The Blue Quest in Mozambique

August 31, 2017

Mistaken for diamond smugglers, touring the south east coast of one of earths largest continents,

and saving the world a step at  time is all in a days work for The Blue Quest.

 

 


After coming back from this amazing country, here is an overview of our trip!
Mozambique is located on the South-east coast of Africa, in front of Madagascar and the
Comorres, facing the Indian ocean.


We decided to go there to meet with two projects, one located in the south and one in the
north. Knowing that Mozambique has a 2500km coastline, we were ready to spend a lot of
time on the road to try and see as much as possible.


The trip was just over one month and the goal was to spend at least a few days with each
project, to have enough time to meet the people involved, learn about what they were doing
and take as many images as possible. We were also trying to travel as cheaply as possible
between locations and wanted to take some stops along the way to explore the country.
Let’s start from the beginning.

 As with most of the international flights, we arrived in Maputo. We didn’t plan to spend that
much time here, except to buy the last things needed for our trip and spend an afternoon
walking around. As soon as we dropped our bags at the guest house we found a way to reach
Tofo the next day, leaving early in the morning from the bus station.


Tofo, in the Inhambane province, is more or less 500km and 6-7 hours chapas (local bus)
from Maputo. It was also our first stop to meet the Marine Megafauna Foundation, the first
project we wanted to visit.


Specific articles about Marine Megafauna work and what we did in Tofo will be out soon!
 

But, if you can’t wait, here is an overview.

Tofo is a must see in Mozambique for the amazing mood the place has to offer, as well as for
the high possibility of seeing whale sharks. The whale sharks were the purpose of our visit.
We stayed with Marine Megafauna Foundation, an NGO located in various biodiverse
hotspots in the world, with an aim to protect giant species (Manta rays and whale sharks) from
extinction.


Their three pillar approach via research, conservation and education is what we wanted to
discover and highlight.

We spent four days with the Marine Megafauna Foundation, learning about their work,
speaking with the people involved, holding interviews, visiting the different activities and
workshops and of course getting a closer look of the whale sharks! A dream come true…
Thanks to their amazing team and the local dive centre (Peri Peri divers) we managed to see
one!

 

If you are near Tofo, the surfing is a must! We certainly took advantage of it!

 

After a few days, with a lot of video and photographs in the bag, we were on the road again
with the hope of reaching the second project, but for that we needed to be in Pemba, more
than 2000km north, in less than ten days…


We left Tofo with an unforgettable boat trip to cross from Inhambane to Maxixe. The idea
was to reach Vilankulos where we would settle for a day or two to plan the rest of the trip and
find a solution to the recurring question: how to arrive in Pemba on time, without spending
too much money? While still trying to have enough time to discover things on the way.


The answer came after some research and discussion with people we met in Vilankulos: Take
a bus to Beira, take a flight from Beira to Nampula, find a way to go from Nampula to Ilha de
Mozambique (couldn’t miss that according to everyone), find a way to reach Pemba from Ilha
de Mozambique. Not a complete answer and the buses schedules were not rocket science but
it was enough.


We left Vilankulos without having the time to see the amazing Bazaruto and this is definitely
something we have to go back for. Even if the city itself is worth a stop.


Reaching Beira involved a lot of waiting, no assurance at all that the daily bus from Maputo
to Beira had not left already and more or less 8 hours in a 43° bus. In the end the bus arrived,
by which point nobody was expecting it anymore and most people, including us, had started
to ask every truck passing by.


Roads in Mozambique are generally in good condition but distances still take a while to be
covered and you have to expect to be stopped at every state border to get off the bus, wash
your hands, wait for the driver and control to speak and go back on. And if we were very
unlucky, the passengers would also be individually searched get a personal control.


Beira is the second largest city of the country and a powerful port as it provides access by sea
for a lot of surrounding countries without coast. We spent one night and the following day
there before taking our flight to Nampula. Flying with a local company in Africa was a rather
intense experience! It saved us 38 hours of bus travel, a time expense we could not afford.
We arrived in Nampula at night and left early morning for the famous Ilha de Mozambique. A
lot of people had told us that it was a very worthwhile stop and it was basically the only one
we could do if we were going to arrive on time in Pemba.


Even regarding the bad weather condition and the strange mood when we arrived, Nampula
was truly breath taking. You cannot miss it if you go to Mozambique.
Ilha de Mozambique was a former capital city of the country during the Portuguese
occupation. The colonial architecture alone makes this place worth a visit. We spent three
amazing days on Ilha de Mozambique trying to see as much as possible of this small and
crowded island, with a feeling of being in another time frame.


An article about our stay here will be out shortly, since I have far too much to say about the
place and I fear that we might have already lost some of our readers!

 

The last but not least tricky part of the trip was to reach Pemba, to arrive at our second
meeting. The distance is just 500km but the only way was via chapas. Chapas are local buses
in Mozambique, most of the time they are a « custom » van or a pick-up which stops every
time someone wants to get in or out. And the maximum number of passengers is of course
variable since the driver will pick up everyone who wants a ride . But it’s also the cheapest
way to travel and was ok for us.


Honestly one of the most difficult travel conditions we saw but an amazing experience! We
reached Pemba after 11 hours in the chapas, sitting on a seat or on other passengers and
passing by many police and military controls more or less intense. According to them, the
only reason for us to take this transport was that we were diamond smugglers…


Pemba is a remarkable city, located along one of the biggest bays in the world and it is also
the entrance gate of the Quirimbas National park, a gem the country has to offer in terms of
fauna, as much inland as at sea.


We were there to make contact with the Our Sea Our Life project and AMA, one of the NGOs
involved.


The Our Sea Our Life project, which will be explained in a more specific article, is involves
six fishermen villages of the Cabo Delgado Province, located between Mocimboa da Praia
and the Tanzanian border, in very remote places. The goal of the project is to encourage
sustainable fishing practices by creating locally marine managed marine reserves, in
partnership with the local fishermen.


We really wanted to visit this project and interview the people taking part of it as it seemed
like a really interesting solution, which could be repeated on a larger scale. For example,
MMF in Tofo were creating a locally managed marine reserve as a pilot project.
After a day spent seeing the work of AMA and visiting fishermen villages in the area, they
took us to Mocimboa da Praia where we prepared our four day trip to the villages.


We were fortunate enough to be able to stay in the fishermen villages, where we could see
first-hand how the project is providing a real solution in this area. We were able to talk to the
locals involved from the chief, to the project manager, to the fishermen, which helped us to
understand what is at stake, between tradition and the need for fish supplies.


This will be explained in another more specific article (another one!) but we really want to
thank AMA and the Zoological Society of London for allowing us to take part in this amazing
experience and giving us the opportunity to take plenty of good images.


After a few days living in the different villages, we started the long journey back from
Mocimboa to Marseilles!


Since our return to France we have been preparing content from our trip to help highlight the
projects we saw, the people we met and this unknown country!


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