So i have been told we are going to a concert on sunday. Yeah, right, a concert. What would that be , i wonder ? Sure, at my age you have to slowly do the odd cultural thing….Where are we going , i ask Beulah ? Its called ROCK BOTTOM
Oh yeah, i like this kind of culture !!!! And my friend Davie makes his guitar tell us a story like no-one else can. This man has the most amazing stage personality. I was in tears most of the time, either having fun or just loving the music…..
ROCK AND ROLL
Am i glad i am part of the generation with the best music ever……………
Yesterday the weather was perfect, today we are blown out the water. Base closed. It is too weird for words. Nothing is normal. The Raggies are here too eraly, the tigers didn’t want to come properly. Zams disappeared completely this month and only started coming back yesterday. Our current went from extreme 3-4 knots to a moderate 1.5kn. Yesterday’s visibility was a happy 20m. On our two standard dives we went to the caves at the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks where we visited our three early Raggies. Diving the caves is always my favourite. Just love this dive !!
Our two Baited Dives produced 2 Zams and 3 Black Tips each. So we did have happy divers although we were hoping for more…..
Maybe with the return of the Zams things are going to get better next week…?
Day off today. Diving conditions are tough and not really worth it. Visibility is below 10m, in places more like 5m Current is hectic and the only sharks we see are the early arrived three Raggies on the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. But to get to see them – which is no doubt exciting – divers need to know what they are doing. It is a real challenge and as such definitely not for the inexperienced.
Weird conditions for this time of the year. Maybe a good old stir of the old soup out there could work wonders ???? Waiting for a serious South Wester.
3.4. 2014 Day 1
We are in Mozambique.
The trip was as always endless and without any problems. We left home on thursday at 5:30, drove past Durban , all the way up the North East coast of South Africa and turned into Swaziland shortly before Pongola. It was a steaming hot day. All the locals were moaning and sweating in more than 35C.
All the way through Swaziland, past a ‘minefield’ of potholes to the Mozambiquean border.
There i got my visa chop chop. Saved myself a whole lot of inconvenience looking for the embassy in Durban. Four cans of Coke got us through the border without a car check….
Everyone smiles – everyone wins…
Long descent down the hill towards Maputo where the chaos rules. Oh man, what chaos !!! It took over two hours to get past this city. Dust, exhaust smoke, heat, sweat, cars and people. No end. We had to be fully concentrated not to loose our place in the traffic. Once i did not see the red traffic light and found myself in the middle of a huge crossing. Cars came from all sides and i just hopped from lane to lane until i was across. No-one got too excited, life just carried on. This is Mozambique.
The driver in the car next to us called across : ‘ ever seen so much chaos in one place ?’
‘We love your country’, i called back and we all had a good laugh.
When we reached the outskirts of Maputo it finally got dark. This is stress because the road gets narrow, dotted with huge potholes the size of bathtubs. Oncoming lights from all directions and vehicles in front of us often without lights. Wow, this makes a man thirsty…
At 19h00 we finally arrived at Paul and Liz’s Blue Anchor Inn. We have known these two since the 90’s when they still owned Casa Lisa. We always stopped for overnight there when we still had the dive centre at Barra Lodge. Paul has the coldest beer in the country and Liz organises a decent meal for a hungry traveller. The two Rottweilers make sure that nothing falls off the table…..
4.4. 2014 Day 2
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast at the guest farm Blue Anchor Inn we are on our way to Barra Lodge. We hear a lot of negative stories about Mozambique :
The cops on the side of the road are out to rip off holiday makers
You need a bag of money for bribes and corruption is rife
The old rivals of the civil war are at each other’s throats again
The lacking infrastructure is falling apart etc.
Luckily we did not come across any of these old rumours. We did not get stopped a single time. Of course we stick to the speed limits no matter how hard it may be sometimes. We see police everywhere. Nothing less than ten speed traps and traffic checks. when we drive past we give them a friendly wave and always get a big, white smile back.
Renamo and Frelimo have again buried the hatchet and are sitting around the table. Hopefully peace prevails in this beautiful country. And as for the lack of maintenance, we never saw as many road works and building works since we come to Mozambique. So all in all we can’t say there is anything wrong with the country which should concern us as holiday makers.
The trip is long and tiring. We arrive at Barra Lodge at 15h30. The first thing we do is wash down the dust. Then we move into our amazing beach cabana. It truly is a beach cabana, right in the sand !! Our view is pure magic. We have aircon, stunning bathroom and a fridge for all my German beers. Breathtaking !!!
We have a small snack in the beach bar and bump into our Freytag group who spent a week with us on Protea Banks before coming here. The four divers are telling us that the diving has been up and down lately with visibilities of less than 10m, strong currents and neither manta nor whale shark. Hmmm….
