Ocean Exploration in Sleepy Ponta Do Ouro
by Mark Hartley
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Ponta do Ouro is an idyllic, coastal fishing village on the southern tip of Mozambique. It’s a perfect, rustic coastal resort featuring pristine white beaches that stretch for miles in either direction. Although not technically a border town, it is essentially on the border with South Africa, only a few kilometers from the Kosi Bay border post.
The town is a popular scuba diving, deep sea fishing and ocean sports destination for Mozambiquans and South Africans, resulting in the South African Rand being commonly accepted currency and English being widely-spoken. Local Mozambiquens largely speak Portuguese amongst themselves but are also fluent in English. The local currency is the Metical and the U.S dollar is also widely accepted. Prices are generally very affordable, with accommodation available from as little as ZAR 100 ($7) a night. A local beer in a bar will cost around ZAR 20 ($1.25) and meals range from ZAR 50 – 200 ($3 – 13).
Due to its growing popularity as a tourist destination, construction has recently begun on a tar road into Ponta do Ouro. Currently, it is still only accessible by 4×4 vehicle, which has helped to maintain its rural feel and avoid over-tourism. Local businesses run 4×4 transfer services to the South African border where visiting tourists can leave their cars parked.
While the town center itself is very small and facilities are limited, the beachfront boasts a number of comfortable bars and restaurants. These are largely based around the central diving center, with a few stretching further down the beach. The town only has one bank with two ATM machines which often get very busy so it’s a good idea to bring sufficient cash. Not all shops and restaurants in the town accept credit or debit cards.
A few kilometers north of Ponta do Ouro is the even more rustic village of Ponta Malongane, accessible only by 4×4 along a very sandy beach road. While Malongane is even more basic then Ponta, it has an excellent beachfront campsite that serves Ponta Malongane Dive Camp, a popular diving, and watersports center.
I cycled to Ponta do Ouro from the South African border post at Komatipoort, stopping in Maputo for lunch and then spending a night in the small southern town of Bella Vista. The new road connecting Maputo to the South Africa border near Ponta Do Oura is almost been entirely completed, making it a very pleasant ride. I only had to push my bicycle through sand for the last few kilometers into Ponta do Ouro, where I stopped for a well-deserved beer with some locals at a small roadside stall.
I spent my first four days in Ponta Molongane at the beautiful beachfront campsite and dive center, where I spent my time snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and having sundowners on the deck. While the local campsite has a decent enough restaurant, no trip to Malongane is complete without a visit to Paulo’s tavern. This tiny wooden shack is run by the wonderful Paulo himself, who will cook you up freshly caught seafood and prawns and provide you with ice cold beer or the local favorite Tipo Tinto rum and raspberry (R&R) to wash it down with. Also worth visiting in Molongane is Sunset Shack for sundowners and Snack Crab Bar which has a nice outdoor area and some of the only wifi in town.
Ponta Do Ouro
Back in Ponta do Ouro I stayed in a small but very comfortable, self-catered room on the beach front for one night. Although the ablutions are separate, rooms feature a full kitchen and cost only ZAR 300 a night ($20). These can be booked through the nearby Kaya Kweru resort, which features slightly more expensive hotel rooms and a swimming pool on site. For something a bit more upmarket, the Mar e Sol complex is also on the beachfront nearby and features luxury self-catered apartments.
Budget travelers will enjoy the tented camp at Ponta Beach Camps, which offers basic accommodation in army-style tents for ZAR 100 a night ($7). These tents have simple beds and an electric light but no other facilities inside. A shared kitchen with decent cooking facilities is provided and the dive center features a full bar and restaurant, although unfortunately no wifi. Camping is also available for ZAR 70 a night. The nearby Devocean Resorts offers slightly more luxury beachside tented camping with electricity points, wifi, and more furniture.
On my last two nights, I joined friends in a shared house behind the campsite, boasting five private rooms for ZAR 200 each and a shared kitchen and living room. This is an excellent choice for a large group of people traveling together. These houses often don’t official names though and prices can simply be agreed with the owner.
Diving and deep-sea fishing in Ponta Do Ouro is very affordable and can be arranged through several local operations, including Gozo Azul, Back to Basics and Scuba Adventures. Booking ahead is required and for best availability and price it is recommended to avoid the high season of December to February. There are also several dedicated dolphin and whale watching centers including Dolphin Encounters Research Center and The Whaler.
Nightlife and Restaurants
Since the majority of dive excursions leave early in the morning, the nightlife in Ponta Do Ouro is limited. However, most dive centers like Gozo Azul have bars that often get lively in the evenings. On weekends, club Fernandos, located inland amongst the local market, that can be heard playing dance music into the early hours.
For excellent prawns and seafood check out the Shipwreck Restaurant at Coco Rico Resort, which has been touted as one of Ponta Do Ouro’s best-kept secrets. They also do a range of European and Portuguese food. Mango Tropical Cafe is another notable spot, located inland from the beach on a rooftop overlooking the Ponto Do Ouro bay. Enjoy the local R&R cocktails with some light snacks or something for their extensive vegetarian-friendly menu.