A short guide to Tofo, Mozambique
It might be easy access for every man and his fishing boat, but Inhambane province and Tofo more specifically can be a peri peri delight if you play your cards and your season right.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Welcome to one of the Southern African holiday circuit towns. Every year around the 15thof December every square inch along the sweltering sand tracks in Tofo are taken up by GP, NP, and MXX license plates. The town becomes a buffet of Toyota, Honda, Hilux and some really strange thing that’s a hummer look-alike. Jet skies, paddle skies, weird shaped floaty pools, blow up dolphins and the nefarious quad bike litter every other unoccupied area of space.
The province of Inhambane (roughly 68,615 km² in size) is located along the southern coast of the country, with it’s capital of the same name found nestled alongside a very lengthy estuary. The province of Inhambane (roughly 68,615 km² in size) is located along the southern coast of the country, with it’s capital of the same name found nestled alongside a very lengthy estuary.
A ferry connects Inhambane town to Maxixe (pronounced mack-sheesh) to Inhambane town. Oddly enough even though Inhambane is the capital of the province and houses most of the government departments, Maxixe contains all the legal departments concerned with passports and immigration, making it rather backwards and forwards to get legal documents cleared (be warned the driving round trip looks deceptively short but it can take over an hour)
The layout of Inhambane town is a small and fairly uncomplicated to maneuver around. The beating, sweaty heart is around the main market and taxi rank. As markets go this one is incredibly pleasant, as long as you don’t arrive late in the afternoon heat and have to pass the fish section. It’s a real treat for those sensitive in the nasal department.
Visited by Vasco da Gama in 1498, this ex-Portuguese colony has existed as a port town since the 10th century, heavily used by the Arabs in the slave trade. You can see the fragment of it’s colonial past echoed in the architecture, albeit crumbling in some instances, but always colorful and repatriated with African flair. Eclectic and crazy Chapas (local taxis) ferry people the distance between Inhambane town center towards the seaside of Tofo and Barra.
23km from Inhambane town lies Praia do Tofo, it’s secluded side partner Tofihno, and Ponto do Barra, the two big attractions the drive the holidaymakers local and foreign to come to the area in their droves. What once was a small coastal fishing village, Tofo has grown to now accommodate all forms of tourism that the seawaters can offer up.
The tropical climate inspired Mozambique's most famous struggle poet and journalist, Craveirinha , to write a lament to the fruit found in the area called ,"The Tasty Tangerines of Inhambane." When the persistent jarring car alarms and ‘whaddha thump thump bom bom bom thump thump ‘ emitting from very large bass speakers dies down, you can imagine kicking back along the wide stretch of beach with toes in the sand, a frosty 2M in hand, reading Craveirinha and munching a tangerine, wondering what other people who have 9-5 jobs do with their day.
From Johannesburg to Inhambane : 11 hours (watch out for public and school holidays, the border will be a long wait)
Make sure you also come in a 4x4 if you are planning on staying in the Tofhino area, as the roads can get very sandy.
It can be anything from an hour and a half to five hours depending on LAM airlines and if the planes are on schedule, which I have heard can be very temperamental, especially from Maputo to Inhambane.
WHERE TO STAY
Tofo has everything and anything in the way of accommodation from matuki,sand floored backpackers to the air conditioned, plunge-pool, Jay-Z and Beyonce type, it all depends on how you arrive. The best bet is to get online and hunt down what budget and type of accommodation you want (www.tripadvisor.com) and phone or email ahead. The fancier places will often fetch you from the airport or send you maps with GPS co-ordinates. The not so fancy places are a simple enough to find, there are signs everywhere or just ask anyone for directions its small enough to navigate on foot. Inhambane has very limited accommodation as most people head straight to the coast on arrival.
WHAT TO DO
It’s a little South African Ibitha, just with mosquitos. And hot.
Actually hot is a gross understatement. The thesaurus definitions of hot, when all piled together, might come close to describing the summer heat. Everyone hides in the safety of umbrellas and trees, pumping dance music from loud speakers and 4x4’s till the baking sand calm down to a simmer in the cooler evening sun, allowing one to make a mad ‘Jesus lizard (Basiliscus basiliscusfor those wanting to now google the species)’ dash to the break waters.
But aside from the perpetual party atmosphere, the reason lots of others -us included-come here, is for the diving. A pillar of the tourism industry in this area is the azure blue, warm water and the hope of sighting the mantas and whale sharks.
It’s a treat to be able to dive in rash vests and board shorts instead of massive amount of insulating neoprene, making the working dives a lot easier to manage without running the risk of frostbite that our cape waters from home can be so famous for.
WHAT TO TAKE
Pack for the beach and don’t by any means forget a small bag full of sunscreen, flip-flops, loose and light clothing in long and short sleeves and mozzie repellant (dawn and dusk can be murderous)
WHEN TO GO
If you want the party atmosphere come during any of the long South African holiday seasons, but be sure to book accommodation ahead of time o you will be left high and dry.
For those opting for a quitter time, just before and after the South Africa Holiday seasons can be wonderful.
For diving: Summer months are from October to April and winter months are from May to September. The absolute best diving is round about April to May when the wind is not to bad, but generally you can dive all year round as long as the wind does not pick up. We used Peri Peri divers, young fun and very informative team who work with Marine Megafauna Foundation whose scientist often accompany divers to catch sighting of whale sharks and manta rays and a re full of information for you about he underwater world of Inhamabne. A great combination.
To see whale sharks: October to March
Best Beer: Make friends with one of the local senoras who own fridges on the side of the street. Negotiate a good price and stick to her, you tend to get special service if you do. Plus they can get hold of all manner of wines and spirits for you.
Best Prego:Tofu Tofu, generally the best value for meal spot in town. Watch out though the busier it gets the slower the service gets. But that’s a general rule all over.
Best Pizza:What you want. I now dream of their beach boy pizza.
Best Local: Behind the fresh fruit and veg market – no name, but it will be the cheapest meal with the most bulk in town. Chicken and chips is incredibly tasty, so is the crab and spinach.
Sweet treats:Mozambeats. Great for their chocolate brownies, smoothies and drinks. Great vibe and swimming pool there as well. And movie nights every Wednesday.
Best snack: There’s an Internet café on the same road down fromWhat you Wantrestaurant. Go there for the hand made chili chicken pie. Go back again the next day because you know you want to. Also look out for casquihnas and rinsois on any menu.
There’s also an ice cream stand. I am not going to tell you where because it’s easy to find and it’s a treat if you do. But get there early or you will miss out.
Inhambane is a wonderful town to go and explore. Everything is relatively easy to find from the central market outwards. Go and take a stroll around, see if you can find the one and only meat supplier in town. His shop just has the words ‘meat’ written on the outside but he has the best and widest selection to get your meat and poultry fix (he also has cheese-real cheese) Also head down the street where you find Pep, look for a really garish mint green wall. Inside is a funny little courtyard is a restaurant that has some amazing gourmet burgers
(tip though: don’t order just a plain prego if you are hungry. It’s literally bite size.) And large fans to keep you cool from the midday heat.