Nova Mombane, Ilha Bartholomeau Dias, Ponta Macovane, Inhassoro and the Bazaruto Archipelago.
There are a few options open to kayakers in this region, depending on your skill level, fitness and time available.
For the less experienced paddlers and those not confident about paddling through waves and in the open ocean.
This route involves either paddling down and out to Ilha Bartholomeau Dias and then back up the same way to Nova Mombane, or continuing down the coast to Inhassoro.
From Nova Mombane there is a short 6km gravel track that takes you to a launching site at the head of one of the mangrove channels. It is possible to launch a small boat here too (If you want to have a support boat with you). You will need to organize a guide in Mombane who can guide you down the mangrove channels and out into the lagoon behind Ilha Bartholomeau Dias. There are many beautiful places to camp on white beaches where the mangroves give way to the sea.
The route through the mangroves to the sea is about 8km. Ilha Bartholomeau Dias is visible from here and lies roughly 8km out across the lagoon in a SE direction. There are many sandbanks exposed in the lagoon at low tide, and some casuarina trees in the middle of the island. Some local fishermen have shacks near here and a well (2m hole in the ground) where perfectly good fresh water can be obtained. The island is unspoilt and makes for a picture-perfect tropical island camping experience. There are some small waves on the eastern side of the island to play in, and just to the south of the island are some coral reefs that might be fun to explore.
From Ilha Bartholomeau Dias one can paddle south to Ponta Juma, where the Rio Govuro exits into the sea. It creates a large estuary that can be explored, but beware of the strong tidal currents running near the mouth! From here it is another 35km down the coast to Inhassoro. The sea is generally calm along here as it has the protection of Bazaruto Island. A long red sand cliff rises up off the beach for most of the way down to Inhassoro. One can camp anywhere along this beach and there are few locals. Inhassoro is a small village that sees a lot of angler tourists visiting it due to its proximity to excellent reefs and fishing grounds, and its suitable launching areas. It has a good campsite and some places to stay, as well as some well stocked shops. It makes an excellent place for the driver of the pick-up car to relax and wait for the kayakers to arrive. You can either end the trip here or continue down along the coastline for another 50km to Vilanculos.
At the mouth one may have to push out through some surf to gain the open ocean and then head south for about 7km before entering the same lagoon talked about in the route for Option 1. From here, the route to follow would be exactly the same as that described in Option 1.
This is for the more experienced paddler who can handle paddling out through sizable surf and has a grade 5 grading.
Instead of taking the 6km gravel track from Nova Mombane to the head of the mangrove channel that leads of the lagoon, this route follows the Rio Save to the ocean and then follows the coastline south until one reaches the safety of the lagoon. Just downstream from Nova Mombane, the Rio Save splits into two streams that exit into the sea in two completely different places. The split is not very obvious at all as 99% of the water flows down the main channel that veers northwards. It is recommended that paddlers take the southern stream as it cuts out a huge distance. The entrance to this stream is roughly 1.5km east (downstream) of Nova Mombane and is the first small channel on the right that breaks away from the main river after leaving Nova Mombane. It starts off being barely wide enough and deep enough to paddle down but soon develops into a major river course that winds its way eastward towards the sea. The bird life seen along the river is incredible.
- Getting lost in the Mangrove channels is a very real possibility and has been done before, so having a local guide to paddle with you is highly recommended;
- Malaria is present in this area and prophylaxis should be taken;
- The area is very remote and chances of getting rescued out there are very slight. The resorts on Bazaruto Island might be able to assist you if you can obtain telecommunication with them. Bazaruto is only about 60km south east of Ilha Bartholomeau Dias;
- Swells around the southern mouth of the Rio Save can be big, and there are often strong currents around Ilha Bartholomeau Dias; and
- The locals in this area are extremely friendly but care should still be taken with your possessions.
Nova Mombane is situated on the pristine Rio Save, which at this point is about 100m wide and flows like this all the way to the sea some 12km downstream. The water birdlife is phenomenal and all the local fishermen transport goods and fish up and down the river in dugouts.
The Rio Save is the dividing line between two very different marine habitats. In the north (for approximately 1000km until one reaches Ilha de Mozambique), the sea is a muddy brown colour where large prawns thrive and the coast consists of sand and large mangrove swamps. In the south, the water is crystal clear and beautiful coral reefs thrive – along with all the big game fish found in these conditions. Inland there are still extensive mangrove systems with many channels to get lost in.
Ilha Bartholomeau Dias is a sand island situated about 8km offshore. It is covered with some casuarina trees and low dune scrub. On the inside of the island is a huge turquoise lagoon area with some deep channels that get progressively shallower towards the mainland. The mainland coastline has huge mangrove swamps and beautiful long beaches. South of Ilha Bartholomeau Dias one rejoins the mainland – and here a red clay cliff rises directly above the beach and stretches all the way to Inhassoro.
The British Admiralty Chart BA2932 covers the region from Sao Sebastian (south of Bazaruto) to Beira (1:300 000) and shows the paddling region sufficiently. This Chart can be obtained from Chart World in Cape Town. The Portuguese Chart of the same region can be obtained from the Port Capitan in Maputo at the Docks (you will probably have to go in and see the Port Capitan to obtain these). They are a lot cheaper than the British Admiralty version.
Note: The shape and position of Bartholomeau Dias Island has changed somewhat to that recorded in the Portuguese Map, 1984.