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MIND : Nature & Travel
LaurelC-19's Wanderings on Planet Earth: Mozambique
by LaurelC-19, 17 Sept 2009

From Swaziland we went to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Strangely, it had a European/Latin American/Caribbean feel. It reminded me very much of Brazil, also a former Portuguese colony. We spent two nights there, and had a little civilized fun at the casino (I came out even!!), the club and at the mall. We then headed on yet another long drive to Tofu beach. It was a cramped, 8-hour bus ride with no room spared; our legs curled up on top of our backpacks.

Isolated, untouched and beautiful, there we spent 8 days scuba diving. We slept in a dorm-style, rather makeshift hut. Its thatched roof leaked during rainstorms, the beds had bed bugs and the whole building was just plopped on top of the sand - as in, the floor was the sand of the beach itself. I am now a certified PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver! Hurrah!

The diving was absolutely. Incredible. One of the dive sites is world-renowned, with virtually guaranteed sightings of Manta rays, which can span up to 6 meters across. It was humbling to watch them as they gracefully glided past you, the shark-bite marks looking rather small on their giant wings. I almost wanted to bow at them out of respect for their magnificence.

We also went snorkeling with dolphins and whale sharks - another unforgettable experience. OF COURSE my underwater camera chose to break at this precise moment, so I have no pictures to show. But look up pictures of manta rays and whale sharks. And picture me next to them, almost crapping myself and forgetting to breathe out of awe. My underwater yelps of excitement and frantic pointing motions are now very familiar to my fellow divers. The dolphins were awesome, and though we kicked our little feet as fast as we could and we could barely catch up (Ariel was an idiot, I'd trade with her any day). But - the whale shark. One of the most stunning creatures I have ever seen or known to have existed. The one we saw was a young one, so quite small (still a whopping 4 meters). It seemed slightly dim-witted, repeatedly swimming headfirst into our boat's engine. It was incredible to swim so close to it, the biggest fish in the world and one of its rarest, watching it mouth open wide to swallow plankton. We weren't allowed to touch it as it had a protective layer of mucous around it, so we just stared with goosebumps all over. Though completely harmless, it was still a tad scary because of our extreme proximity, its sheer size and also because it is a shark and hence, looked like one.

Another amazing sighting was the small-eyed stingray, the largest and rarest sting ray in the world. Even that recently they thought the small-eyed stingray was extinct, and only last year was it officially recognized that it existed around Tofu beach (and there is only ONE of them in that area). Needless to say, we were extremely, extremely privileged to see it. There were also loads of other colorful oceanlife too: lionfish, kingfish, anglerfish (most perfectly camouflaged fish ever. One fellow diver still hasn't seen it even though it had been pointed to him a meter away from his face. Twice.), potato groupers (humongous fish that grow up to 2.5 meters).

Those 8 days were a beautiful experience, filled with sights humans were never meant to see, and others that fewer humans have ever had the privilege of seeing.

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