Solitude in the archipelago

Benguera Island, Mozambique

Talking with the crew last night helped give me a better understanding of Mozambique and its past. The country was completely ravaged by a civil war that ended only 15 years ago; those who were raised during this time — like my captain, Manuel — were not able to go to school and, as a result, now speak only fleeting English. Perhaps the war’s only saving grace (if it could be called one) is that the fishing industry came to a standstill, resulting today in some of the world’s best marine wildlife. It is hoped that this will attract tourists like me and drive Mozambique forward.

It’s interesting and a bit unexpected to be in an African country where not everyone speaks English. Mozambique is one of the few in Southern Africa that wasn’t a British colony; instead, it was under the rule of Portugal. The language, coupled with a multiethnic, spicier cuisine, gives this place an exotic feel.

But Mozambique is also one of the poorest countries in Africa, and consequently, the world. The war demolished entire industries and the country has been slow to rebuild them. Unemployment is high and for those who do work, monthly salaries average 2000 meticais, or about $80USD. The country is now banking largely on tourism to aid in growth.

After an omelet, fresh fruit and some coffee on the boat, it was off to our second island destination, Benguera. En route, we discovered a pristine white sand barge. “We’ve never been,” my guide, Dumas, said. “Do you want to go?” Of course, I replied.

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Walking through this deserted island, with its small inland sea; sitting on a piece of driftwood, staring out at sea; this was relaxation at its finest.

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Suddenly, a small boat of fishermen came ashore, hauling in a huge net and solid catch. Besides my crew, they would be the only other people seen today.

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After some time on the sand barge, we sailed to Benguera Island, which was apparently inhabited, although we didn’t see anyone there. The boat dropped me off, allowing me to walk the beach at my leisure and snorkel some reefs.

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Back on board, we set sail for camp. Along the way, Manuel, our cook, bought some crabs and calamari from local fishermen for dinner.

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The rustling of palm trees and light crashing of waves rocked me to sleep.

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