Vilankulo would have been a pleasant town if it wasn't for one thing. It is unnecessarily spread out, giving it a feel of a large village, and the distances discourage from walking, especially in the heat. So I only walked along the beach, except for one walk to the ATM and one - unsuccessful - in search for some food. Kinda funny that in a place supposedly frequented by South African crowds during holidays there are no places to eat. Well, there are, but most probably only in tourist resorts lining the beach. In town proper there is a market, some shops, several ATMs and an airport with flights to and from Maputo and - I guess - Joburg.
My beach walks were quite pleasant, especially visually, as the southern part of the beach hosts something resembling a fishing harbour. It's not even a harbour - just a stretch of beach with fishing boats (dhows as they call them here) moored along it. Fish is sold directly from the boats or at the beach. I haven't noticed any impressive specimens, but I have to admit that I didn't look too close. It also turned out that the fishing population has a rather reluctant attitude towards cameras and pictures, and no one was willing to pose for my photos with some fish. So it was the sailboats who did the posing.
But it's not for restaurants or the town, not even for the fishing sailboats that people come to Vilankulo. In the distance you can see several islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, and they are the main reason for tourists to come here. Not the islands themselves, but marine life with mantas, whale sharks and other interesting creatures. That was also the reason for my coming here. The only thing is that I picked the wrong season. During rainy season the visibility underwater is variable, to say the least. So in my own terms - it sucks. And although when you dive down into this rather opaque liquid you can expect there is a lot to see down there, it actually not possible to see it. You could hardly see anything, especially on my second dive, when the current was so strong that it seemed as if we were diving in a swollen river, not in the ocean. I would have given it another try, but the dives here are unbearably expensive (about 130 US dollars a day), so I decided not to waste my money.
The day after diving I went snorkeling, and again I was hardly able to see anything, except for an interesting encounter with an octopus, spotted by my French companions. Spotting it was one thing, and screaming and kicking fins was another, so the poor octopus hid under the coral and didn't want to come out. But I was patient enough, waited for the froggies to go away, and then watched the octopus change its colour. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any decent picture.
In Vilankulo I stayed at a backpacker place called Zombie Cucumber. What a cool name. And although it was supposed to be a party hostel, recommended by the Bible, but since on the first day no one was there except for an English girl and myself, there was no party to speak of. The role of the place to be was taken over by another backpackers located in the southern part of the beach, called Baobab Beach. There was loud music playing all the time and a small crowd in the evening. You could meet some interesting figures, like a Brit riding his motorbike from the UK along the east coast of Africa to Cape Town, or two of his compatriots driving their car around Africa from Morocco to Egypt, instead of staying in the office and working overtime. The biker had even met a group of five young Poles travelling around the world in a minivan under the name of Way Away. But I wasn't able to find their website. In my quiet hostel I met a Swedish guy, and we became friends on a hot, lazy Sunday spent at poolside with a beer in hand. He turned out to be an interesting fellow, and he was heading in the same direction as myself, so we spent some days together.
Despite the lack of underwater visibility, diving and snorkeling trips to the Bazaruto islands were the absolute highlight of my several days' stay in Vilankulo. Not just because I almost had a heatstroke after spending six hours in a row in the unbearable tropical sun. No just because for the first time I my life I immersed myself in water that was warmer than my own body. Mostly because of an unusual series of unfortunate events that took place on the first day spent on the boat.
The first event was rather uneventful. Before diving I left my sunglasses just about anywhere on the boat, but some crew member decided to take better care of them and put them in some safer place. So I wasn't too surprised to find my sunglasses in two parts after coming back on the boat. I kind of liked them, but their time was about to run out anyway, so I won't cry for them too much.
The second unfortunate event was more interesting, though also painless. When we descended on the sandy shore of Bazaruto Island, we were told to scramble up the tall sand dune nearby. So I left my humble belongings, consisting of a tin-foil-wrapped sandwich and a bottle of water, on the beach. The sights were really pretty, resembling a bit of Huacachina in Peru, and I was even able to take a few nice shots. But when I was standing on top of the dune, one of my diving buddies told me that my lunch had been taken away. It was a funny misunderstanding - when they said "crow", I heard "crew", and started wondering why the hell the boat crew had to consume my lunch. But it was all clear when we got down from the dune. A huge, hungry bird attacked my plastic bag and tried to consume my sandwich. The boat guys scared the crow off, but half of the sandwich was gone. The other half was recovered, but with a lot of sand. The word "sandwich" thus received a new, slightly more literal meaning.
But the third misfortune was more serious and could have ended really bad. When we were almost coming ashore on our way back to mainland and I was busy talking to the English doctor working in Malawi, out of the tail of my eye I noticed a horrified expression on one of the divemasters' faces. I ducked down without thinking too much, and the bow of another boat missed my head by about an inch. It turned out that the current was pushing our RIB sideways, and we sort of hit a boat that was anchored near the shore. No harm was done to the boat itself, but if that wooden pole didn't miss my head, you wouldn't be able to read these words.
After two intense, sun- and water-filled days on the islands I got a bit fed up with the heat, so I spent my Sunday lazing off in the poolside shade at Zombie Cucumber. And on Monday the alarm sounded at 2:30 am, and half an hour later, together with my Swedish companion, I was on another stinky bus.