The Blue Quest in Mozambique

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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