Is Mozambican Diving Southern Africa’s Best Kept Secret?
Just over two decades ago, Mozambique was a country plagued by civil war, and for many years foreign embassies advised against travel within her borders. Nowadays, the strife and misery of conflict have lifted from Mozambique, and yet she still does not attract the same influx of tourists as her neighboring countries, South Africa and Tanzania. Her deserted beaches and rural coastal towns give those that do visit the sense of having stumbled upon a magnificent secret – a paradise place not yet tainted by the unsightly trappings of a fully-fledged tourist infrastructure. Predictably for a country with a coastline that extends for more 1,250 miles and whose shores are washed by the warm waters of the Agulhas current, possibilities for scuba diving in Mozambique are endless. In the south, the dive town of Ponta do Ouro is the first port of call for travelers coming from South Africa, whilst the north of the country is home to the stunningly remote Quirimbas Archipelago. In between, the coast is littered with such an array of unique dive sites that the greatest hardship of a visit to Mozambique will be trying to decide between them.
Perhaps the most famous draw of diving Mozambique is the marine megafauna found off Inhambane province. Towns like Zavora to the south of the region provide an excellent opportunity for spotting mantas in their multitudes, whilst Praiha do Tofo is known worldwide for the reliability of its whale shark sightings. There, visitors are able to swim alongside the largest fish in the ocean in absolute harmony, in conditions considerably less overcrowded and more organic than are found at many of the world’s more popular whale shark encounter destinations. Tofo’s dive sites are also home to several manta ray cleaning stations and like everywhere else in Mozambique, offer an astounding level of biodiversity that translates into reefs positively teeming with life. Mozambique’s impressively healthy marine ecosystem is thanks in large part to the creation of several protected areas along the country’s coastline- including the Primeiras And Segundas Marine Protected Area that extends between Pemba and the Tanzanian border, and the Maputo Protection Area to the south.
Whale sharks aside, there are plenty of other highlights to Mozambican diving. The Quirimbas and the Bazaruto Archipelagoes are both good places to see the dugong, a rare relative of the manatee. Together, the two species are the only vegetarian marine mammals in the world, and to encounter them in their natural environment is a real privilege that very few divers will ever get to experience. Mozambique’s waters are home to 2,000 fish species representing over 80% of those found in the Indo-Pacific region. They are also home to five species of turtle, and in a place where the topography ranges from shallow coral gardens to soaring deep-water pinnacles, there’s no limit to what can be spotted underwater. From the tiniest macro creatures, to resident bull sharks and passing sailfish, Mozambique is a country with the capacity to equally surprise and amaze at every turn. The show continues on the surface, too, where pods of dolphins are commonly seen on the way to and from a dive site. Between June and October, divers are almost guaranteed sightings of the humpback whales that pass close to shore on their migration from the cold waters of the Antarctic.
Thanks to the warm currents that flow southwards from the Equator, water temperatures in Mozambique are a pleasant 72-82°F, while the visibility can fluctuate greatly from 33- 130 feet. Often, reduced visibility occurs as a result of increased plankton levels in the water, in which case the abundant marine life that follows the plankton is well worth the murkiness of the water. Despite Mozambique’s laidback atmosphere and rustic vibe, it is possible for divers to find all the amenities they need, from casual backpacker dive centers to luxury scuba resorts. A wide range of Mozambique dive packages are available to help you make the absolute most of your time in a country so beautiful it cannot possibly remain a secret for much longer.