Diving in Mozambique

Inhambane is one of the oldest towns in Mozambique dating back to the 10th century when Arab traders were active in this area. It was in 1534 that the Portuguese established a permanent trading post at Inhambane. The atmosphere and architecture in the town reflects this exciting and diverse history and it is no wonder that so many people want to go scuba diving in Mozambique.

500km north of Maputo, Inhambane, can be reached by tar road although a 4x4 may be necessary to get to some of the resorts in the area. Inhambane is served by an airport and a port, and has petrol stations, banks, public phones, shops, markets, a bus terminus and a museum. Side-walk cafes are dotted along the narrow streets.

The town itself is set on the bay of Inhambane where you can spend leisurely time watching dhows cruise across the bay – you can even hire a dhow to sail you around the bay or up to the LingaLinga Nature Reserve. This fascinating area used to be a whaling station but is now the home to some of the last remaining dugong in Southern Mozambique.

Apart from the beautiful historical town of Inhambane the main attraction to this area are the idyllic beaches of Jangamo, Tofo, Tofinho and Barra. It is a great area for snorkeling, fishing and surfing. There are many beautiful reefs in the area perfect for scuba diving in Mozambique, including the aptly named Manta reef, and Praia de Rocha where the rock and coral formed a spectacular landscape of pinnacles, gullies, and overhangs. There is also the opportunity for dolphin and whale watching safari’s.

The Barra / Tofo / Guinjata area offers some of the best sites for diving in Mozambique. It is over 3 000 km of coastline and Manta reef is only one dive site off Barra / Tofo / Guinjata. There are literally hundreds of "spots" like Manta Reef within 25 km's of Barra / Tofo / Guinjata.

Why I refer to the area as "Barra / Tofo / Guinjata" is because these are all names of areas along the beach within 25 km's of each other, each with its own lodges and all three areas dive exactly the same dive sites, one of which is Manta Reef.

I think the set-up at Barra Beach Club and diving with Barra Reef Divers is far better for international divers than the set up at either Tofo Beach or at Guinjata Bay. Barra Reef Divers, the dive operation associated with Barra Beach Club, is less than a kilometre from Barra Beach Club, a 2-minute drive or a 10-minute walk. They will “fetch and carry” at no additional charge. Barra Beach Club offers international divers accommodation in en-suite, air-conditioned "casita's" on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis which is linked to a dive package of your choice in conjunction with Barra Reef Divers. Whereas in Tofo, which is a very small town, the accommodation varies from “basic” to "more-basic". Most places are standalone lodges, which offer self-catering type accommodation, and each accommodation establishment has a "partnership agreement" with a local dive operator. Not ideal for overseas divers who want an all-inclusive package of accommodation, and meals and dives.

Now that I've advised you of the type of accommodation available at Barra, Tofo or Guinjata, let’s address the diving.

The diving is very relaxed and laid-back and we cater for the most novice of divers. The first dive is always done as early in the morning at possible, and is normally on one of the far reefs, like Manta Reef, which is about 25 km's out to sea from the launch point. All dives are done from "Rubber-Ducks" (Zodiacs or RIB's). You kit up on the beach, your tank with BCD and Reg is stowed by the staff in the centre of the Duck and you, kitted up in your wetsuit with your mask, fins and weights being stored in the centre console, sit opposite your tank. When you get to the dive site the skipper and Dive Master help you don your weight belt and helps you into your BCD, they then hand you your mask and fins. Once all the divers are kitted up you do a backward roll into the water and descend to the reef. Once the DM is satisfied that all the divers are safely down and have their buoyancy right you commence with the dive, with the DM leading and holding onto the surface marker buoy. When a diver gets to 50 bar that diver ascends up the buoy-line to the surface where the skipper on the boat is waiting to help you back into the boat. Easy and effortless.

Once all the divers are safely back in the boat you return to the lodge for breakfast and surface interval time, before going back out for the second dive of the day which is usually on one of the closer "house" reefs which could be anything between 5 and 10 km's out to sea from the launch site.

The main attraction along the Moz coast are the Manta's and the Whale Sharks and each dive operators knows full well that people often come diving in Mozambique mainly to see these two marine creatures and do all they can to ensure that you get to encounter these animals. But being Nature, you have to take what Nature dishes out. There are no guarantees. The dive operators know where the Manta Cleaning Stations are and concentrate the first dive of the day at these Cleaning Stations. Whale Sharks are nomadic and cruise just behind the back-line in search for food which is krill and plankton with the result that you don’t have a specific area where they are found but they are normally found on the boat ride out to the reef and on the ride back to shore. The skipper and DM are always on the lookout for the tell-tail sign of a Whale Sharks dorsal and caudal fin which is the only way you are going to recognize them from the surface. When they spot the fin they then drop the divers, usually on snorkel, in the path of the on-coming Whale Shark and you then wait for the Shark to swim up to you. Depending on the actual animal they might hand around and "play" with you or they might carry on with their journey, ignoring you completely. In which case you jump back into the boat, get in front of the animal again and wait till it comes up to you, and so it could go on indefinitely with you leapfrogging in front of the Shark till either you or the Sharks tires. Normally the divers tire first!

All the dive operators along the Moz coast have signed a code of conduct which they adopt when encountering either Whale Sharks and Manta's so please don’t expect to get within touching distance of either or expect to "touch" one.

The stories that you have heard regarding currents around Moz are applicable only to divers who stay on any of the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago or the Quirimbas and dive the dive sights off these islands. Because these islands are close to the mainland and because the continental shelf is very shallow around these islands, and because the difference between high and low tide is 3 meters, there are extreme currents during at the change from high to low tide and again from low to high tide, with a result that you must plan your dive from 1 hour before high tide to 1 hour after high tide and 1 hour before low tide to 1 hour after low tide. Diving in Mozambique at any time in-between these "windows" is nigh on impossible because of the currents. We once did a dive and the current was ripping at between 4 and 6 knots making it impossible to stop and see anything. It was like a roller coaster ride on the sea-bed! But we would never subject our clients to that type of diving.

The reefs where we dive off Barra Beach Club are where the continental shelf is deeper, where we are not that close to the mainland and where the effect of the change in tides is not that extreme, so currents and the time we plan to do our dives is not dependent on high or low tides.

The only way to get to Barra, Tofo and Guinjata is to fly from Johannesburg to Inhambane where Barra Beach Club will meet you at Inhambane Airport and transfer you directly to Barra Beach Club. There are return flights only on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. 

To drive from Johannesburg to Inhambane would take about 14 hours on a good tar road.