We visited to Tofo at the recommendation of several friends (Before we left we sent out an email to basically everyone we knew telling them about the trip. It felt slightly obnoxious but its purpose was twofold: we felt the need to make some kind of announcement letting people know that we would be out of the country for a year; and, we wanted advice from friends. People love to talk about their trips, so we ended up with dozens of pages of advice, places to stay, things to do, must-sees, and don’t-gos. Many of our best experiences so far have been at the recommendation of friends.). The Tofo beach is one of the best I’ve ever been on. Several miles long, lined with massive vegetated sand dunes and very few buildings. It has been the brunt of criticism among some travellers because it has become “overrun by South Africans,” but with barely more than a half a dozen places to stay in as many kilometers, it hardly feels too touristy. As you walk down the beach you might see a total of a dozen people, spread out over its entire length.
What I love most about it though are the waves. It’s been a long time since I was on a beach with proper waves. The water in Zanzibar was beautiful, but the surf just wasn’t that much fun to play in. In Tofo, the current is fast enough and the undertow strong enough to make a casual swim feel like a small adventure and a big workout.
Tofo is also known for its marine life: manta rays, eels, big game fish, dolphins, whale sharks, coral, sea turtles, and so on. Naturally we decided to do some scuba diving while we’re here.
So we woke up early and headed to the dive shop. The dive boat was a glorified dingy. It may have been 8.2 meters in length with a hard bottom, but the inflatable rubber sides made it a dingy in my book. We stood around the beached glorified dingy awaiting launch. Our super-chilled-out-beach-bum-dive-masters all apparently have drill sargent alter egos. They shouted commands, struggling to be heard over the crash of the ocean.
“Wait… Wait… OK PUSH! PushPushPushPushPush. HOLD IT.”
“Stay away from the back of the boat! AWAY!”
“Okay and one two EVERYBODY UP – NOW!NOW!NOW!NOW! SIT DOWN! I said SIT.”
We cast sideways glances at once another wondering if this was such a good idea and if we were going to live to tell about it. But the violent thrusts of the breaking waves prevented us from maintaining eye contact with anyone for long.
After a few minutes the glorified dingy made it out past the breakers to the open sea. It was no calmer. The rollers were massive, some of the biggest I’ve experienced. The dingy crested a wave and came crashing down into a valley between walls of water. I’m no good at estimating the size of waves, but these obscured our ability to see anything on any side – very nearby boats, the massive sand dunes that line the shore, everything. Your stomach fell into the valley at the same rate as the boat, but the rest of your body failed to follow suit. You felt your body lift off the rubber tubing and glanced down again to make sure your feet are still strapped in. Still safe. The process repeated itself every 3-8 seconds. For nearly 40 minutes.
Now, I’m no wimp when it comes to being out on the water. The first time I was on a boat I was about a month old (maybe younger? My parents will have to weigh in here). I’ve spent the various boat rides we’ve taken on this trip – ferries, dive boats, sail boats – whispering to Max under my breath, mocking the British girls on board who always seem to turn green and get sick within minutes of leaving shore. I never really understood sea sickness. But after 40 minutes on the glorified dingy I began to understand how someone could lose her lunch on a boat.
The dives were nice: beautiful corals and several fish species we don’t see over in the Atlantic and Caribbean. The highlight, however, was what we saw above water: two humpback whales, a mother and calf, frolicking in the waves about 100 meters out from the boat. They were majestic.