Ponta Do Ouro
The ‘point of gold’ (actually marked on some maps as ‘Monte d’Ouro’) which guided sailors for centuries, marks an unspoilt Mozambican beach that is easily accessible from South Africa and busy during the school holidays. High on densely forested dunes, the lighthouse overlooks the small curved bay where vehicles are only permitted to launch boats on a small section of the sand. The motel, chalets and camp sites are tucked under shady trees, and a constant sea breeze helps to keep the malaria-carrying mosquitoes at bay. Walk south around the point, a short distance down the beach to a tatty beacon, and stand with one foot in South Africa and the other in Mozambique.
Another of the Mozambique coast’s natural geographical beacons for enthusiastic divers, Ponta Malongane now marks the position of rich coral reefs. Here a small unprotected bay nurtures a coral wonderland.
On the northern part of the splendid Malongane reef, at a depth of 24m (79ft), plates of hard coral hide nocturnal soldiers (Cheimerius nufar), and clownfish flirt with the poisonous tentacles of the anemones which provide them with protection. Saddleback wrasse (Bodianus bilunulatus) may be seen foraging for sea urchins and crabs, which they crush using grinding plates located at the back of their mouth.
A short distance up the coast from Ponta Malongane, Ponta Mamóli is a quieter, more intimate holiday spot. Overlooking one of the finest beaches in southern Africa, Ponta Mamóli Lodge (no camping) is tucked behind casuarina trees and offers a fine restaurant and large pool. Horse trails along beaches or into the trackless interior are on offer. This is the last stop before the Maputo Elephant Reserve and you will have to be fully self-sufficient if you intend to camp at Ponta Milibangalala. There are a couple of small stores at Ponta do Ouro village that sell basic provisions, but it is wise to carry a good supply of food, as places to the north of Mamóli are very isolated.
Within Ponta do Ouro Bay are five main dive sites from which to choose. Though corals are limited by the shallow depth (12–18m; 40–60ft) and the ocean surges, they do support a fantastic selection of fish life. Moray eels peer menacingly from holes, cowries display their colourful mantles, and the bright red tentacles of sea anemones ripple in the current.