Hi! My name is Jörg Schlettwein and I am the tour manager for ISV in Southern Africa. I was recently tasked with site inspecting a new possible destination for our Mozambique part of the adventure tour, and my journey took me to a small town at the southernmost point of Mozambique called Ponta do Ouro.
The great thing about Ponta is the fact that it is just a short drive from South Africa and yet once there you feel like you are in another world. From the very small border post it is a short 20 min drive in 4×4 vehicles to reach the warm tropical paradise that is Ponta do Ouro. Palm trees line the sandy roads as you wind your way into the village full of markets, friendly people, dive centres, restaurants and eventually the pristine white sandy beaches that stretch for miles in both directions.
I only had one thing in mind though as I looked out at the turquoise waters and it was one of the reasons I had come here in the first place …… to swim with dolphins (known as “dolphin encounter” trips). The special thing about this coast is that it is home to 400 resident dolphins. In addition there are also whale sharks, turtles, humpback whales and numerous reef fish.
I had researched possible activity operators that run the dolphin encounter activity. We selected the operator Dolphin Encountours, run by Angie Gullan. Many dolphin encounter trips around the world have been highly criticized from a responsible tourism perspective. Angie has extensive experience in scientific research with dolphins in the area, and she feels strongly about conducting trips that foster positive mutual interactions with marine life.
My experience was amazing. We left in the morning from the beach by boat, and it took only 15 min before we came across our first pod of bottlenose dolphins jumping and playing in the waves. Angie quickly got her camera out and began to photograph as many dolphins as she could. Dolphins each have a unique dorsal fin which can be identified by the distinctive shape and markings. This is an important part of the tour as identification of individuals within a population is paramount to understanding the biology of these amazing animals and thus protecting them.
Thirty minutes later I found myself floating in the water after we were dropped off ahead of the pod. Waiting in the clear warm water for any sight of grey heading our way, we very quickly had three scout dolphins from the main pod come and inspect us. There is nothing better than staring into their mysterious eyes and knowing they are looking at you. They eventually disappeared, the main pod having already passed, and after a quick snorkel on the reef nearby and seeing a turtle I was back on the boat, excited by my personal encounter with nature!
It’s since been decided that the Dolphin Encounter will be an ISV included activity. As part of the OAP (Optional Activity Package) participants will also have the opportunity to try their hand at surfing via professional lessons from surf instructors. Ponta is the perfect place for beginners but also for more experienced surfers.
Other free time options (at an additional cost) include, stand-up paddle boarding, diving, horse riding, sky-diving and fishing, just to name a few!!
To top it all off, I was very satisfied with ISV’s selected accommodation in Ponta which is going to be in comfortable chalets, right on the beach.
Overall I was pleased with the destination, from safety, to the accommodations and activity options. Logistically it will make our tour flow more easily too. As a result of my visit ISV has decided to replace Tofo in Mozambique with Ponta do Ouro. If you are lucky enough to be joining the ISV program in South Africa you will definitely have the time of your life. I hope to see you there!
Jörg Schlettwein, ISV Southern Africa Tour Manager