Finally, the speedboat departs from the Maputo marina.
Gradually, the bar graph horizon formed by the buildings of the large Mozambican city becomes a shimmering mirage.
Soon, it fades into the overwhelming blues of the landscape, that of the Indian Ocean and the sky above.
The bay becomes immense. We who cross it by motor are something of an exception among the fleet of dhows with sails stretched out towards a sea of clouds moved by the same wind.
The time of departure had been anything but innocent. “The closer you get to the peninsula of Santa Maria, the sandier it gets” confesses to us, somewhat apprehensively, a crew member.
“If we don’t go there at high tide, we could be stranded.”
We hear the rant. We trust in the experience and expertise of the man at the helm.
As depth decreases, the translucent waters become an incredible emerald hue. Dolphins accompany us.
We saw turtles and, closer than ever, other dhows, each dressed in their own colorful triangle.
The Evasion of South Africans in the Stunning Maputo Bay
We have more to worry about than the silting up of the bay. As we wind our way south of Inhaca, we realize that we are not the only ones.
The seaside is full of amphibious guests, full-bodied, with white skin and light hair.
They share camps, for what we are used to, hyper-sophisticated. Equipped with electric grills, inflatable pumps, folding tables and chairs, bathing gazebos used as portable and providential protectors from the inclement tropical sun.
In that redoubt, speedboats supplant dhows.
As in other southern parts of Mozambique, South Africans stand out among Mozambicans. By their mere presence, but above all by the entrepreneurship with which they invest it.
One of the reasons why South Africans flock there is the fact that there are plenty of lodges and resorts built and operated by their countrymen.
Unsurprisingly, we were on our way to one of them.
When we pass Ponta Torres, we begin the crossing of the Santa Maria Channel, known by sailors as “devils gate” due to its waves, currents, rocks and treacherous sands.
The Peninsula of Machangulo das Dunas and the Machangulo Lodge
We are left with the northern end of the more than ten thousand hectares of the Machangulo Peninsula ahead.
And, to the south, with the vast Natural Reserve (former Elephant Reserve) of Maputo. We know, then, that we are about to arrive.
Machangulo beach goes on.
Before reaching its eastern threshold and making a corner with the true coastline of the Indian Ocean, we can see huge dunes rising from it.
The helmsman crosses to his base. Unexpectedly, an expectant entourage beckons and welcomes us.
We walk along the walkways and staircases from Machangulo Lodge to the buildings that the owners installed on those sandy heights.
A Lodge at the Top of the Giant Dunes of Machangulo
We admire the incredible view from the hut where they accommodate us.
With the sun already setting towards Maputo and the Atlantic, we are in a hurry to inaugurate the discovery.
We climb to what we think is the zenith of the sands.
From there, we find new peaks and valleys, with a supreme high that grants a stinging view over the beach of Machangulo and other, more distant ones, of the island of Inhaca and its sinuous adjustments to the ocean.
We focus on the immediate.
Down below, on the gleaming cinnamon seafront, a couple struggles with the tangle of a long fishing net.
He, removing the nylon threads and the buoys that compartmentalized them from the water.
She, pulling and stretching the set along the sand.
That attempt had yielded a few specimens.
With the net untangled, the man reenters the channel and stretches the net again, in order to trap the fish that followed the flow of the tide.
We ventured in the opposite direction, between new slippery hills where the trapped moisture irrigated a cover of green but rough bushes.
The distance allows us to understand how the Machangulo Lodge had its cabins and other larger buildings, all with thatched roofs, installed in the middle of this almost dense forest, as well as the portico that identified it.
We reached a new peak. On the curved threshold of the Machangulo peninsula, where the Santa Maria channel connects Maputo Bay to the Indian Ocean.
Hence, we see the sun rushing beyond the West.
Abysmal Dunes and Dream Beaches in all Directions
In the opposite direction, sunset purpled caravans of fast-moving clouds.
An out-of-town couple was strolling around the bend that the ebb tide had nearly turned. Flocks of birds gathered just beyond the reach of the waves. They splashed the sodden sand of their figures.
Not long after, nightfall replaced this entire twilight scene with the mottled celestial vault.
Over Machangulo and Inhaca, a mere human light proved how, despite Maputo's imminence, how far removed from civilization those parts remained.
Early the next morning we passed north of the channel. We embarked on an incursion into neighboring Inhaca, to which we will soon dedicate its own article.
Machangulo Below, along the Indian Coast of the Peninsula
By mid-afternoon, we were back in Machangulo. Determined to explore the Indian coast south of the Santa Maria channel by the end of the day.
In this new direction, we pass by fishermen, knee-deep in water, casting their lines as far into the ocean as possible.
Then, through a section of sand full of small bumps, miniatures of the real dunes above.
We walked between the surf and its base when we realized that we were still with someone.
In the distance, hundreds of reddish crabs were leaving the sea for the section of beach still hit by the sun.
When we try to approach them, they descend in a hurry. Dive into the waves.
We stop to appreciate them and their lateralized dance.
Without the threat of our movement, they become so many that they turn the soggy beach ahead orange.
Machangulo would still reveal other eccentricities.
Ahead, two Mozambican fishermen ended the day. They filled a shoulder bag with the fish they had caught.
Each one held its handle and thus shared the weight of success equally.
The Stranded Sailboat “Blue Wave”
A dune-shaped peninsula, Ponta Abril, interrupts the length of the beach.
In order to move to the other side, we are forced to go around it halfway up the slope.
Now, when we prepare to do so, we are surprised by the sight of a sunken boat, masts up, almost on the same slope as the front of the dune.
With the tide once more receding, the waves only reached the bottom of the rusted hull. The name was barely readable.
With effort, we realizeBlue Wave”. Further investigation confirms this.
The yacht ran aground on the reef off Ponta Abril, in January 2017. The residents of Machangulo say that the owner, Captain Alex, even stayed with a rescue team, at a Bemugis Place, a lodge and restaurant on the opposite coast. , determined to free him.
In October of that year, many high tides later, he managed to lift the yacht and place it on a platform. It won't do much good. The boat had lost all seaworthiness.
At least, in 2021, it continued there, providing shade to the fishermen who are fans of Ponta Abril.
From this promontory, the peninsula of Machangulo extends without end in sight, continued by what remains of the southern coast of Mozambique, up to Ponta do Ouro, which marks the border with South Africa.
With no intention of walking into the night, we reversed course.
We find the sun fading into yellow, cut by the bushy forest behind Ponta. We find the crabs still enjoying the last light.
When we reach the top of Machangulo, the fire of Maputo Bay haunts us again.