Today we decided to go to the island and explore. We could see sand dunes from the boat and that seemed like a good adventure to us, but we had no idea all the amazing things we would end up seeing.
First off, I don’t know how I can even begin to share with you how incredible this island was without showing you my pictures. I have over 70 pictures from today and that’s after going through them and eliminating the crappy ones.
The tides here are extreme. We went in at low tide thinking it would make it easier for us, but instead it made things more of a challenge because our dinghy couldn’t go all the way in and we couldn’t even drag it all the way in. We had to leave it about 400 yards out in the bay and we set the anchor so when the tide came back in it wouldn’t float out to sea.
Of course when you have negatives you also have positives. There was so much to see because of the low tide. All the kids were out foraging in the tidal area and we saw a flock of flamingos in flight. As we were leaving our dinghy a young man approached us and asked if we would be interested in taking a tour of the island and if so he could help facilitate that among other things. His name was Thomas, and he turned out to be a wonderful guy and a great guide. His English was quite good as well. We explained to him that we didn’t bring any money to pay him for his services and he told us not to worry about it and to just share with other boaters his name and that would be payment enough. He also asked a friend of his to watch our dinghy and to bring it in when the tide came in so we didn’t have to swim to our boat.
Thomas took us to the dunes but on the way he told us a lot about the island. It had 3800 inhabitants, a number that surprised us. He walked us through a wash area in the middle of the island that during high tide is completely flooded. We walked through the area in our bare feet even though it looked like it might be hard, but everything was soft to walk on. We did have to cross a small river to get through it all. Then we walked through an area with a few houses to get to the dunes. The dunes were quite large and the sand was very hot. There were lots of different kinds of bushes, weeds, flowers and plants that survived in and out of sea water. There was a plant he called monkey fruit that apparently was the only edible fruit tree on the island. There were shells everywhere but no ripe fruit. And there were monkeys on the island, but we didn’t see any of them. He told us they were often hard to find.
After we walked back from the dunes, we found our dinghy near the shore as the tide had risen at least a meter. And Thomas said he could get us some fruit and vegetables if we gave him a list. We took him back to the boat, made him a list, and paid him some money for taking us on the tour. We gave him a combination of euros and US dollars, although he also was willing to accept rand. He was very gracious when we paid him. We also gave him a couple of books so he could work more on his English. He’s going to come back in the morning with our provisions and then in the early afternoon we’ll be heading off again as we appear to have a weather window we can use.
I highly recommend anybody visiting this island if you’re coming through. There’s even a resort on the island but we avoided it as we were told they don’t really like cruisers over there, especially ones that haven’t checked into the country, which most cruisers don’t do as there are challenges with the Mozambique officials confiscating passports. Most of the cruisers go from Madagascar, skip Mozambique, other than anchoring in her islands on the way south, and not check in until they get to South Africa.
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