A small speck on the map situated in Southern Mozambique, Tofo is a diver’s paradise for those who like to witness the ocean’s giants. Hosting a feeding ground to the world’s largest fish, rays and mammals, there is no doubt your breath will be taken away during time spent diving here.
The largest fish in the world, the Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a common giant to grace the waters of Tofo with one of the largest concentrations in Africa it is certainly one of the top locations to see these beautiful spotted sharks. These gentle giants are plankton eating sharks, growing up to a length of 12 metres.
Although this creature is large in stature, it is still vulnerable to human activity. Remember to be respectful when coming into contact with them. They can be rather curious which doesn’t always work in their favour with many having propeller scars or getting jumped on by snorkelers. Remain at least a few metres away from them and just enjoy watching them swim by majestically. It is amazing how small you feel, especially while trying to snorkel with them and keep up with the pace that they so effortlessly hold.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation is a research centre based in Tofo and carry out research on the whale shark population as well as other marine species that commute up and down the coast such as another ocean giant, the Manta Ray.
It was here in Tofo that research was collected and used to publish that there are actually two different species of Manta Ray. The Giant Oceanic Manta (Manta birostris) and the Reef Manta (Manta alfredi). These beautiful winged creatures are always at the top of a diver’s must see list. These plankton eating giants have turned Tofo’s reefs into an important aggregation site, with over 900 individuals identified. At many of the dive sites there are cleaning stations where you can watch numerous Mantas getting manicured.
Manta aren’t the only large ray to be found in these waters. The largest species of stingray, the Small Eye Stingray (Dasyatis microps) is also one of the most elusive. It is was first captured on film on the reefs of Tofo back in 2009 and until recently had only ever been seen alive on Tofo’s reefs. Their bodies reaching a width of up to 2 metres (around 7ft), they are another example of the majestic ocean giants that you can witness whilst diving here.
The Mozambique channel that separates Madagascar from Africa is also a popular highway for majestic marine mammals such as the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Sat on the deck of a beach bar you can waste an afternoon watching the behaviours of these whales whilst they breach, blow, tail and fin slap. A beautiful sight to be exposed to while sipping on your cocktail.
If seeing them from land only wets your appetite for a closer encounter, you often get a front row seat to the show on the dive boat, travelling to and from the dive sites. Nothing more humbling than seeing a 30,000kg whale breach metres away from your boat. You don’t even have to see them to witness their presence. Quite often while diving you will hear haunting moans in the distance of the Humpbacks communicating with each other. The vibrations of the low drones vibrating through your body. Of course the ultimate experience is to see these creatures while underwater. You could be lucky enough to be carrying out your safety stop at 5 metres/15 feet when your dive guide suddenly has a wide eyed look and points behind you, for you to turn around and see a mother and her calf swimming by. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you don’t have a heart!
There are different dive operations available in Tofo, each with fast RIBS that leave from the beach. Often the take off and return of the boat is often an exhilarating experience, especially when the surf is fairly big. Dive sites range from 10-45 minutes away which gives you the opportunity for some wild life spotting.
Dolphins are a common culprit to see during the boat ride. With different species such as the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) and the Indo-Pacific Humpbacked dolphin (Sousa chinensis). Nothing makes for a better start or end to a day out diving when you spot the dorsal fins breaking the surface and get the chance to jump in and swim with these wild, playful mammals. An experience that cannot be replicated at Sea Life captivity parks. Being in the dolphin’s own natural environment and being in contact with them by their own choice makes it extra special if they choose to hang around to show off their bubble rings and fancy flips. A very special experience that is worth the wait rather than paying too see these very intelligent animals in a cement pool.
Mozambique is one of the top locations for diving, with something for everyone to enjoy, the snorkeler, the diver or the beach bum. There are hostel accommodations for those on a budget and also high end resorts for couples wanting to make it extra special.
The Marine Megafauna foundation is based at Casa Barrie Lodge and also hosts public talks. A great way to get first-hand information about conservation and the wildlife of Tofo. You really do immerse yourself in the wanders of the ocean here and realise that it is so important to protect it. What fun could we possibly experience if our oceans were empty?!