Think Big with an African Ocean Safari

  • Share
  • Read Later
Dylan Kotze

Larger than life Whale sharks are present year-round in the waters off Mozambique

You can't go to Africa and not do a safari. But if you're a little savanna-ed out, how about an ocean safari? The Big Four of the seas are dolphins, manta rays, whales and whale sharks, and you can see them all in southern Mozambique. The main draw is the whale shark, the planet's biggest fish and one of its rarest: only 1,000 remain, 300 of them off Mozambique. These 12-m beasts look like sharks, eat like whales and go as fast as an underwater bus.

First get yourself (by plane from Johannesburg or car from Maputo) to Inhambane, a sleepy town on the southern coast. Then head to Tofo Beach, where a number of operators offer $40, two-hour speedboat trips. Try to pick the right day (calm and sunny, the better to spot shapes below the surface) and time (midday, when the sun is brightest). Also consider a wetsuit: the sea spray can be cold.

You'll join the crew in pushing the boat off the beach. Then jump in and jam your feet into the ropes on the boat floor as the captain guns the outboards. Bottlenose dolphins are common — look for fins breaking the surface. Humpbacks also abound in season (August to November). Graceful mantas can be spotted by their white undersides as they turn backflips under the surface. But there is nothing, of course, to beat seeing a whale shark. These leviathans evolved more than 60 million years ago, and swimming with one is the marine equivalent of walking with a dinosaur. See for more.