Africa Culture Environment Natural Resources Tourism Travel Weekend

Weekend: looking for Dugongo

It is early in the morning, the time has come to travel again, head south, target: Dugongo.

The Dugongo is a marine mammal that is well suited to this country. Quiet and mysterious, it lives in the transparent waters of Mozambique, recalling the wonder of the myth of sirens and the fragility of this ecosystem.

It is an endangered species, and here it has found an oasis of peace, choosing the archipelago of Bazaruto as its home. But you have to be very lucky to meet him, as he is very shy, but just try to find him and you will fall in love with these places.

To reach the archipelago there are two ways. The cheapest, for those who can adapt to any situation, without fear of the unprecedented, is the Chapas, a kind of private coach, with nine people, normally twenty, accompanied by luggage, animals and why not, a motorbike in unstable balance.

We opt for the second chance, renting a 4X4 that will guide us during our adventure, allowing us to reach, within a few hours, every desired location.

Roadside fruit market (Photo: Nunzio De Nigris)

Since last year, you can leave Maputo in a few minutes, thanks to the “Circular”, a modern ring road around the city linking the capital to Marracuene, the first touristy place norther of Maputo. The main road connectting Maputo to the North of Mozambique, is not your typical African road, red and dusty, but a modern and wide paved road where rigid speed controls allow you to enjoy the green landscape, boast of villages and markets, where you can buy delicious mandarins, from local women selling them along the way, settled in perfect orange pyramids. You do not buy by weight, but by quantity: one, two, three pyramids, “a whole bucket for us,” we remain ecstatic to just peel them, hands literally soak up the fragrant nectar released from the skin when they start to open them. Or let yourself bargain for a cashew box, waving on a tree, while empty bags swell in the wind. I like to remember the red of the piri-piri banquet, he also neatly arranged that the sight is a pleasure.

It is nice to observe the life around you, while slowly crossing a village, greet the many children returning from school, with their uniforms always clean, or stop for a quick snack and wait two hours for a pot of calamari.

So, slowly, as it is said about Mozambique “surely but slowly” you’ll arrive at Villanculo, the gateway to the archipelago of Bazaruto. You’ll tired but enthusiastic, because at once you are certain to have arrived in yet another magical place.

Local Schoolgirls (Photo: Stefano Pesarelli)

Beautiful resorts overlook a crystalline sea, greeting its fishermen as they download their fish booty while waiting for them on the beach chatting women and children. The Bazaruto archipelago is a small jewel embedded in the Indian Ocean, easily accessible by boat – for those in a bit of a hurry with a small motorboat, otherwise with the most romantic dhow, the typical sailboat of Mozambique, warmly recommended for those who want to savour a hot tea or black coffee in the middle of the sea, spilling pop corn on retun.

Among the islands forming the archipelago, the largest is Bazaruto – island of shells. Wherever you look, seashells surround you, forming with their geometry a spectacle of great and small shapes that seem to be arranged by the wind itself.

Here you can find (but do not take away), the pansy shell, which will let you understand how much nature is better than humans in carving his amulets.

You would like to swim for the rest of your life in this sea full of fish and stroll through the dunes where only our footsteps disturb the warm and golden sand.

The hours of light go away too quickly, and we continue to look for the Dugongo, moving us first to the coral reef and then to Benguera, another small wonderful unspoiled sand island.

Our discovery of these islands ends with Magaruque, where it is nice to walk undisturbed in the middle of the wind, which with your whistle makes you appear on another planet while the glance slips and stops on fishermen who are not far from shore trying to bring home dinner.

We swam “litres and litres” of the sea, but the Dugongo was hidden, maybe looking at us wondering if we liked this place like him.

Lagoa Poelela (photo: Nunzio De Nigris)

After these strong emotions a bit of well-deserved rest brings us to Lagoa Poelela, another enchanted place that will surprise you after a few miles along a sandy road through small villages. And once again Mozambique does not disappoint.

Few and elegant chalets, built with indigenous materials with full respect for the surrounding nature, lie in front of a salt lake, clear sand on which to stand watching colorful birds sing their melodies in absolute silence. Still hot sand on which to walk barefoot, the street marked by the stars, to reach the small restaurant that welcomes us with its delicious cuisine.

A place so beautiful that in the morning you can not get up, lying on the bed to observe the imperceptible movement of the lake when the king fisher catch their breakfast.

by Nunzio DeNigris


Torino native Nunzio De Nigris felt in love with Africa in the early 1990’s when traveling around the region on photographic expeditions. In 2009 while driving down from South Africa to North of Mozambique, he first visited the “Poelela” Lagoon in Inharrime, in southern Mozambique on the shores of country coastal lakes. He invested in what was them a small project under construction which later became known as the “Lagoa Poelela Resort”, an unpretentious boutique hotel catering for discerning travellers looking to explore the beauty  and wildness of Mozambique. Nunzio often design bespoke experiences according to each of his guests.

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