The Casual Blog

Tag: Mozambique

Diving in Mozambique

Heading to Africa week before last, my dream was to dive with some really big creatures, including manta rays, whale sharks, and humpback whales. My research indicated that these and other species should all be present in October (spring) in southeastern Mozambique. The diving didn’t turn out as well as hoped, but I was not sorry we tried. We saw some amazing sights, and learned some things.

Our first dive destination was Zavorra, in Inhambane province. We stayed at Zavorra Lodge, a somewhat rustic hotel at the end of a long sandy road. It was very windy when we arrived, and we were warned that the wind was making the waters rough and murky. It was less windy when we went out early the next morning, but visibility was quite poor. And it was chilly (65 Farenheit). We saw medium and small fish, including a large group of barracudas, but no giants.

This was basically the story for the following two days – cold and dark. I had some suspicion that unregulated fishing had reduced the fish populations, based on some of the locals’ comments about government corruption and Chinese factory ships, but who knows? There could have been a lot of creatures that we didn’t see, since we didn’t often see more than 10 feet.

One afternoon we took a short walk to a nearby village, where there was a shaman who for cash purported to tell fortunes. We were surprised that most of our group of mostly Dutch tourists paid up and sat still for quite a bit of this nonsense. But it was interesting to see the local people, the grass roofed dwellings, goats, and chickens.

Our last afternoon we went horse riding on the beach. It was many years since I’d been on a horse, and my mount, a handsome white horse named Obsession, may have noticed this. We were behind Sally, and Obsession kept wanting to pass her, and I kept having to apply the brakes.

But it was lovely riding on the beach. For a bit. Then, when we were moving just inside the backwash of the waves, Obsession unexpectedly flopped onto his side. Happily, I got my bottom leg out from under him in time and didn’t get crushed, though I did get wet. Obsession went straight out into the breakers for a dip. Our guide finally got him to come out, and we found he’d lost one stirrup in the water. The guide gave me one of his, and we finished the ride.

Next we went to Tofo. This place has the widest white sand beach I’ve ever seen, and a lively little town. Here we learned how to launch a pontoon boat into the waves (push when they say push, and then hoist yourself up and in). The ride out on the little boat (30-45 minutes) was generally bumpy. Once at the dive site, we got into the water by rolling backwards on the count of three. At the end of the dive, we took off your heavy equipment and hand it up, then hoisted ourselves up into the boat.

That's Caso do Mar in the background, and Sally with a young woman who rushed over to be photographed

That’s Caso do Mar in the background, and Sally with a young woman who rushed over to be photographed

Our first day out, the dive was down to about 100 feet. The current was quite strong, and we had to fight it to stay near the reef. Here, too, it was dark and chilly, with visibility less than 10 feet. We enjoyed seeing some pretty small tropicals. But this is not diving for the timid or out of shape.

We liked our hotel, the Caso do Mar, and we liked the dive outfit, Peri Peri. Our main divemaster, Frieda, was unfailingly cheerful, and consistently safety minded. We had some good talks with her about great dives past, and ones we hoped to make. We liked walking on the beach as the young men played soccer and the young families played with their babies.

We saw a good number of humpback whales during our boat rides, and heard them singing when we were under water. We saw one white tipped shark, but no others, and a honey-combed moray eel. We never did see a manta.

But I finally realized my dream of swimming with a whale shark. Our skipper spotted the enormous animal near the surface, and we all slipped off the pontoon boat with snorkel gear. I found myself over the creature, just off its right side and perhaps 6 feet above. Even with murky water, I could see it clearly from tip to tail. My fellow snorkelers were not within view. The whale shark and I swam together for perhaps two minutes, and then it began to pull away. Soon all I could see was the tail, and then just dark water.

I spent a fair bit of money and energy getting ready to photograph the sea creatures of Mozambique, and it didn’t work out so well. There were various equipment problems (the strobes wouldn’t work, then the zoom wouldn’t work, etc.), but the biggest problem was the very limited visibility. So it goes; sometimes nature is uncooperative. I will surely be more appreciative the next time I’m in clearer waters.

Hitting the little white ball, the appalling debate, ocean concerns, and reading Hamilton

At Raulston Arboretum, September 18, 2015

At Raulston Arboretum, September 18, 2015

On Wednesday after work, I went over to Raleigh Country Club and practiced on the range for a bit. Lately I’ve been trying to get out to practice a couple of times a week, with a view to making prettier and longer parabolas. It looks so much easier than it is. The late afternoon was peaceful and mild.

Sally was waiting on the terrace looking out on hole number 10 when I finished, and we had dinner there. It was overcast, and looking west we couldn’t see the sun directly as it was setting. But suddenly the clouds lit up a bright orange-pink, and for a few minutes the colors were amazing.

After dinner, Sally had to go to her mom’s apartment to take care of Diane’s two greyhounds, and so I watched the Republican presidential debate alone. It was, of course, appalling, though also by moments fascinating. The eleven candidates were all, in their various ways, intelligent and well spoken, and also in varying degrees bizarre or utterly benighted. I watched a good chunk of the three-hour spectacle, and kept waiting for a serious treatment of the serious issue of climate change. From press accounts, it appears I missed a few brief comments on the subject, to the effect that either it’s a liberal conspiracy or there’s just nothing to be done about it, so there’s no point in thinking or talking about it. Appalling.

I read most of the World Wildlife Fund’s report this week on the state of the world’s oceans, and recommend it. The news, of course, is not good. About half the population of creatures that live in, on, and over the oceans have disappeared since 1970. Coral reefs, on which much ocean life depends, have likewise diminished, and may disappear by 2050. But the report presses the point that the situation is not hopeless. There are ways we can address the over fishing and climate change problems that largely account for the crisis.

Through diving dive on some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, I’ve developed a deep love for reef ecosystems, and will be seeing another one next week. Sally and I are leaving next Friday for a trip to see the reefs and animals of Mozambique. We’re hoping to see whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and many other remarkable creatures. We’ll also be doing a land based photo safari in Kruger Park in South Africa. This trip has been a big dream, and has taken a lot of planning, but it should be amazing. Anyhow, I expect to be offline for a couple of weeks, but hope to have some good stories and pictures to post after that.

For this long trip, I’ll need some good books to read, and I’d expected I’d be working my way through Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, a biography of the Founding Father who was our first Secretary of the Treasury. But I’ve been so fascinated by the book that I may finish it before the trip. The Times review is here.

Hamilton, it turns out, was a brilliant, energetic, and passionate person, who accomplished an amazing amount in his short life. Among other things, he helped win the Revolutionary War as Washington’s most trusted aide-de-camp, played a primary role in fashioning the Constitution, wrote most of the Federalist to win passage of the Constitution, established a financial system for the new republic, and served as President Washington’s primary advisor. And he was handsome and well-liked by the ladies, and also the gentlemen. Of course, he had his flaws of character, and his enemies, including the sainted Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The politics of the time were at least as ungentle as now. This is a remarkable and remarkably relevant book, which I highly recommend.