Country number: 88
Territory number: 96
When? August 2008, coning overland from Jo’burg and Kruger, going on to Mauritius
Who? Group Tour
Inhambane has beautiful beaches, great reefs and excellent large marine life. We’re told this this region is one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world – with manta rays, reef sharks and in season humpback whales and whale sharks. The fishing boats are as picturesque as it gets, with curved masts and colourful sails fashioned out of grain sacks, but the weather isn’t kind and it isn’t really beach weather. We do get to see the whales and dolphins (they’re in season), but it’s a choppy ride and using a camera in our inflatable is life threatening. All the photos are blurred and most of them seem to have missed the whales entirely. Or there’s an odd fin poking into a corner. Snorkelling is off.
And the tour has deteriorated somewhat. The jeeps have jolted over what must be the worst roads in Africa and that’s saying something. The ruts seem to be feet deep and we’ve threatened to tip right over on more than one occasion. Our esteemed leader’s preferred method of driving is full on throttle. A sports bra is a necessity. Stopping to view game he understands –some of the time. He doesn’t always see it. Culture not so much. ‘You want to look at a village? Why? They’re not very nice.’ It’s true the people are poor, but we’re not in a position to make informed judgements about the village experience for ourselves. The camera lens is in distinct danger as I try and balance it against the jeep window, as we career past the little huts. I secure more fuzzy pictures of mud and trees, with the intended subject missing, to add to my collection. The villagers aren’t exactly waving us in, but there haven’t been any friendly overtures made on our part either.
We’ve latterly also discovered that the tour hasn’t exactly been planned ahead . We arrive at one ‘hotel’ to find that it’s disappeared.
‘It used to be here just here I’m sure,’ exclaims our Great Leader.
‘Oh that went in the hurricane last year,’ the locals inform us.
I’ve booked a single room, but when we reach Tofo, the most renowned beach area, I’m allocated a shabby dormitory style dwelling replete with cobwebs. Enough is enough. I’ve already spotted the over-water bungalows a mile or so up the coast road and I sign off tour for several eminently comfortable days. The local tour guide is amenable. He whisks me back and forth on the back of his motor scooter, making suggestions along the way as to how I might like to spend the rest of my time. I pretend I haven’t heard. It’s a restful break. Though my postcards never make it home. I was probably too trusting in handing them to the hotel receptionist, along with the money for the stamps.