…And yet is so right.
Three weeks before you’re set to leave for Mozambique, a massive tropical storm hits exactly the place you’re going devastating local businesses and homes.
One week before you’re set to leave for Mozambique, the Mozambican airline decides that it is no longer flying to the destination for which you have a ticket. No alternatives are provided (and the refund takes the better part of three months and countless phone calls to process).
You reach out to the B&B you’ve only ever seen pictures of: HELP! They hook you up with a driver who will pick you up at a different airport 4 hours north of your destination, you hastily buy tickets to that airport, and cross your fingers that nothing else goes wrong.
You didn’t cross enough fingers.
Perhaps you didn’t read the fine print on the diving setup, or perhaps you were too smitten by a certain underwater photographer’s tales of the town (the reason you’ve ended up in Mozambique in the first place), but this is like no diving you’ve done before. The Zodiac is launched from the shore, and by launched, I mean you and every one else on the boat push it into the water, quickly jump in, and hope you’ve pushed it far enough that the engine can be started. It is….sportive.
Furthermore, the visibility is terrible because, oh wait, there was a massive tropical storm three weeks earlier that churned the sea into a sandy, particulate mess. For the first three days, the zodiac can’t even reliably launch because the seas are too choppy and it’s impossible to get beyond the breakers into the open sea. Half the people who do try end up sick over the side (ok, the good thing was that you discover that you, under no circumstances, seem to suffer from seasickness).
Due to the choppiness of the sea, or perhaps a malfunction in your gear, on the third dive of the trip, your underwater housing floods, destroying it and the camera inside and the memory card inside that.
So you’re three days into a trip with no camera, uncertain diving opportunities, and a hefty bill in your future if you ever want to replace your gear.
But…the place is fucking magical.
That B&B? It’s the nicest place you’ve ever stayed. You never want to leave. You want to take 37 showers a day in your private outdoor shower. You want to eat 6000 breakfasts that are lovingly prepared and always have fruit salad with passion fruit. Despite yourself, you find that you love everything the vegetarian restaurant attached to the dive site serves. You can’t quite describe the incredible, barren beauty of the coast. You toy with (and then abandon, due to the fact that the conditions are not optimal for the rank beginner) surfing in the afternoons. You love everyone. Everyone is wonderful.
The Swiss couple that owns the B&B: you want to be best friends forever with them. You want to play with their adorable towheaded child – and you don’t really like children. The assortment of international 20-somethings who are getting their divemaster certification at the dive shop? You want to buy them beers. Lots of beers. The guy in the market stall who sets you up with Mozambican SIM cards that work and work well? You hope he becomes a cellular mogul.
You see, but can’t take a photo of, a bowmouth guitarfish; and you swim with whale sharks; and mobula rays.
The weather is incredible: perfectly hot and sunny all day, cool enough for a wrap at night when you walk into town to eat freshly prepared peri peri prawns that cost $5.
You spend half the time trying to rationalize a return trip, knowing that it is, at least in the short term, unlikely. You know you will be hard-pressed to ever find another hotel whose value proposition is so great, whose setting is so romantic that even though you’re celebrating your 20th “togetherversary,” you feel like kids again.
You return home. You follow the hotel and the dive shop on instagram. You love watching both thrive and expand. You want everyone to go there and you want no one to go there because you want it to be just as you remember it should you ever go back. You start to notice that the divers you follow on instagram have been there too and loved it too. You realize that you inadvertently had one of those singular travel experiences always aspired to and rarely realized. You have only happy memories.
From the US, you’ll find it easiest to connect through Johannesburg. If our experience is anything approaching common, you’ll want to fly to Vilankulos using a South African airline. The cab cost us (ok, I don’t remember – more than $50, less than $100 each way for a four hour drive).
Stay at Baia Sonambula. Seriously. I’m not the kind of person who is impressed by lodging – I am impressed by this lodging. If you can swing the extra cost, Seaview Bungalow 4 is the honeymoon suite every place should aspire to. Don’t skip breakfast. Seriously.
Dive with Liquid Dive Adventures and eat your lunch between morning and afternoon dives at the attached restaurant, Happi. They’re in new, better digs since we were there – I deeply want to go check it out. Make sure to remind yourself that you girl crush on Nadia, the divemaster, is completely understandable. Pet all the doggos.
And please come back and tell me all about it.