Maputo - I have always held a misconception of this place in Mozambique called “Ponta” as a place for people who aren’t serious Moz travellers.
We have always spent our fishing holidays in the quieter and less tourist-oriented beach towns, much further north.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Ponta do Ouro (Cape of Gold) and neighbouring Ponta Malongane (Place of Children) have a rustic, cosy, casual, endearing charm, and you definitely feel that you are in another country.
Driving from Durban to Ponta Malongane takes about six hours, and once across the border, don’t expect any official signposts.
The tar ends suddenly, and the sandy tracks appear confusing at first, but they’re mostly just deviations from two main roads: one goes straight (north) to Maputo but you will need to take the right hand road (east) to Ponta.
The right-hand tracks split - the right-hand fork leads to Ponto do Ouro and the other to Ponto Malongane and Ponta Mamoli.
You’ll definitely need a 4x4. Our trusty Land Rover pulled out a Fortuner, a Nissan bakkie and a Land Cruiser towing a BMW X6 out of the sand in one day. The secret - let your tyres down to at least 1.8 bar, and make sure you are in the appropriate gear to deal with each situation. Select low range where necessary.
The drive to Ponta Malongane is a fun one, with beautiful views of the turquoise ocean, and a huge variety of fabulous local bars and restaurants along the way. The people are always friendly and ready for a chat. A few of the local 2M beers (pronounced Dosh Em) and RnRs (rum and raspberry) were compulsory refreshments to accompany some delicious prawn rissoles and piri-piri pau (bread) along the way.
There is also no shortage of curio stalls, selling beautiful, hand carved wooden items.
Wakene Beach Estate is extremely well signposted from the border, and that alone should have given us a hint of what was to come. Accommodation ranges from camping to private beach mansions. The campsites are private and immaculate - each with its own spotless ablution facilities and well thought-out kitchen. But the prize must be the luxury bush tents.
We had our choice of three spacious tents, all connected by wooden walkways. Each fully serviced tent has its own deck. The central indoor/outdoor living area was the place to be, with its fully equipped kitchen, spacious scullery, two showers and three toilets. The tents were extremely well appointed, with great attention to detail.
Protected from rain or wind by glass doors all round, the deck gave us the feeling that we were suspended above the canopy of trees, with 180º sea views. Truly breathtaking.
It was from this deck that we watched the plops, splashes and sprays of humpback whales in the waves for hours and hours. It felt like they were putting on a special show for us, with their massive bellies, fins and tails coming right out of the water.
Wakene Beach Estate is also home to incredible bird life, encouraged by the careful and sensitive preservation of pristine indigenous forest vegetation.
The estate is rich in wildlife if you open your eyes to it, as we saw red-tailed squirrels near the campsite, and the vervet and samango monkeys watched us from the trees near the deck.
One evening, after watching the spectacular sunset over Lagoa Sugi (Lake Sugi) at the Sunset Shack, we drove home in the dark to find a conflagration of dancing fireflies to welcome us at the foot of the wooden steps to the tented camp. Magical.
We were lulled to sleep with soft rain bouncing on the roof of the tent, and the cry of bush-babies in the distance.
It is a bird-watcher’s paradise and we were lucky enough to encounter the beating bush warbler, puffbacks, little egrets, bush black caps, sunbirds and little bee eaters, among others.
But the highlight of our weekend was watching a sombre greenbul, bathing in the droplets of rain that had collected overnight in the leaves of the tree outside our tent, with the golden glistening sunrise as a backdrop.
We would go back in a heartbeat.
* Call 081 417 6666/082 494 1047 and visit www.wakene.co.za
Be sure to follow the travel tips when visiting.