We had planned on going on a boat trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago since we set foot in Mozambique. It wasn’t doing our budget any favors, but we had to do it. We decided to snorkel and joined a group going to Magaruque Island for the afternoon. I should have gotten video footage of Andrew walking along the beach in his fins, with his snorkel mask down. He was hamming it up, much to my delight and probably much to the curiosity of others in our group who might not have realized he was being silly on purpose. We had to climb over a significant amount of coral before diving into the water. We’ve seen more fish elsewhere, and the current was quite strong, but it was a lovely afternoon snorkeling down the coast and then walking back on the white sand beach. We all relaxed in and out of the sun before lunch, took turns walking down the beach, and then climbed aboard the boat to make our way back to the mainland.
Sea-turtles are the most graceful yet most clumsy animal I’ve ever encountered. Walking down the steps with a bucket of seaweed into their natural aquarium is what I would imagine walking into a room of puppies with an armful of doggie-treats would be like. Somehow they just know you’re there and chances are you have something good for them to eat.
My favorite was the biggest one, a male, roughly around 30 years old would bump all of the other turtles out of the way and then use his front fins to push up out of the water. I’m not quite sure why he did this, because eating the seaweed in the air did not seem to work at all. It needed to be in the water so then he, like the rest, could scoop it up in their mouths. But I like to think he was always trying to give me a little bit of a hug, if he could, by pushing up on the rocks to greet me the way he did.
When I finally mustered up the courage to climb in the pool with the ten turtles, Andrew and I timed it out. He would fed them on one end of the ledge while I scampered in unnoticed at the other end and perched on a rock that was slowly becoming submerged with the tide coming in. When the turtles ate all of the seaweed Andrew had thrown in, they would circle back to me, as if I had some hidden. They are totally harmless, but I would get a little nervous every time they surrounded me. I thought I was being a bit of a baby until Andrew got in and would not move his hands away from his manhood. Like they were going to bite it off or something.
I became totally fascinated watching the turtles rise out of water for a breath of fresh air. It’s like they are all born being super old open mouth breathers or something because they sounded absolutely ridiculous breathing. I set out to capture it on camera, but I would always miss it. We took turns. Jumping in and swimming. feeding. taking pictures. And then we just hung out on the steps with them for awhile, like we had an aquarium all to ourselves. Eventually, Andrew dragged me away, promising me they’d be back after we went to the beach.
After we went swimming, we went to a restaurant on the beach. At the restaurant next-door, a Masai wedding began to take place. A Western woman was marrying a “warrior.” I put quotations around warrior, because some Canadian girls at the table next to us asked our waiter if he was really a Masai. They had heard that none of the Masai on the island were real Masai, that it was only for the tourists… Our waiter smiled, and didn’t comment. We all laughed. From what we could see, the wedding consisted of a few pictures and then some singing. When we all moved out onto the beach for dinner, the wedding party had disappeared.
Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about three hours from Hanoi, in Northern Vietnam. It’s gorgeous, and overrun with tour boats and tourists, but worth a visit. The Bay is full of limestone karsts (huge rock formations), caves, and fishermen villages and boats. As most tourists do, we booked a 2 day, 1 night boat trip through the Bay. Our boat held a group of 12 Vietnamese bankers on vacation, and an assortment of Westerners: an older German gentleman who currently resides in Chiang Mai, a Chilean couple in between a move from Spain back to Chile, two younger Brits traveling around, and Andrew and myself.
Many of the fisherman live in little fishing villages right on the water inside Halong Bay. Houses float together surrounded by water, not grass and fisherman boats are tethered to the wrap around decks with netted holes where the catch of the day swim in circles waiting to go to the market. I have to assume that the fishermen detest the big tour boats that pass through the Bay each day. If I remember correctly, our guide said there are around 400 boats operating on a daily basis in the Bay.
One of the highlights of the trip, aside from the beauty of the Bay of course, is the jumping off the boat that inevitably occurs. There’s something magical about lining up on the edge of the roof of a two or three story boat with friends you’ve just made that day and throwing yourself into the water below at the count of three. Don’t let these pictures fool you, Cristina and I jumped with all of the boys anxiously lined up. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t as clean as it was 4 years ago and after our first jump, quite a bit of debris (and oil or gasoline spots?) floated by. Hopefully some green initiatives will take place soon, or I hate to see what the Bay will look like in another four years if the tourism industry continues to expand.
When booking a boat for the bay, there are generally two options: the cheapest boat and the slightly more expensive boat. Backpackers encourage each other to go ahead and pay the extra ($10-$20) for the better boat. I have nothing to compare to, but apparently the cheap boats are really… CHEAP. So when we booked, we thought we were simply going to be on the slightly more expensive boat, we were a little surprised when this option landed us on “The Party Boat.” Our glass of wine and fruit party on the roof was no Cabo Spring Break Party, but it was nice, and it did involve some karaoke- which we dominated, as warned to our new friends, that after 5 and 8 years in Korea we would be awesome.
Here are some blurry photos of us in the dining room of the boat, just to give you an idea of what it looked like.