Scuba diving with Dugong on safari in Mozambique

Desperately Seeking Dugong On The Bazaruto Archipelago

The Bazaruto Archipelago, off the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique, is a picture-perfect desert island haven where stress is washed away by lazy waves, and only the reef fish are frenetic. It’s one of the last strongholds of the Bazaruto dugong; seeing one will be a highlight of your luxury island escape, and there are many ways you can try find them.

Scuba diving off the reef shelf

We rolled backwards off the side of the dive boat and followed the divemaster down towards the reef shelf, where small, brightly-coloured fish darted backwards and forwards among the corals. A moray eel poked its head out of a crevice, and a hawksbill turtle swam towards us to get a closer look. We were probably too far out to spot dugong, but we couldn’t help keeping an eye out – the shadow of our boat on the seafloor provided a false alarm.

Picnicking on a sandbar

The crew promised to be back before the tide subsumed our private but transient island, and left us marooned like castaways on a white ridge of sand at low tide, with only the bare essentials for survival: a canopy, rugs and cushions, and a delicious picnic spread. After an idyllic afternoon, the sun began to sink and our kingdom to slowly shrink. We collected sand dollars to pay our way back to shore, just in case. The only boat we saw was the one that returned for us, by which time our island was almost awash, and we didn’t spot any dugong.

Sipping sundowners on a dhow

Sitting in the prow of a dhow as it lazily nosed through the waves, it was easy to imagine we had a cargo of spices. Above us, the triangular sail fluttered in the breeze, and we could hear the chink of glasses as the crew prepared traditional R&R cocktails. A movement in the water caught my eye – not a dugong, but something far more agile. Moments later, a dolphin broke the surface and corkscrewed through the air ahead of us, followed by three or four more – our first marine mammals.

Taking a helicopter flip

The helicopter pilot removed the doors so we’d have an unimpeded view as we flew low over the islands and out across the azure blue ocean, looking out for migrating humpback whales, sunken pirate treasure ships, and of course our dugong. Mostly though we were completely absorbed in the pristine natural beauty of the islands and reefs. We saw several sandbars like the one where we’d spent the afternoon, and idly wondered if we could ask to be dropped off. Another Mozambican moment that we wanted to last forever.

Snorkelling the island reefs

We spent our last morning snorkelling on the reefs between Bazaruto and Benguerra, looking down on a white sandy seafloor with clumps of seagrass – ideal dugong habitat. We’d had a perfect morning, equal parts relaxing and strenuous, as we alternately swam and drifted with the current. We were about to return to the boat when two rotund grey shapes, like underwater airships, ambled into view. We watched in rapture as they grazed with ponderous grace. ‘Wow’, remarked my partner once we were back on the boat, ‘that was worth the wait.’

Bazaruto Archipelago Holiday | Dugong Experience
The dugongs of the Bazaruto Archipelago are harmless creatures. © &Beyond

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