African Adventures: Pomene, Mozambique

Rising before sunrise was possibly the very best decision I made during my cruise to Pomene, Mozambique from Durban, South Africa on the MSC Musica.

On the morning of our visit to shore I stepped on deck to be welcomed with the warm, humid air of the tropics. The dark sky obscured our location, but the stillness of the ship signalled that we had reached our destination and had dropped anchor off the coast of Mozambique

As I walked around the deck the sky changed through a myriad of pinks, revealing more of the scenery and our proximity to shore…. and our final destination, Pomene.

In the near distance, a coastline of yellow sand dunes topped with a froth of green stretched in both directions for thousands of kilometres.

Having been fortunate enough to visit Mozambique with MSC previously, I had an idea of what to expect…. Powder soft sand, temperate water and tropical air….

My first introduction to the beauty of Mozambique had been a 2 day visit to 2 islands off the coast of Maputo – Portuguese Island and Inhaca Island.

This visit would be my first to the mainland of Mozambique. And my mom’s very first visit to anywhere like this!

Our plan to rise early was two-fold – I wanted to capture the beauty of a sunrise at sea, but I also wanted to ensure we were some of the first ashore at Pomene and so we headed to the breakfast buffet as soon as it opened at 6am and made sure we collected our Tender tickets as soon as the counters opened ensuring we got one of the rare tickets marked “1” which would allow us to disembark in the first few groups.

Disembarking over 3 000 people into a boat that only seats approx 80 can obviously take quite some time, even if there are 8 boats, so my advice is to get to the Tender station as early as possible. I didn’t want miss a moment of my day in paradise.

As soon as the transfers started and our Tender ticket number was called we grabbed our day packs and headed down into the bowels of the ship, winding our way through security until finally we found ourselves hopping off the side of the ship and into the awaiting transfer boat.

Fifteen minutes of exhilaration followed as we bounced and splashed our way to shore – a carnival ride at sea!

Finally we were within sight of the shore where we could fully appreciate the unique scenery of this secluded spot… Pomene Bay is an unspoilt area found roughly 600 km north of Maputo and 170 km south of Vilanculos. Pomene Nature Reserve is a protected marine area that has preserved its authentic and wild beauty thanks to its remote location.

Pomene offers an exclusive holiday resort experience for passengers of MSC. Previously known as Pomene Lodge, MSC have created an island resort for their cruising guests

We arrived and stepped ashore to be welcomed by the MSC entertainement team. Walking along a raised boardwalk we found ourselves stepping into paradise…. towering palm trees, decked areas with loungers, a vibrant local market, beautiful beach with warm Indian Ocean water and a pristine natural estuary to explore.

Our first destination was the beach… We arrived early but already the sand was scorching and the sun blazing. (Closed shoes are recommended as slip slops are a hassle to walk on soft, hot sand!) We hadn’t pre-booked an umbrella, but on arrival realised that this would be essential for us to fully enjoy the beach experience as there was no shade at all and it was set to be a very hot day.

After joining the queue to secure one of the few umbrellas that had not yet been booked, we walked down the beach to escape the crowds and found a quieter area where we could set ourselves up to enjoy the view of an endless white sandy beach, leaving the busy beach behind us.

As Capetonians, our first priority was a swim in WARM water. What bliss! Warm sea water is a complete novelty for us and we loved floating over the waves (being mindful to stay between the lifesaver flags as we didn’t know the currents!) I’m so grateful we chose to do this first and I recommend a swim as your first port of call when arriving in Pomene as it’s not easy to predict when the tides will change or the wind will pick up.

After our swim we went for a looooong walk along the endless beach, to get a closer view of the MSC Musica from the shore, but also to enjoy the magical stretch of untouched sand.

When the sun got too much we retreated under our umbrella and enjoyed people watching… one of my happiest memories of Pomene (and cruising with MSC in general) was the amazing ambience created when you put a group of South Africans together. They know how to have a good time, and often in ways that surprise you! I enjoyed being a spectator at a game of cricket, started by a group of burly Afrikaans “boere” who, when asked, were joined by a slightly-built Zulu guy – all on his own and speaking no Afrikaans. It was a pretty ideal version of South Africa in a game of beach cricket…. and this amazing vibe continued wherever you walked on Pomene.

Groups of girlfriends lounged around under the shade of the palm trees while families frolicked in the pool. Honeymoon couples went quad-biking or on mangrove adventures alongside singletons enjoying a day of exploring. Moms and daughters (us) joined couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries for lunch.

It was paradise… and not just the fine white sand beaches and thatched umbrellas

No, mostly because of the incredible people who proved that when the going gets good we actually do all get along! All you need is some warm, tropical weather and a party atmosphere (a couple of cocktails can’t hurt either!)

After our walk along the beach and a spot of sun-tanning, we headed for the large pool area where we enjoyed the BBQ lunch buffet on the deck overlooking the estuary and the mangroves beyond.

