we spent ages swimming and body boarding. The safe waters within the reef are home to a variety of small fish and is where we taught our kids to snorkel for the first time. With their new masks and snorkel, the underwater world was revealed to them and they were hooked from the start.

As a registered launch site, Ponta Malongane is a jumping off point for people to explore Mozambique’s teeming waters, whether for a spot of game fishing or to discover this part of the ocean’s underwater riches.

While I hadn’t dived in a few years, a quick refresher from the dive camp’s instructor, Lerato, sent me on my way to what was to be a morning of pure bliss. The sea was high so thankfully it was not an early launch. Dusting off my old wet suit and weight belt, we kitted up and walked onto the beach. A heady mixture of nerves descended on me but I couldn’t wait to get into the water. Helping to push the boat out, we hauled ourselves in. With life jackets on and feet in the straps, we lurched through the surf and onto a sun-kissed ocean. Life jackets back in the hatch we set off north for one of the many coral reefs which can be found along this stretch. I couldn’t help but lean down and let the warm silky water flow through my fingers. At the drop off point we braced ourselves and plopped into the indigo sea. A little buoyant due to my slight hyperventilating at the surface, my aunt pulled me down by my fin. Once at the bottom the silent blue engulfed me and I settled into my dive.

We swam slowly over the reef quietly surveying the underwater village scene. Clown fish, star fish, cleaner wrasse, surgeons, angel fish, moray eels, lion fish, paper fish, the list goes on and on. The coral was in pristine condition and the visibility was about 25m, perfect for a great dive. I had a quick chuckle as a territorial trigger fish charged the dive master’s fin before I noticed my air running low.  There was enough time to witness a turtle edge past us on its foray across the sea bed before we started our ascent slowly to the surface and were hauled into the boat by the skipper. Some candy was distributed amongst the divers and we made our way back to shore. What a way to get back in the water. 

Starfish like this are common on Malongane’s reefs

The next day saw us launching through the surf once more, except this time on a ski boat. Now these hallowed waters typically yield plenty of fish but I was unfortunately out of favour with the fishing gods that morning. After getting broken up five or six times by sharks, we decided to venture closer to the shore for a spot of off-the-boat snorkelling. But that was after we followed a spritely pod of dolphins for a bit and then were treated to an amazing display as a marlin lifted itself right out of the water and came crashing down in front of the boat.

A few bays north of Malongane, Ponta Techobanine is remote and completely unspoilt. The bay is much larger making it a great spot for some underwater action without the scuba gear. Our trusty skipper, my uncle, moored the boat within the reef at a depth of about six metres. We donned our masks, snorkels and fins and dived overboard. Even at this shallow depth, the reef is alive with coral and fish and the water is warm. Diving down, we perused the rocks for as long as our breath would allow before popping up to make sure we could still see the boat. With the wind picking up it was soon time to jump back in the boat and head back to shore. Tightly gripping the boat rails as the boat punched the waves, it’s always a victorious feeling heading back even if there are no fish in the hatch.

Children snorkeling within the reef

The afternoons are time for downtime and perhaps even a spot of shopping. Back from the beach, Ponta Malongane has a colourful array of rustic shops, bars and restaurants set up by the locals. You can pick up carved artefacts, sarongs, t-shirts, toys, shoes and even handbags. Bargaining is expected but don’t beat the price down too much as these shops are the only source of income for many families. Then, with your new purchases in hand, find one of the bars overlooking the lake, grab yourself a 2M, tuck into some prawn rissoles as you watch the African sun sink low in the sky and you’ll undoubtedly feel a little bit of that magic Bob was singing about.

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