Doesn’t sound too good but then again we rather wait for next week wednesday when we start diving with our group. Hopefully by then it will all be perfect again….
Dinner in the restaurant as always top class. Prawns of course and Dois M.
5.4. 2014 Day 3
Slept like a log. Its been a long time that we did not have to get up at five a.m.
Weather today is foul. Lots of wind, rain and only the odd sun beam is visible. We don’t mind this as we love a lazy weekend.
The staff at Barra Lodge are happy to see us. Lots of the locals have known us for 16 years and longer. They make us feel at home here.
Jochen Freytag is the only diver today. His last day, and the golden rule is : don’t miss the last dive.
We see him on his way back to his accommodation. Visibility is much better now, 15m plus and they saw a manta from the surface. It sounds definitely a lot better that yesterday.
The dive centre is pretty quiet. Donovan, Pretty and Bambo are holding the fort.
The deal is on with Bambo our skipper : for every whale shark he finds us we will pay him ZAR 1000
it is important to me to show these people that live animals do have a much higher value to the man in the street than a dead one. Cash in the pocket counts and the sooner they see that they too can benefit directly from conservation efforts the better.
Hope it works. We will find out. Bambo for one is hugely excited and so is Donovan.
6.4. 2014 Day 4
We awake to a perfect summers day. After a leisurely breakfast with a huge omelette we go for a photo walk around the area. Thereafter i have to spend about two hours working on my Sardine Run bookings. Then it is off to the beach. Amazing !!
This beach is endless and the sea is crystal clear and warm.
After our swim we walk towards the former resort Barra Reef to see what is left of it. We only find rubble and ashes. What a horrible tragedy…What happened at Barra Reef is so, so sad. This ground is doomed now and will be cursed forever. Wow !! This story would make a great movie. One day i will tell it here.
To lighten up our spirits we go for lunch next door. Nice place. Then it is time to go for a nap in our magic beach cabana.
Now as i am writing this it is dark and the mosses are up and about in full force. Hope the old malaria carrier is elsewhere….!!!!
The Adventure begins
Just received an ams from our group. They have noticed that they don’t have all the necessary papers for the rented cars to cross the border tomorrow.
This could be tricky….
Never a dull moment on a Moz Trip !!!
7.4. 2014 Day 5
Another glorious day in paradise. After breakfast it turns to ashes as i get an sms from Karen saying that Kyle had damaged one of our diver’s rented car. It took a whole lot of phone calls and aggravation to come to some kind of conclusion.
And just as we thought we are sorted out we receive another sms. Two of our Mozambique guys are stuck in a traffic jam caused by some accident. This happened at 17h00 just outside Nelspruit. My concern is that they should be inside Mozambique long ago. Hopefully they will make it through the border and onto their overnight place in good time. Driving in Mozambique at night is not a joke….
I have to crack one of my German beers now to forget all my problems…..J
8.4. 2014 Day 6
Weather is not so perfect today. Mainly cloudy with bits and pieces of sun showing through. If only the damn wind would abate…it blows its 15 knots relentless. Guess we will just have to hold on a bit tighter on the boat out there tomorrow…
By 14h00 the first lot arrives and an hour later the last. All sheep are safely in the stable now. We have many stories to tell over many a Mozambican beer.
The drive up to Barra is not easy but we all agree that it gives us a good insight of land and people. After all it is interesting to experience all its chaos and all its day to day living.
Barra Lodge is paradise of course and makes up for all the hardship the drive took out of us. Here we just have beach and coco nuts….
Let’s hope we will have good dives from tomorrow.
9.4. 2014 Day 7
Today is our first diving day and the weather is the worst since we have arrived here.
Rain and wind stops and goes. We have a few weak stomachs in the group and looking at the horizon i am really worried about the state of the sea today. The plan is to dive Giant’s Castle first but if we can’t get around the light house into the open sea we will turn around and dive an insure reef off Barra. With the help of this giant front loader construction machine our boat gets pushed into the sea and gets taken straight away by side wash. Hectic.
Ladies on first and just as the men are on board we get a huge shore dumper crashing into the boat. Welcome to Mozambique.
We do actually manage to get around the point and find the sea not too bad at all…
First dive on Giant’s Castle greeted us with 20m vis and 27C water temp. Very nice.
Back to Barra as soon as possible because we are all starving now and don’t want to miss the breakfast buffet.
At 12h00 meeting for the second dive to Office. Can’t go wrong with this dive site although it means ploughing our way through heavy seas for a good 10km. When we got down we saw a lovely honeycomb moray, the size only known in Mozambique. The reef fish are thick here on Office, often so plentiful that one has difficulties seeing one’s buddy. On our way up we get 8 devil rays passing us below. Unfortunately too deep to film but the picture is in the head.
