The stilted chalets of Flamingo Bay
Africa’s greatest beaches? Lie on a palm-fringed strip of white curving sand and gaze out at dhows tacking on the bright blue Indian Ocean and you’d be hard pressed to disagree. A couple of days on Mozambique’s Barra Peninsula feels like paradise regained, a quietly enchanting world where time passes amidst a series of snorkels or dives in the pellucid waters, meals of the freshest seafood, and relaxing at the water’s edge. Ironically, for all the heavenly strips of sand near you, when you see your chalet you may just wonder if you really need a beach. Built on stilts over the inviting water – you can just dive right in from your balcony.
For those in the know, Mozambique is one of the world’s great snorkel and dive destinations, a mecca for virgin coral reefs, astounding visibility and an unmatched diversity of sea-life. From shallow lagoons to spectacular drop-offs, there is an endlessly explorable variety of underwater seascapes here – swim over fields of soft coral swaying in the gentle currents; inspect pinnacle ledges for giant morays; then keep an eye out for loveable oddities such as the frogfish, sea horse or harlequin shrimps. All the while you’re surrounded by a rainbow of colour: angel fish, Moorish idols, butterfly fish, yellow snappers, clowns, trumpets...for every fish you might recognise, they’ll be a dozen you won’t have seen before.
But it’s the giants of the seas that really excite, not least because of the frequency of the sightings. Cleaning stations help ensure Manta Rays are regulars here, their whopping seven metres wingspan being cleaned by swarms of busy fish. Dolphins and turtles are common as well, so too reef sharks. The beautiful, elusive dugong can also be seen. As can the daddy of all fish, the mighty whale shark. And when all twelve metres of the whale shark cruises nearby, or majestic Manta Rays glide above, you may just have to revise your ‘greatest ever diving experiences’ list.