For me, visiting new places is always about meeting the people… and I wasn’t sure I’d get the opportunity to do that at Pomene. My heart lifted when I noticed the brightly coloured sarongs swaying in the breeze and stalls selling all manner of souvenirs… the local market!

I LOVED visiting the vibrant stalls and chatting to the local vendors selling coconuts, wooden carvings, clothing and the ingredients to make a local potent potion of rum and raspberry!

This was by far my favourite experience in Pomene and mingling amongst the stalls provided me with plenty of photo opportunities…

Not being sure if we would be able to disembark at Pomene on the day of our arrival (this can often be called off due to the tides and currents), we didn’t pre-book any excursions. But once the heat of the day wore on and we decided we didn’t want to burn to a crisp on the beach, we enquired at the Excursion Desk on Pomene to find out if there was any last minute outings to take advantage of.

Day excursions at Pomene range from snorkeling to a guided mangrove tour, an ocean safari, or a step back in time to visit some of the island’s ruins.

We had sadly just missed the last option we were keen on…the mangrove tour, but as we weren’t in a hurry to head back to the beach we resolved to spend a little bit of time chatting to fellow passengers in the quiet shade of the Excursion hut.

Waiting around meant we found ourselves in the right place to take advantage of an unexpected turn of events… a mess-up for another passenger meant a last-minute miracle for us!

Within a few minutes cash had exchanged hands and we were on our way to explore the ruins of the Old Pomene Hotel via way of a huge overlanding Unimog that went bush-wacking through the bush  – quite literally – no windows meant that you had to make sure you didn’t get taken out by a low hanging branch thwacking you in the face!!

As we bumbled through the bush we were able to see a few signs of Mozambican village life (even Pomene City!) before arriving at the ruins of what was once a beautiful hotel in a picturesque location.

On arrival it’s not hard to see why a hotel once existed here… incredible panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, Ponta da Barra Falsa and Pomene Bay, sweeping sandy beaches and towering palm trees make for an isolated idyll.

The Pomene Hotel was built in 1964 after the Portuguese ship, Berea, became shipwrecked on Pomene’s pristine beach and a road was built in order to rescue its cargo.

Sadly the hotel was only operational for six short years, as it was forcibly abandoned in 1974 during the war for independence against the Portuguese colonial government. During the 20-year civil war the area came under the control of guerrilla fighters and the once majestic hotel became a Renamo stronghold… since then nature has clawed back control of what was once her playground.

We ambled through the graffiti’ed walls, clambering over broken roof tiles and demolished walls, imaging the holidaymakers who once made incredible memories here.

Down on the beach our beautiful impression was somewhat tainted, not only was the Pomene Hotel in ruins, but the beach was too… littered with hundreds of thousands of man-made plastic debris.

A sad sight and a sobering reminder that even paradise has problems….

Here, thousands of kms from the nearest city, the debris of our modern life has washed ashore, polluting a pristine stretch of beach that should remain untouched and perfect… waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by explorers. But there was no swimming for us in this little cove. Sadly the water was full of floating flotsam

And this is just one beach, imagine the many other uninhabited stretches of coastline that are now no longer paradise…

Despite this rather stark reminder of the current state of our world, I was still entirely grateful for our experience of this excursion.

I caught a glimpse of local life… although I would have loved more!

Palm tree huts, local children playing with homemade toys, fishing nets hung out to dry, moms preparing their evening meal on an open fire. This is a corner of Mozambique I would otherwise never have discovered and our brief afternoon amid the haunting ruins of this once magnificent hotel will stay with me for a long time to come.

I enjoyed time adventuring with my mom and meeting other holidaymakers. And I was able to see first hand why plastic is the scourge of our modern age…

Even though this post is actually about a beautiful tropical destination, it’s still a perfect place to raise awareness about the plastic problem. Because every single choice we make to change is essential. And we ALL need to change!

Having said that we wanted to make the most of our day at Pomene, we pulled up at the embarkation point just in time to catch the VERY LAST shuttle boat back to the MSC Musica. We literally squeezed every last minute out of the day and arrived back at the ship sandy, salty, exhilarated and exhausted!

It was an incredible day filled with relaxing and exploring. Our day at Pomene was the perfect mix of beach, culture and adventure and I had the very best partner to enjoy it with: My mom.

It was so incredible to see her enjoy this beautiful place. Her visit to Pomene in Mozambique was her very first visit to the country, her first visit to another African country! It was a treat to see her soak in everything it had to offer: warm tropical water, endless sandy beaches, vibrant local markets, historical hotel ruins and 4×4 fun.

A visit to Pomene was a step into another world from her life in Cape Town and I’m so pleased she got to expand her mind with this experience. In fact she came home from her trip of firsts filled with a renewed energy and a completely different mindset.

I don’t think she’s stopped “cruising” since!

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 7 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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