Not a bad start at all i’d say despite the less than ideal conditions.
10.4. 2014 Day 8
Another tough day today. The damn wind won’t stop or even calm. Therefore the waves are getting ever bigger. Today we fought swells up to 5m. It is an adventure all right, but we really expected something like a real holiday, not an expedition….
First dive at Reggies was amazing. 25m vis warm 27C water. We saw large groupers, a white tip reef shark, an octopus free swimming , literally millions of reef fish and in the end we had our with devil rays swimming around underneath our group. This time they stayed for at least 10mins. Magic.
Back for breakfast and second dive to Giant’s Castle. Once a wave threw me off the pontoon, that is how strong the water can be…
This afternoon we went for a drink to Dino’s Bar in Tofo.
Dinner and early retirement. See what tomorrow will bring.
11.4. 2014 Day 9
Much better day today. Alex went to make a sacrifice to old Neptune and low and behold things were better today. The wind dropped, the sea was half as big as yesterday and the sun came through the clouds for most of the day. We went out 16km to do our first dive on Amazon. Always a great dive site which resembles a treasure chest. We saw 2 white tips, a turtle, tons of honeycombs, a couple of sting rays….los of stuff but nothing to write home about. Vis dropped to 15m
Back for breakfast and out again at 12h00.
We decided to give Sherwood a bash because we didn’t feel like another far reef, Sherwood is around the light house about 6km from Barra. Lovely place with amazing reef features and an endless supply of reef fish. Really endless !!!
The vis was much better than this morning, around 20-25m. As we leave the bottom and climb to about 15m depth we suddenly see it !! The long awaited Manta Ray.
What a beaut this giant animal…..
12.4. 2014 Day 10
Past day in Barra. We are sad that our time has passed so quickly. Today we wanted to go all the way down to Manta Reef. 24km from Barra. It is tough but Manta Reef is definitely a world class dive site. As we rounded the Barra Point the sea became rough. Nothing like the days before , but surely uncomfortable on such a long trip. So we changed the plan to go as far as Tofinho to take a shot at looking for whalesharks. The closer we got to Tofinho the less some people wanted to carry on. We did a few zig zags and decided to go back and dive Sherwood again before people got too grumpy.
Second dive was again at the Office which everybody enjoyed.
Tomorrow at 5am sharp we will be on our way back to Hlane Game Reserve in Swaziland. It is going to be a bit of a drive, probably tougher than going to Manta Reef…..
13.4. 2014 Day 11
We meet at 5am sharp in front of Barra Lodge and start our long journey back to Swaziland. It is a gruelling 700km trip with so many villages on the way where we have to slow right down to 60km/h in order to avoid trouble with the police.
Each car in the convoy is equipped with a CB radio so we are constantly in contact. This is nt just for fun but comes in pretty handy at times when a following car needs to be warned of pot holes or other looming dangers. It works like a dream.
The trip goes smooth, it is sunday and a lot less chaos everywhere. We arrive at Hlane Royal Game Reserve just before 16h00. As always, Hlane is a special lace. Complete at peace and nature pure. We go of course straight to the water hole…..
and wash the dust of the trip down. !!!
By the way, there are 3 Rhinos and a whole lot of submerged Hippos at the waterhole for animals.
14.4. 2014 Day 12
Unfortunately me and Beulah have to go home a day early to get everything ready . Apparently there is a lot happening and poor Karen needs a helping hand.
Shortly after breakfast we leave Hlane Game Reserveand arrive home in Margate safely around 18h00. It sure is a long way.
We are told by our group that the second day at Hlane was absolutely fantastic. Everybody went on a game drive to see our african land animals. one young elephant tried to intimidate the occupants of there safari vehicle by mock charging the car. in the end the elephant had his trunk around the car’s bumper. Even the experienced driver held his breath for a moment….
15.4. 2014 Day 13
We basically have one day to get it all sorted. Today the base is closed due to too much wind. The weather is terrible, stormy, rain and damn cold as well.
This saves us a bit as we can get the job done. Both Diver Villa as well as Beach Apartment must be ready by the time our guests arrive from Swaziland.
16.4. 2014 Day 14
Weather is horrible, rain all day. we meet as usual at 7am in Shelly Beach. Today’s plan is for two normal standard Protea Banks dives. We rather give the Baited Dive another day so we can have the better light of the sun.
We start off with our first dive on the southern pinnacle of Protea Banks. It is an easy drift dive, ideal for getting used to diving Protea Banks. Visibility is just under 20m, water temp 24C. The current is around 2kn like fast walking speed. In the first few minutes we don’t see anything until suddenly two hammerheads cross our drift. Wow, hammerheads this time of the year !!! Unbelievable. A little later on we encounter 3 giant guitar sharks. Besides this there is an array of sting rays, potato bass, jacks, tunas and much more. Not a bad dive whatsoever.
