Thursday, 5 February 2015

Living the dream in Mozambique

COUNTRY: Mozambique
PROGRAM: GapBreak & UniBreak
PROJECT: Marine Conservation and Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Katy Holden

After three weeks, Tofo is beginning to feel like home. Why wouldn’t you want to be in a place where diving with manta rays is all in a day’s work?

The six of us have settled into the routine here easily. It’s hard not to when the locals are so willing to chat to us – we’re even picking up a bit of Portuguese here and there. The most important word to learn immediately was ‘frango’, so that we could order the world’s most amazing peri-peri chicken from the markets. A majority of the people local to Tofo speak basic English, which is the legacy of the strong tourism from South Africa. But the interactions that are born from engaging with the local language still can’t be beaten, even if it means having our pronunciation laughed at occasionally.

"Being underwater is like being in an entirely different world"

Diving every day definitely isn’t a hard routine to get into either. There’s nothing better than rolling out of bed and heading across the road to the dive centre to start our day. We begin by setting up our own tanks and gearing up with wetsuits. Everything gets loaded into the boat, which is then towed down the road to the beach while we walk. Because Tofo is so exposed to the strait of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Madagascar, the swell can become intense and there are constantly currents present. As a result of this, the beach itself is constantly changing shape; consequently, there is no suitable site for a pier. For us, this means that we get to launch the boat off the beach, into the surf. This is always a highlight of our day. We wait while the ute brings the boat as close to the sea as it can, and then it’s all hands on deck to turn the boat the right way around and push it out to where it’s deep enough to jump in. This is only the beginning of the adventure, with dolphins, seabirds and sea turtles accompanying us on the way to the dive site.

The dives themselves are a dream. Being underwater is like being in an entirely different world, and there’s definitely something magical about swimming through schools of tropical fish to see giant moray eels, potato bass, and sea turtles. But nothing beats the moment when you look up to see a manta ray gracefully gliding over your head. Being in the presence of such a large and elegant animal on its own turf is something that needs to be experienced before it can be explained.

Despite the dives being so amazing, they are also an important part of the marine conservation work that we came here to do. We take cameras with us to take ID photos of sea turtles and manta rays, and slates to make note of all the different kinds of fish we see. Back at the ‘office’ (a breezy room with hammocks overlooking the beach), we enter this data so that it can be used by a community of scientists, both local and international, to study the health of the reefs.

Stay tuned for an update on our underwater adventures in the coming weeks!

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