From the border at Kosi Bay to the tip of the Santa Marla Peninsula, about 100km to the north, Ponta do Ouro is the first of six such points that stretch all the way up the coast of southern Mozambique. If you roll down your windows you will let in the unmistakable smell of Mozambique flood into the car; dust, salt and sunshine ………………
Ponta do Ouro
Ponta do Ouro, mostly abandoned during Mozambique’s civil war is now being renovated. There are new buildings too, and many signboards advertising South African-funded housing developments.
The Motel do Mar on the beachfront is a Ponta landmark but apart from a fresh coat of paint, the old motel hasn’t changed much:
Want to know why southern Mozambique is so popular? Look no further than the beaches
The double-story cabanas are comfortable, clean and very close to the beach. The beach is protected from the brunt of the Indian Ocean by a horseshoe-shaped headland, where the water is warm and the silvery bay shines romantically in the evening light.
One can lie in bed and listen to the sea crashing outside. Fishing and scuba-diving is the greatest attraction which brings multitudes of visitors to Ponta. The shallow reefs close to shore are perfect for diving, but game fish lurk in the depths further out where the ocean floor drops off steeply.
At a reef called Steps, colourful creatures such as a rare frogfish and tiny paperfish can be seen. Huge whale sharks can also be spotted behind the breakers and the local 300-strong pod of dolphins, which are keen to interact with humans, have a home radius which extends about 40km along the coast. Ponta’s local sea dog, Spot, is always on the lookout for dolphins. If you dive down deeper and escape the choppy surface conditions, you can be surrounded by a galaxy of dolphin clicks and squeaks. But with just a flick of their tails, they can vanish again.
Although there are freshwater lakes all along the coast, swimming isn’t a good idea as there are signs alerting you to the presence of crocodiles.
There are all sorts of curios and carvings on offer at the local craft market in Ponta do Ouro.
A 7km section of road to Ponta Malongane is quite rough with deep, sandy stretches and steep inclines. About halfway to Malongane, to the left of the road, is the Sand Pit, a big exposed dune scoured with tyre tracks. This is where quad bikers and 4×4 nuts do damage to themselves and the environment in season. The Sand Pit is a place to avoid unless you’re an adrenalin junkie. Ponta Malongane has just one resort, Parque de Malongane and has neat, airy chalets, rondavels, a large, shady campsite and a well-equipped dive centre. The beach is not as protected as the one a Ponta do Ouro, but is less crowded.
The best view can be found at the Nascer do Sol Bar (meaning “sunrise bar”), above the dive centre. One dive at a reef called Anchor or at another at Drop Zone, where a big loggerhead turtle can be seen. After diving one can head for Ponta Mamoli, another 4km farther up the coast.
Hand drawn anti-quad and scrambler signs are to be seen because quad bikes aren’t welcome at the resorts. You can however go on a horse ride, a scuba-dive or a go on a turtle-spotting trip in season. You might be lucky enough to see a female leatherback laying her eggs under the cover of darkness.
If you’ve had enough of camping, Mamoli is the perfect place to spoil yourself for a night or two. The two-person timber chalets have en-suite bathrooms and soft beds with billowing mosquito nets. What a life!
Due to the condition of the roads, very few people venture beyond Ponta Mamoli. There is an 11km section of donga-riddled tar between Mamoli and the little settlement of Zitundu. After which you turn right onto a rutted sand track. This track eventually leads to Catembe, across the bay from Maputo. After 30km drive you will arrive at the gate of the Reserva Especial de Maputo, or Maputo Elephant Reserve. It takes at least three hours to drive through the Maputo Elephant Reserve. You need to drive through this reserve to get to the Santa Maria Peninsula and Ponta Torres, 68km away. There are thousands of butterflies; most likely of the Neptis family, at Ponta Torres. During the 1970’s, a lot of game was relocated there from the Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, but Mozambique’s ensuing civil war obliterated everything except a very small population of elephants A 2006 aerial survey counted 330 elephants, but they are not easy to spot as they view humans as the enemy and in 2007 elephants caused substantial damage to vehicles within the reserve. An entry fee of R70 per person and an additional R70 per the vehicle allows you into the reserve and all you have to do is follow the only road through the reserve. There is a possibility of spotting an elephant making its stately way through the reeds before he is swallowed up by the landscape as if he was never there.
Ponta Torres is the end of the road and if you really want to go there you have to endure endless, bone-jarring kilometres of unimaginably horrible roads. The kingfish there are rumoured to he some of the liveliest in Mozambique. The Ponta Torres Camp, has a surprisingly comfortable assortment of self-catering, air-conditioned chalets and en-suite safari tents. It’s only a five-minute walk from the infamous Hell’s Gate – the narrow, angry stretch of volatile water between Inhaca Island and the Santa Maria Peninsula.
On one side is the deceptively placid Bay of Maputo and on the other the roaring Indian Ocean.
There’s nowhere else to go now except back the way you came.
Visit Mozambique Africa for more information.