ZAVORA - with Marine Action Research
Where do I begin . . . . . .
We got to Mozambique after the journey from Hoedspruit, then back to Joberg, to catch a flight to Maputo, which is a main city in Mozambique. We decided to plan to fly, as we had heard the border crossings could be kind of crazy into Mozambique.
Arriving into Maputo, we got there at night time, and arranged a shuttle from the airport to our overnight hotel, which to our shock was approximately $300 US a night, this might have been the most expensive hotel room we had ever paid for, but we were glad to be inside in Maputo, at night time. The following day we got up, and jumped on our shuttle up to Zavora, we had arranged to be on the Tours2Moz shuttle, where we met some lovely people who were both travelling through and locals. We met on that shuttle, a guy called Benson, who ended up being a great friend of ours, and was also heading up to Zavora.
I had been so excited to get to this place, after speaking with Nakia ( founder of Marine Action Research ) for some months, I was so excited to get up there, see some marine life and help out with the amazing work they were doing.
We arrived in Zavora, later that day, I was so happy to find out it was super tropical, and balmy, I had been craving some warmer weather. We made our way to Zavora Marine Lab, where Nakia and her partner Mornay, run Marine Action Research.
The Marine Lab was a really earthy, cool, and remote little homestead, 800m from the beach and surrounded by locals and many coconut tree's. The bathroom run off solar, and the walls of the buildings are made of recycled concrete and old glass bottles. Nakia showed us around, Ty and I had our own little room upstairs of the intern house, next to Bensons room, and the other interns there at the time, Pily, from Mexico, and Sarah, from China.
I forgot to mention, when I first started to chat to Nakia, when we were planning all of this, I was t find our her pup was called Balu, it was such a coincidence. As many of you know, Balu was our pup, that Ty and I rescued, a beautiful collie mix who meant the world to us, who we lost in 2016 to 1080 poison, a devastating time. We named Balu Blue Foundation after him, and we were so excited to learn of another Balu, who's parents ( Nakia and Mornay ) were so similar to us, and doing amazing things for marine life in Mozambique.
Balu was also accompanied by a stray dog they had taken in called Raksha, she was so beautiful, and I will tell you more about her later on. . . . . .
I flew my drone over the beautiful place we were going to be spending the next three weeks . . . . . . .
Everyday, was a dive day, we would get up, and meet down at Zavora Lodge, for an 8am start. Some days we did two dives, and other days we did just one, depending on the conditions and how many people there were. The first few dives we did, Nakia went over the different research they were doing, and the different data they collected on each dive. Zavora Marine Lab had been running for a a few years, and so they had an awesome data base already happening. I was excited to learn about the Manta ID Project, Nudibranch Surveys, Humpback Whale Monitoring, Pelagic Fish surveys, and much more.
Each of us took turns on data collection, a lot of the dives were to collect data on Manta Rays, as it was the season for them. A specific dive site called Witches Hat, was the hot spot where we would see Manta Rays, the experiences we had everyday we dived there, were so beautiful and breath-taking. I have swam with Manta's a lot in the past, but never scuba dived with them before. They are such curious animals, and so intelligent, its like they always want to connect with you, coming so close to you, to check you out, yet always so elegant and streamlined. Some of the other sites we went to were deeper, around 30m, and we would see a vast difference in the substrates and marine creatures. We came across a dusky whaler shark on one of our first dives, on descent I was turned around and he was like " HEY " haha.
The deep dives were the clearest while I was in Zavora, so many fish, a few turtles, and the whales, they would sing so loud every time, that a sound I will never get sick of. . . . . . .
