All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.
Our first vacation experience on African soil was both memorable and enlightening. Mozambique is a country that is still in the early redevelopment stages in terms of infrastructure and economy but the country and its people have a timeless beauty that made the 5 days/4 nights we spent on Benguerra Island enjoyable and rewarding.
First a few facts & figures:
- Benguerra Island is inhabited by ~500 people with fishing being the primary way of life. As a carryover from colonial rule and similar to mainland Mozambique, the local people speak a dialect of Portuguese.
- Marlin Lodge was built by locals using native materials and opened in 1997. Each of the builders received a certificate of completion following their training which enabled them to ply their new trades in other developments.
- The lodge consists of 20 private, beachfront chalets built of wood with thatch roofs and gets its power from a generator that runs every hour of every day.
- The lodge employees a staff of 120 (20 management, 100 workers). The workers are predominantly from Vilanculos and Benguerra Island, the management from South Africa. Everyone is extremely friendly.
- Each day’s stay at the lodge includes all 3 meals served in the lodge’s dining area during fixed periods: Breakfast from 7-10AM, lunch from 1-3PM and dinner at 7:30PM. Each server is assigned to a group/chalet for all their meals. Our server was Filimon who is from Vilanculos and was meticulous and thorough whether serving scrambled eggs or lobster.
- The currency of Mozambique is the meticais (MEH-ta-cahs) currently with M23,000 equal to $6.30. The severely lopsided exchange rate is due to the extreme inflation in the country during the 1980s as part of the 15-year civil war which began in 1977 decimating the country and its economy. U.S. dollars and South African rand are the preferred currencies of Mozambique and the locals try convert their meticais to either of these whenever presented the opportunity (e.g., change is always given in meticais even when one pays in dollars).
- There are a few creature comforts at the lodge including clean water from the tap, air conditioning in each chalet and a fully-stocked bar near the dining area. However, as to be expected from island life in a relatively poor country (from 1988 to 1990 the World Bank listed Mozambique as the world’s poorest country), there are even more sacrifices one must be prepared to make to adjust to daily life here including no TVs, no telephones, no snacks, no stores, very little ice and minimal refrigeration. However, the absence of most these niceties afforded us ample much-needed opportunities to rest and relax.
Our initial 48 hours at Marlin Lodge were dedicated to catching up on sleep and relaxation, in general, until we got our bearings. The temperature was in the upper 80s during the day with very high humidity in the morning and evening whenever the sun wasn’t high in the sky.
On day three we took a tour of the island offered by Marlin Lodge. Our tour was guided by Pedro who is from Vilanculos and was very amicable and knowledgeable. With fishing being the primary industry on the island, the land is pretty barren dotted by the occasional hut. The islanders make extensive use of the native fruit and nut trees to round out their diets and gather drinking water from wells. We drove by a couple scenic lakes which are apparently inhabited by crocodiles and a huge sand dune (which we climbed) on the north side of the island.
Day 4 was our most eventful day. We snorkled in Two-Mile Reef out in the Indian ocean (there was no land in sight!) We also had an authentic “bush bath” where the Marlin Lodge staff setup an elaborate miniature outdoor bathing oasis on the deck of our chalet using native foliage and buckets. It was a very pleasant experience once we got over the potential for embarassment sitting naked in a bubble bath in a bucket about 20 yards from a public beach shielded by tall leaves tied together to form walls. Day 4 was also laundry day so we gathered all our garments, itemized them on the provided laundry list and calculated the load of laundry was going to cost us $32 and didn’t include any dry cleaning! Apparently, getting your clothes cleaned on this island is a luxury. Since we only brought enough clothes for 4 days (see the earlier entry about our packing woes) there was little we could do.
We departed Marlin Lodge just before 11AM on Thursday, December 9. Our flight departed Vilanculos for Nelspruit, South Africa at 1:15PM. We were on our way to the Leopard Hills Lodge in the South Africa Sabi Sand Game Reserve aboard a twin-engine prop plane with just the two of us and the pilot.