Updated: Oct 18, 2018
Left breathless in Tofo, Mozambique. Fall 2018.
Tofo is a marine paradise - exploding with life, encounter after encounter with all the megafauna on a diver's wish list. Mantas, turtles, dolphins, whale sharks, great hammerheads, and for a few months every year, the sea erupts with humpback whales.
Humpbacks are so beloved because they are just such the charmers. Playful and charismatic, it is a joy to observe them
Here in numbers at the southern end of the Mozambique channel to calf and breed, they put on quite the show at the surface - breaching, slapping, singing. Often it's adults teaching the young ones how to whale.
I've had my fair share of wildlife encounters, on land and in water, but I don't know if many can match the sheer exhilaration of swimming next to a humpback family. Everything had to be just right for this encounter underwater. Not only did it require willing whales in the right spot, it required a savvy captain and dive master. On top of that, we needed perfect lighting conditions and visibility to capture any footage. The manic screaming cheers from our dive squad as we emerged breathless at the surface summed it up. The cheers would continue to erupt all the way back to shore, and then some.
But the whales aren't the only stars of the show. They share these waters with whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet. And maybe one of friendliest.
The fact that they don't seem to mind a bit of company really allows for a good amount of time to appreciate their beauty.
We know so little about the whale shark - their reproductive behavior, their life span, where the juveniles spend their time. And yet in the last 30 - 40 years, the whale shark population is estimated to have halved. We're learning more every day, especially with sophisticated matching algorithms that can identify individual sharks by their distinctive 'fingerprint' markings on their side. They cruise up and down the coast of Mozambique year-round, and the fact that there are both whale sharks and whales in the same waters is reason enough to get excited.
Now add mantas and turtles and eels and dolphins and sharks to the mix, and you get the holy grail of diving. This is a special place, an underwater sanctuary. It must be preserved. I can't wait to return, next time with an underwater DSLR rig in tow I imagine to do justice to the beauty on display here.