In between our dives, we also did some land-based research at the Whale Watching Station up the dunes at Zavora Beach, there was this cute little hut, perfect for escaping the sun. Here we would rotate scanning for whales and recording data such as behaviour, time, direction travelling, how many in a group, mum and calf, no calf, escort males, all that kind of important stuff to gather data on what exactly they were doing here at Zavora. The whale action was endless really, Humpback Whales are very active when it comes to breaching and pec slapping, it was great to watch, and to be a part of such a wonderful project. Joining us on these whale watching stints was Raksha, the " Mozambique Special " that Nakia and Mornay had taken in as a stray. She had puppies not long ago, and since then Marine Action Research was her home now, and Balu her best friend. I developed a big spot in my heart for Raksha over the time I spent at Zavora, we bonded, and she followed me everywhere. She is such a beautiful dog, and it made me so happy that she had found a home there. It was a really sad day for me when I had to leave her, she reminded me of my childhood dog Kita, she slept upstairs in the intern house with us every night, and always barked at anything she thought might be a threat. Love you Raksha. . . . . . . .
We had a very interesting experience one night where I woke up to the sound of a puppy crying, it sounded really distressed, and scared. I could not get to sleep, so I got up, and I was happy to see Pily was also up, we followed the puppy noises all the way outside, and behind the toilet block we found the smallest, cutest most vulnerable little darling I have ever seen.
We had no idea where he had come from, but he was scared to death, and so I picked him up, and took him into our house and into our room. I woke Ty up, and I think he was in some disbelief what was going on, and probably thinking " oh god Brinkley has rescued another animal " haha.
He slept in my room on a little bed I made for him, and in the morning I introduced him to the rest of the Marine Action Research crew, we named him the little Mowgli, and as Benson would say " if you never howl, you never find your pack ". Mowgli lived with us until Nakia and Mornay found him a lovely little home just down the road. Mowgli will always be a special little pup in my heart.
Zavora beach, was one of the most perfect places to fly my beloved GoPro Karma drone. The aerial views around there were simply incredible, the contrasts of the reef, the beach, the rockpool, the waves, it was all amazing. One of the most awesome things was being able to see the Humpback Whales from above, in Mozambique, there are no regulations to state that you cannot fly over whales, and although I kept my distance to ensure I didn't bother them, I managed to capture some beautiful shots of some playful mother and calf pairs.
One of the coolest things that I have ever done, was flying it at Zavora Beach, where the local kids had never seen a drone before, they at first were completely in awe and a bit scared, then I showed them the screen and they could see themselves and it was like all the Christmas's had come at once. It was really a humbling experience to see such excitement in their eyes, we often take for granted the way we get to travel, and the things we classify as a norm. These kids were stoked, they lived everyday playing on the beach, in the shallows and enjoying their life in Mozambique, simple, and the simple things was their happiness. Their smiles were infectious.
We had some fun waves here too, the reef set-up certainly had potential to be epic, although we didn't score unreal waves, we weren't there to chase surf, but were stoked to get a few fun beachies in between the dives and marine research.
When our time in Zavora came to an end, we were sad to leave, our last few nights were going to be spent up in Tofu, and Barra, for a fun last night with all the amazing people we had met. We were so stoked to meet everyone there, Pily, Sarah, Thomas, Georgia, Benson, and of course, Nakia and Mornay.
Sometimes in life you meet people and you know that they will be in your life for a long time, I do feel as though the world brings people together, and somehow we fall into places with like-minded people who leave a beautiful footprint in our memories of travel. I saw a lot of myself in Nakia, she is a beautiful, driven, young, animal lover who is working hard towards a life to help to conserve our planet, and its wildlife. Meeting people like Nakia makes me feel as though we are never alone in our goals in life, and no matter how long it takes, we will always head down the path where our passions lie.
Cant say thank you enough to Mornay and Nakia at Marine Action Research for hosting us, and showing us this amazing piece of the world.
If you are interested in gaining experience in Marine Biology, in the field, diving, learning about an amazing unique environment, and also many other aspects of their research, I cannot recommend Marine Action Research enough, you can read more about their internships here
Other references from this blog
Sunglasses - Dragon Alliance
Bags, Hammocks, and Travel gear - Sea to Summit Gear
Freediving Fins - Spierre Custom Blades
Wetsuits - Patagonia Australia