What can I say about Maputo other than it is a dirty, crumbling, decaying city. The former beautiful product that it once was has faded away like many other places in Africa such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, all which I too have recently visited.
The appalling ramshackle of squatter houses where people are I am told packed 6 to a room, bank tight up against the main road, all the way into the central business district. The desperate people try to sell handcrafts, or resort to begging and prostituting in order to survive.
At the Polana Hotel disappointment awaits. The room was dark dank and I could smell the bacteria growing. The view was of a dirty cracked, greyish white wall with red dirt splashed against it, some barbed wire fencing on one corner and in the distance a glimpse of a sea view. Spinning on my heels we marched back up to the front desk and booked out. We found more suitable accommodation at the Southern Sun hotel which was 5 stars in comparison.
In its defence, the Polana is currently undergoing refurbishment, but one wonders in hindsight of the trip, who would want to stay in what is to be a plush 5 star resort, in the middle of a filthy run down city?
The legendary Edwardian Hotel does however have some interesting history and was a popular rendezvous for agents such as the British spy Malcolm Muggeridge, author and one time editor of punch as well as Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, former soldier and conservator of the Kruger national park, while serving as an intelligence agent.
For the past decade Mozambique has been trying to emerge from the mess rooted in centuries of conflict and extreme violence. Before the recent revolutionary and civil wars, which lasted over two decades, Mozambique was a holiday playground for Southern Africans, endless beaches, exotic cuisines and Luso-African atmosphere swaying to a sultry beat. It was a time when the marrabenta dances went on all night, the prawns were the size of baby crayfish, the sea water was as translucent as glass, the people most charming. A Mediterranean joie de virve!
Driving along the Marginal, Maputo’s once grand promenade punctuated with swaying palms, it is a mere reflection of what it once was, the road is dirty, potholed and spilled with sewage. Looking up one sees old buildings, concrete streaked with bullet marks looking much as someone said, like a machine gun pill box. The buildings are vestiges of the colonial legacy left behind, all which have a story to tell. I feel a sense of loss and hopelessness.
The economy which is touted to be recovering is in my opinion recovering for the few and filling the pockets of the few, sending chills of déjà vu down my spine as a flash of what South Africa could be heading for in the not too distant future, plays heavily through my mind.
After stopping over in Maputo for three depressing days it is off to Indigo Bay situated on the Bazaruto Archipelago. We fly to Vilankulo, the jumping off point with its postage stamp size airport, from where we are transported by small aircraft to Bazaruto. The islands were previously joined to the mainland before tectonic movements and rising sea levels resulted in lowland flooding and separation.
The flight between Vilankulo and the island is short in time and long on discomfort, a bit like being trapped in a flying sauna. But what we fly over is magnificent tie-dye indigo blue and white scene as far as the eye can see.
Indigo Bay is a far cry from Maputo’s bleakness. The architecture and decor of the hotel is tasteful yet non invasive. Our beach chalet nestled among swaying palms is craftily screened from neighbouring rooms with natural vegetation. The chalet has two showers to choose from, one outside and inside, a big bath, a TV (if you need it), a king size bed and white crisp sheets, lounge and private deck.
A few steps off the deck and you are on the white sand of the beach where waves roll softly in and out. Once in the water you remain there for hours. The sunsets are spectacular too moving from gold, orange and at the end fading into dark purple.
The snorkelling at 2 mile reef brings the ‘paradise’ part to the fore, floating face down in 26˚ warm water, the scene below is a kaleidoscope of moving colour, quite hypnotising. There are many other activities to enjoy such as, fishing, bird watching, horse riding, scuba diving, sailing to name a few.
The resort which belongs to Rani Resorts is also active in looking after the ecology of the islands. Indigo Bay forms a small but integral part of the greater 1 430 square kilometre Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, a sensitive environment with a diversity of fauna and flora.
A number of mammal species including Samango monkeys and bushbuck were trapped on the arks which now form the Archipelago. On the island there are some 180 bird species, an extensive variety of migrant species, and 26 species of waders, endemic butterflies, Suni antelope and fresh water crocodiles. Offshore the protected waters and reefs support dolphin, the endangered dugong, game fish, seasonal whales and several species of marine turtle. At Indigo Bay, Rani Resorts has also implemented large scale programmes to plant and propagate indigenous vegetation.
One of the next projects that Rani Resorts intends tackling is Paradise Island; know previously as Illha Santa Carolina. It is regarded as the jewel of the islands forming the Bazaruto Archipelago. Unfortunately we could not visit the island as a film crew were filming some sort of survivor series soon to be released.
After such a relaxing few days, leaving is hard to do. Where I wonder, will my next adventure take me?