Tofo is a seaside town in Mozambique famous for its superb beaches, surfing and “megafauna” – giant manta rays, humpback whales and whale sharks.
Mozambique was once one of the top tourist draw cards in Africa, with tourists flocking there from South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Things took a dramatic turn for the worse following independence from Portugal in 1975. Almost 2 decades of civil war ensued, devastating the tourist industry. The country has been slowly getting back on its feet and word is now slowly getting out about the thousands of kilometers of pristine unspoiled beaches that Mozambique offers visitors.
Tofo is the closest thing Mozambique has to a beach resort, although it is in reality a sleepy town for most of the year. I visited in September, the shoulder season. It was quite quiet and I didn’t realise that the restaurants help each other out by rotating event nights. For example, Tuesday night is buffet and live music at TofoTofo.
Getting there can be quite a challenge. Public transport is limited to “Chapas”, the ubiquitous vans, which are the basic transport everywhere in Africa. Cheap, they are poorly maintained and extremely uncomfortable, as they squeeze as many people in as possible. They also leave very Maputo early in the morning (4am), but stop repeatedly until they have enough passengers, which could take up to an additional 2 hours.
Fatima’s hostel in Maputo also runs a shuttle, leaving at 4:30am. It is more expensive than a chapa and not necessarily any more comfortable, as they also stop repeatedly to pick up passengers, as there are simply not enough backpackers to fill the vehicle on a daily basis.
The other options are the Etrago bus (leaving Maputo at 5am). The journey takes 7 hours with one toilet stop in Xai Xai (there is no toilet on the bus). The bus does not go all the way to Tofo, but stops in Inhambane. There is a local bus going from Inhambane to Tofo every 2 hours or you can take a chapa or local taxi (800 to 1000 meticais).
There are also flights with LAM, the national monopolistic carrier and the butt of local jokes. Recently, they suspended all flights as they had not paid their fuel bills for the best part of a year.
Renting a car is another option, but very expensive. It seems unlimited Kilometers is not an option – I hitched a lift back to Maputo with a couple who were facing a $200 surcharge for exceeding their kms, just driving to Tofo and back.
The best option is to rent a taxi. There are several South Africans doing the run from Maputo to Tofo and back to SA. Standard charge is 15000 meticais, which is a fair price considering gas would cost at least 3000 mets one way. Needless to say, this is only economical if you have a group of at least 3 people.
There is no ATM in Tofo, the nearest one being 15 mins drive at a gas station. Most restaurants take credit cards, but note that some charge a 5% surcharge for the privelege.
Tofo is famous for diving and has several “cleaning stations”, where large animals congegate to be cleaned of parasites by so-called cleaning fish. Conditions for diving were not ideal, with strong winds, violent currents and very bad visibility.
In December, all hell breaks loose and Tofo is invaded by South Africans. Huge drug-fuelled parties ensue. As anywhere, exercise extreme caution and never purchase or consume in public places – I heard of cases of foreigners being arrested for possession and dealing.
I stayed in Tofinho, which is about 10 minutes walk from Tofo, but considerably quieter. The beach is not as suitable for swimming as Tofo, but is completely deserted. Tofinho also has 2 excellent hostels: the excellent value Turtle Cove, with yoga and healthy food and; Mozambeat, a funky place known for its crazy parties (Note, at the time of writing, Mozambeat was up for sale and all parties temporarily suspended).