We return back to the base, have a small break and after an hour we launch for the second dive. This time we go to the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. Due to strong current we decide not to stop in the caves but drift across. Divers saw 2 black tip sharks.
In the evening we all go to Harald at the Muenchner Haus Restaurant. We finish off his entire stock on fillet. Happy host Harald !!!
17.4. 2014 Day 15
Today the sun is shining and the sea has calmed down again. Thank god for that , we sure did have our fill of high seas and winds etc. We are going again to the Southern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. Kyle is diving and i am topping the boat. After 40 mins happy divers are back at the surface. 8 hammerheads, 3 giant guitarsharks, eagle rays, sting rays and much more were encountered. Vis is a nice 20m today and the current has intensified to at least 3kn.
After a break in the harbour and a small snack, we launch fr the second dive of the day. This time it is a Baited Shark Dive.
I have heard from our other boat that there is not much shark activity. Therefore we take extra bait, extra smelly fish guts and we take extra time to bait as well as we can. We really want this to work. After a while i send Kyle in the wear to look . Almost immediately we see a tiger shark on the bait station. Kyle jumps in and jumps out.
This is what we were waiting for. There is a lot of commotion on the boat as everybody is getting kitted up and ready to go. we push them extra hard as we don’t want the tiger to be gone by the time they all enter the water. But this is exactly what happens. Only two of or guests can see the tiger disappearing. About 5 minutes later a black tip comes to the bait. She stays for a while and disappears as well. After 45 mins we abort the mission and board the boat. As most people still have lots of air we decide to pull the station up and go somewhere else to try again. We drive 7km back along the reef and start all over again.
Also only one black tip . At least it stayed for a bit longer and came a bit closer to the divers. Everybody enjoyed filming the animal from close up.
Protea Banks is not showing her best side, but this we can’t change. At least we see sharks, have good vis, good weather. Tomorrow is the last day of this trip. hopefully it will end on a high net….???
18.4. 2014 Day 16
Today is our lat day of the Mozambique Trip. I am counting 16 days but this is because Beulah and i have started the trip a few days earlier. Officially the trip only started when all guests arrived at Barra Lodge on 8.4.
We are all wondering how the last day will pan out. We plan to do our Baited Dive first. We know very well that it is difficult at the moment. Therefore we ale extra nice , fresh bait and take extra good care and extra time to do the job.
I don’t feel like getting wet so early and man the boat. After about 30 mins nobody surfaces. After 45 mins still nobody back. Okay, i think, this must be a sign of a good dive. After an hour the first team arrives and tells me there are no sharks at all whatsoever. hardly believable !!! Another 20 mins passes before the rest appears at the surface. NOTHING. Why on earth did everybody then stay so long if there was absolutely nothing to see ? We didn’t loos hope, i am told…..This is a disaster.
One last dive left. My favourite dive site on Protea Banks are the caves on the Northern Pinnacle. This is always a nice dive, no matter what we see. I really want to close this trip off on a good note. The plan with the boat crew is that we will dive without buoy due to the strong current. After 20mins exactly i will shoot my deploy buoy to the surface at the second cave. the boat just needs to be there at the right time.
To make sure everybody manages despite the strong current, we drop about 200m up-current from the first cave. we all dive down in good vis and warm water with plenty of time left to drift straight into the first cave. what awaits us there is absolutely fantastic.
four Sandtiger Sharks in the first cave. This time of the year !!! Impossible. we give everybody ample time to film and photograph the animals. i am happy like a kid. this ends our trip on a very positive note. We leave the first cave just in time to make it to our rendezvous place the second cave before the 20mins bottom time is up. i deploy my buoy and hear the signal from the boat. All good.
We all leave the second cave and ascend slowly into shallower water to out gas.
As we are hovering around 15m we suddenly see 8 hammerheads really close up. this is unbelievable !!! Not only the Raggies but also Hammers to finish our trip. Even a black tip came to say good bye when we were all at the safety stop.
So our beloved Protea Banks did have a fitting farewell for our magic Mozambique Trip 2014 after all.
At the surface and at the base it is just high fives, hugs and happy ending !!!
Don’t forget the most important rule : Never miss the last dive …….
19.4. 2014 The Day After
We did a Baited Dive this morning with not much hope for great success. After we completed the surface baiting i dropped the divers at the baiting station where a tiger had arrived….Mrs. Tiger stayed for a good 25mins and gave the divers much fun and an adrenalin filled time.
Second dive north was a real adult dive. Definitely no kiddies birthday party. Current was hectic and we had to know what we are doing to do it right. Everybody managed well. This is real diving. Love it !!!
We saw 2 sand tigers , on in the first cave and one in the swim through.
New rule : Stay an extra day !!!!!!!!!