Welcome To Ponta do Ouro
Ponta do Ouro means “tip of gold” in Portuguese. It says a lot about what the Portuguese colonizers were looking for when they arrived. Their optimism quickly faded because they did not find any gold in the area.
Ponta do Ouro (Ponta) is about a 15 kilometer drive form the South African border. Ponta is only accessible by 4×4 vehicle because there are no tar roads. All of the roads are sand. Ponta is very isolated, there are no other towns nearby and Maputo is about 170 kilometers away.
Ponta Do Ouro Border Post
I drove to Mozambique from Zinkwazi, South Africa. The Ponta Do Ouro border post I used to get into Mozambique was the Kosi Bay border crossing. Kosi Bay is a bare bones point of immigration. It is definitely a no frills border crossing and I was relieved that I had got my Mozambique visa in Durban. It is supposed to be possible to get the visa at Kosi Bay, although these things are not certain and you don’t know until you actually get there.
The drive itself was pretty uneventful, although it got really interesting after I crossed the border and began making my way through the sand dunes. Travel in and out of Ponta Do Ouro is only possible with a 4×4. There were some ominous looking clouds moving into the area and it added a bit of a surreal atmosphere as I drove through the desolate South African countryside.
The Weather in Ponta Do Ouro
Mozambique is in a tropical climate zone and there is a wet season (October-March) and a dry season (April-September). I was there in July. The weather when I arrived was strikingly cold. I had seen some some ominous looking clouds on the drive from South Africa and the cold weather stayed in the area for a couple days. I actually had to wear a sweater!
Things to Do In Ponta Do Ouro
Ponta is located near the Reserva de Maputo. Although much of Mozambique’s natural environment was severely damaged during the civil war, they did manage to preserve significant amounts of it. The Maputo Elephant Reserve is an example of this.
There is a large herd of elephants that move in and out of the reserve (it is nearly impossible to fence in elephants). I intended to try and find them although this is notoriously difficult. The park is extremely large and the infrastructure in the park is very limited. So finding the elephants involves a significant amount of luck.
Ponta Do Ouro Self Tour Safari
After arrival I went out to explore the area that lied in between Ponta Do Ouro and the Maputo Elephant Reserve. There was an isolated small camp near a lake a few kilometers outside of Ponta. I was driving around the lake and stopped by the camp. An Afrikaner emerged from within and we chatted for a few minutes. He had come to Mozambique many years ago to work on installing power lines. When the contract was finished he never left. He lived near the lake with his 3 dogs.
The lake did not have a name that I was aware of. I named it “Hippo Lake”.
Discovery of Coral Bay
This is not on the map, but I found a place called Coral Bay about 10 kilometers north of Ponta. I have no idea why it was named after “coral” there did not appear to be any signs of coral reefs in the area. Nor did it appear to be a “bay”, it was just a really long stretch of beach. However, there was some great fishing off the beach.
Coral Bay is a perfect example of the undeveloped nature of very large sections of Mozambique. There are literally endless beaches where you can just wander endlessly through the white powder sand. However, I was not alone in the area as I would soon discover.
I started doing some fishing off the beach and started to catch some shad. Then some kids appeared on the beach and began to assist in keeping track of the fish. This would entail them running off with the fish after I caught it. As evening approached I went looking for them and discovered a whole family that was living near the beach. After a brief negotiation I was able to recover a few of the fish and we all posed for some photos.
Ponta Do Ouro 4X4 Beach Camp
Meanwhile back in Ponta do Ouro some Chinese tourists had decided to go 4 wheeling on the beach. Looks like this ended in disaster, although they eventually got their vehicle back as I noticed it was gone the next day. I saw some tourists from the US also. They were easy to spot with their AMEX travelers checks and GPS coordinates taped to their foreheads.
Fishing was also quite good off the beach in Ponta do Ouro. Although these fish remain unidentified at this time. They did taste very good though.
Ponta do Ouro is a nice (very sandy) beach village. I went their mainly to explore the Reserva De Maputo and also the vast beaches. I am going to cover the Reserva de Maputo more extensively in another post. It was a real adventure and the 4 weeks spent here in Ponta do Ouro was well worth the effort.
Ponta is also very popular for scuba diving. I was not very interested in this although I would see the dive boats occasionally loaded with scuba divers visiting the area. It is also a great place to interact with dolphins apparently. I passed on this also. However, I did venture out and do some snorkeling a few times. It was pretty amazing, and it was only supposed to get better in Inhambane province which is my next destination.
Of course, the fishing was excellent!