Association is a powerful thing. Mention ‘Mozambique’ and images of long golden shores, pristine reefs, prawns and ice-cold cocktails automatically come to mind. I recently visited Parque de Malongane, a holiday resort in southern Mozambique, which offers all this and so much more.
Parque de Malongane lies a stone’s throw from the village of Ponta Malongane situated 35 minutes from the Kosi Bay border post. At present, if you’re driving from Johannesburg, it takes approximately nine to ten hours to reach the resort thanks largely to road works.
Once at the border, it’s a fairly simple process to get into the country provided you have all the correct documentation. Just don’t have any illusions that you can drive around in Mozambique in your Golf GTI or Toyota Corolla. You will get stuck. Once across the border there are no real roads to speak of and you will need a 4x4. Those that don’t own a 4x4 needn’t despair though; Parque de Malongane organises border transfers.
Parque de Malongane was established approximately 16 years ago not long after the Mozambican civil war came to an end in 1992. The resort started out with a few basic chalets and has since grown to offer a variety of accommodation options including 51 DIY camping sites, resort tents on the ground, tents on deck, rustic log huts, rondavels and chalets.
Prices obviously vary from option to option. Those staying in the tents and huts can use the resort’s public ablution blocks. Also located within the camp are a curiously old fashioned restaurant/ pub which features one of the few TV’s for miles and a tiny shop.
At the heart of the camp lies Parque de Malongane’s thatched scuba diving lodge which features a dedicated dive planning and kitting up area, an office, a self-catering kitchen (which admittedly has seen better days), an appealing second storey sea-facing bar and dining platform. All launches are organised at the lodge which is geared to accommodate large groups and teach diving courses. Parque de Malongane’s diving is world-class and it is for this reason that divers come back again and again. Approximately 30 dive sites have ‘officially’ been named. Sites include ‘Doodles’, ‘Cloud Break’, ‘Pinnacles’, ‘Aquarium’, ‘Kev’s Ledge’, ‘Bread loaf’ and ‘Drop Zone’ to name but a few.
Each site’s location and depth is illustrated at the dive planning counter. Many also feature specific characteristics and marine life. For instance, Pinnacles is known for hosting a variety of sharks and game fish. What is more is that there are plenty of sites to keep both novice and advanced divers alike happy.
The area’s superb marine life will hopefully remain robust for many years to come thanks to the fact that it forms part of the Ponta Do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve which in turn falls under the banner of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Over 800 species of fish have been identified in the area. Importantly, the area plays host to critically endangered leatherback turtles as well as other endangered species including the loggerhead turtle, dugong and coelacanth. Other notable species include Indian bottle-nose dolphins, humpbacked dolphins and whale sharks.
Arguably one of the most appealing aspects of Parque de Malongane is the fact that it runs directly parallel to the beach. As such, having dived their fill, visitors can relax on the beach, swim, go kite-boarding, snorkel, go four-by-fouring or quad biking around the many tracks in the area. Another option is to drive into Ponta do Ouro which lies roughly 20 minutes away. If you feel like splashing out and dressing up, a visit to the newly constructed White Pearl resort at nearby Ponta Mamoli is for you.
To reach Ponta do Ouro, you’ll have to run the ‘gauntlet’ of the many ramshackle bars and craft markets which have been erected alongside the main track by enterprising locals. South African drinks are available but the most common drinks on offer are ‘R&R’s which comprise a generous helping of ‘Tipo Tinto’ rum and Sparletta Sparberry. ‘2M’ beer is another popular drink. Quirkily, a number of the bars are decked out with the old business cards, expired licences, credit cards, store cards and student cards of those who have passed through.
Ponta do Ouro itself makes for an interesting day trip. The town is small and basic but it offers a few restaurants which specialise in selling fairly pricey prawn and fish meals. A few curio shops have also taken up residence but a supermarket has yet to take root. Dotted in and around the town are a number of newly built, mostly foreign owned properties many of which oddly stand side by side with gutted, decaying and bullet-hole ridden houses-a stark reminder of Mozambique’s war torn history.
In a nutshell, Parque de Malongane and Ponta do Ouro are rustic but comfortable. You won’t necessarily get luxury accommodation, you might not always even get a hot shower but you’re almost guaranteed five star diving, beautiful scenery, colourful characters and some seriously good quality beach bum time.
Things to be aware of:
• Be sure to have a GPS. The tracks in the area are numerous and can be confusing.
• The exchange rate fluctuates on an almost daily basis.
• Malaria: Parque de Malongane is considered a low risk area.
• Divers have to pay a reef tax of R20.
• The local curio markets tend to overprice their goods but are usually open to haggling. Just keep in mind that the Kosi Bay border official are clamping down on the exportation of wooden products and the like.
• Cell phone roaming is necessary if you want to stay in touch with the outside world.
• Visitors to the area should keep in mind that emergency services are not easily accessible. As such, it’s a good idea to keep a first aid kit with you and always tell someone where you’re going.