A day in the life: Mozambique edition

October 15, 2021

I've already shared a glimpse into my day-to-day life as a freelancer when I'm based in the UK. But (pandemic times and travel restrictions aside), I have flexibility over my time (goodbye 9-5!), and location. Several years ago, I fell in love with the beautiful coastal town of Tofo Beach in Mozambique. Since then, I’ve tried to return when I can. Sometimes I visit for a short break. Or, I might spend a few months there if I can make it work around other commitments. Due to Covid-19, I had to cancel my latest plans and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to return. But, hopefully, it won’t be too much longer. So what does a ‘normal’ day look like when I’m in Tofo? It’s pretty different from working from home in England!

What first brought me to Mozambique

I first visited Tofo Beach, Mozambique, on holiday with a friend about 10 years ago. We spent a week (it was supposed to be two but flight issues cut our Tofo time short) diving and experiencing Tofo’s incredible marine ecosystems. This was when I first shared the water with a whale shark: an incredible experience.

What brought me back to Mozambique

Then, in 2018 circumstances brought me back to Tofo again. Burned out, I quit my PR agency job in London and found myself spending eight months in Tofo where I helped the Marine Megafauna Foundation out with their communications. It was a complete coincidence that I was returning to the same remote beach town I’d holidayed at several years before. But sometimes the universe works that way – and I’m glad it did! During my time on the Mozambican coastline, I had some of the best dives of my life. I was lucky enough to see whale sharks, manta rays, whales, turtles, hammerhead sharks, smalleye stingrays and lots more. Not to mention making life-long friends. In this context, I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that I try to visit at every opportunity.

Early start

In Tofo, my routine looks pretty different from my day to day in the UK. While I’m not normally a morning person, I tend to get up quite early in Tofo: sometimes it’s even been known that I’ve been up to see the sunrise. OK, I usually go back to bed after: 5am is way to early to start my day! Once up, I might potter around and prepare for the day or even go for a long beach walk. I might also nip down to the local market to pick up pao (bread), ovos (eggs), fruta (fruit) and, if they’re in season, abacates (avocado) for breakfast. Munching on some toast smothered in Black Cat (peanut butter), I might check my emails or do a bit of writing if I’m feeling inspired.

Coffee and cake

Depending on the day, how busy I am and what my friends are up to, I might wander down to one of the cafes in town to meet friends for a coffee. If we’re in the mood (we usually are), we might have a piece of cake too. Jenny’s coffee shop is known all across Tofo for its incredible cakes. If I bring my laptop with me, the sugar rush usually fuels a good bit of writing with regular breaks to chat to friends and passers-by as they pop in for their caffeine fix. Casa Na Praia is another favourite spot of mine because it’s right on the beach: perfectly located to watch the surfers catching waves. Sometimes, in whale season, you might even spot a whale breaching in the background.

Time in the water

If I have a free day – or sometimes before I start my day – I might head out on the boat for a dive or snorkel trip. Because the conditions tend to be better first thing, dive days usually have an early start. Rather than pottering, I’ll be up early and head straight to Peri Peri Divers to get all my kit ready. This spectacular stretch of coastline tends to have pretty rough waters with large swell so launching the boat is sometimes a bit of a rollercoaster. Once over the surf, the skipper will zoom through the waves to take us to our dive site.

Of course, you never know what we might see on the way. Perhaps you'll spot turtles, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays or even whales at the surface. If conditions are right, we might even be able to hop into the water for a quick swim with them. There are ocean safaris (usually in the afternoon) where we specifically look for marine animals that we can snorkel with.

World-class diving

The diving in Tofo is world-class. While conditions can be challenging (strong currents, low visibility), the marine life is mind blowing… and you never know what you might see that day. We’ve had to pause Rescue Diver training because a smalleye stingray – the world’s largest and rarest ray – soared right past us. I’ve been about to end a dive when we spotted a group of hammerheads circling us below: epic! And, of course, from June to September, our dives are often accompanied by the booming reverberations of whale song.

If we’re doing two dives in a day, we spend our surface interval on the boat. Expect tea, coffee, fruit or coconut snacks and Peri Peri’s famous egg sandwiches (hummus if you’re vegan). Despite this between-dive feast, we’re usually famished after the two dives. So, when we get back to shore, we’ll usually head straight to the market for lunch. Most often, we’ll chow down on a heaped plate of matapa (a dish made of cassava leaves common in Mozambique), rice and plenty of piri piri sauce (basically, crushed chillis).

Lazy afternoons

In the afternoons, if I’m not on an ocean safari or curled up writing, I might have a lazy afternoon. I could meet a friend for a long walk along the beautiful beach. Or, we might go tide pooling if the tide is out. A benefit of being friends with marine biologists is they’re great at spotting lots of cool critters. Plus, when we find them they know what they are and have heaps of fun facts about them.

Whale watching

In the winter (around June to September) Tofo has humpback whales passing through its waters with their calves. This is probably my favourite time of year. I never tire of seeing the spouts and breaches of the humpbacks on the horizon. It becomes second nature during a beach walk to be able to pause mid-sentence to admire a breaching whale.

Wrapping up the day

There’s as much variety in the evenings as there is with my other days. If I’m tired (or there’s a powercut), I could make a quick dinner and have an early night. Especially if I need to be ready for an early morning dive or beach walk the next day. Or, I might meet my friends in the market for a matapa and a beer or maybe a pizza. Depending on the day of the week, there might be a marine biologist giving a talk, a quiz, movie night, live music or dancing.  

Expect the unexpected

Of course, spending time in a remote African village means a spanner can be thrown in the works at any time. A storm cutting the power lines can mess up an intended day of writing (it always seems to happen when you forgot to charge your laptop overnight). Extreme conditions can cancel your day’s dive. Or a friend feeling poorly could mean you have to drop everything and jump on the chapa (local minibus) to pick up a malaria test from the pharmacy. So you really never know what the next day will bring. My time in Tofo has definitely taught me to expect the unexpected, always charge my devices when there is power and to go with the flow when things go wrong.

I hope to see you soon Mozambique!

Due to the pandemic, my plans to spend a few months in Tofo over the 2020 whale season were canned and it looks like I’ll be away for 2021 too. But I miss life in Mozambique sorely and hope to be back as soon as it’s possible and safe to do so. So fingers crossed for a swift return – and I hoped you enjoyed reading about my time in this magical place.

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