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Land of sun and coconuts: Part 1

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Underwater Photography – August 2016

Golden sandy beaches, palm trees, sand dunes, African culture, traditions, kind people and amazing diving with a unique marine life is what we have found so far in this beautiful Southeast African country. The adventure began when course director, Pepe, and I drove from South Africa to Inhambane, Mozambique.

We can proudly say that although this place has a very bad reputation with the police officers, we managed to go all the way through without any traffic fines. I think we are lucky to know some Mexican tricks and it’s also very useful to know a little bit of Portuguese and have a big smile. On the trip we found some giraffe traffic because we were close to a game reserve. I always find it incredible, the things that can happen to you on the road – but only in Africa.

After many hours of driving we arrived at our new home for the next two months: Casa do Mar at Guinjata near Inhambane, Mozambique. The first thing we saw was the amazing view of Guinjata Bay and a couple of whales jumping in the distance. What a place!

The owners from Guinjata Dive Centre, Lynn and Zelda, received us and showed us the beautiful house where we are living now. It’s perfect for our program. All the beds have mosquito nets and we have hot showers and an ocean view – what else can you ask for? We also met Levi, the dive centre manager, who showed us around and welcomed us with a big smile.

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Later, we met all the students for this month: Britney from the US, Niels from Germany, Louise from Scotland and Saskia from Australia.

We have different nationalities, but we share a love for the ocean and photography. We had a traditional welcome: a braai on the beach. We met all the guys from Love the Oceans – a conservation program that is taking place here as well. There are about 15 people on that program and staff. I remember thinking it’s going to be fun to hang around with people so passionate about the ocean. The next day, Pepe started with the lessons and showed them everything about the DSLR cameras that they were going to use for this month.

The students learned how to place the cameras in the housings, how to use the strobes and he gave them their first lecture about Underwater Photography. Almost all were beginners, so Pepe let them take some pictures of flowers, bugs and even of Snorkel, Pino, Rolo and Hitty (the dogs) to get to know the cameras better.

The new students were happy learning and exploring the area a little bit more. We also took them to the dive shop to try all the diving gear to be ready for the next day as Pepe had prepared a pool session for them. They started using macro lenses as it is a bit less complicated than wide-angle photography and a good place to begin. The first time in the pool is always the hardest one as buoyancy changes a lot with a camera.

We explained to them how important is to use your lungs to control buoyancy and proper finning to avoid damage to the reef and marine life. They photographed our beautiful toy models, a dolphin, a whale, a turtle and an even an orca. That night, they downloaded the pictures and Pepe taught them more about composition and creativity and the most important rule in underwater photography: always get close to your subject! They studied the pictures and started the learning process.

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We dove all week and had the weekend off to do some fun dives. We dove all the local dive sites during the week and went to world-famous Manta Reef on the weekend. We found whales on the way to the dive site jumping around, and about 6 mantas on the cleaning station.

On the second week the students kept going with macro photography, which is perfect for these dive sites because there are loads to find. From nudibranchs, moray eels, decorative crabs, anemone crabs, shrimps, lion fish and more. The best part is to hear the whales singing while you are diving. It’s funny to see everybody looking up and everywhere to try to see them, we haven’t had any luck yet but I hope we get to see them underwater soon. We went to the Barra estuary – this is a beautiful place about 45 min from Guinjata and is where the lagoon meets the sea. This is a perfect place to practice macro as it is only 2 meters deep.

There is no current at all and you can find thousands of amazing creatures right there in the sand: seahorses, frogfish, anemone fish, hermit crabs, weird-looking morays, baby lion fish, crocodile fish and much much more. We spent about 2 hours there and we got out of the water just because the camera batteries ran out. It was just amazing how much life we found. Pepe and I were impressed with how much they have been improving and how creative they are.  

On the weekend we went to Tofo.  This is a tourist town close to Inhambane with the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  There is an abundant local market where you can buy cheap and colourful clothes, delicious fruit and cool bracelets, or fresh coconuts from the smiling locals. We also went to eat the famous banana cake in town and we even signed up for surfing lessons.  We spent hours in the water and we had a lot of fun riding the waves. We celebrated Britney’s birthday with a hand-made chocolate cake (made by Levi and I) and we had a big party with the guys from Love the Oceans.

The past two weeks in the land of sun and coconuts have been nothing short of amazing and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. I am excited to report that we still have all the wide-angle dives, a cultural tour and 2 nice long ocean safaris to go.

-Ari Robinson

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