I buried my toes in the sand beneath me and blinked in confusion.
In front of me stretched five miles of beach with nothing but the occasional jellyfish dotted along the shore.
I had the entire beach to myself.
I was the only person here.
I laid down on my towel, pulled out a book from my bag, and set about spending another afternoon in my African beach paradise.
Tofo, despite being the most popular hangout for backpackers in Mozambique, is still sleepy.
From the descriptions I’d read online, I’d been expecting something like a Mozambican Boracay, but arrived to find somewhere more like a Koh Yao Noi.
To call Tofo a town feels like a stretch. It’s small. It comprises of half a dozen sandy “roads”, and there’s a tiny market, a few restaurants and bars, four dive shops, and a handful of guesthouses. The nearest ATM is a 30-minute walk away and power cuts are frequent. And by the way, it totally is pronounced tofu.
On my first morning, I wandered into the main part of town and was surprised to find just a handful of locals setting up stalls for the day. There were no tourists, no touts, and just a few places open.
I took that as my cue to wander onto the beach with my book and the fresh coconut I’d bought for 50 cents.
It didn’t help that I was visiting Mozambique in the lowest of the low season. Late-January is all about the cyclones, and when you read any article about the best time of year to visit, you’ll always find it right at the bottom. It’s hot, it’s rainy, and everyone says to avoid visiting then.
I went anyway, and didn’t experience a single day of rain, although it was really freaking hot.
Most backpackers in Tofo opt to spend their nights at Fatima’s, and the majority of blog posts I’d read from people who have visited said it was the cheapest option in town. I’d originally planned to follow the crowd and rock up there, too, but after reading some shockingly bad reviews online, I opted to splurge instead.
In Tofo, you can get a lot for your money.
For $65 a night, I opted to stay at the highly-reviewed Baia Sonambula, which is now one of my favourite guesthouses in the world.
I had a room with a private balcony, complete with sofa and hammock, with a view of the ocean. And whenever I chose to go to bed with the doors open, I’d fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean.
Breakfasts were elaborate, fruit was never-ending, and every late-afternoon, after spending a day on the beach, I’d return to cakes freshly baked that day and an unlimited supply of coconut water.
One morning, I awoke to find an enormous beetle — maybe a cockroach — on the mosquito netting beside my face. Thankfully, it was the outside. Four inches in size, it was intimidating the hell out of me, and while I’ve become hardened to most bugs and cockroaches on my travels, this one was simply too big. I knew that if I left it in my room all day, I’d spend that night paranoid that it had somehow managed to get into my bed.
When one of the staff members strolled past, I waved him over and began to apologise.
“I feel like such a wimp, but um, there’s this very big bug in my room and it’s… scaring me. Can you help?”
He grinned and wandered inside and over to where I was pointing.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he reassured me as he plucked it off with his thumb and forefinger. “It is not a venomous animal, so it’s okay.”
He then stood in my room chatting to me for the next ten minutes while casually holding this enormous beetle between his fingers.
That was embarrassing.
The main reason for why the beach is so empty during the day is because Tofo attracts divers from all over the world, and I often felt like I was the only person who wasn’t there for the diving. It’s off the coast of Tofo that’s said to be one of the best places in the world to dive.
Whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, dolphins, and more all call this coastline their permanent home, and boats head out daily to help travellers make their acquaintance.
If you’ve been reading Never Ending Footsteps for a while, you’ll know that I’m both too scared to try diving, but hate snorkelling.
I don’t get it. You know I don’t get it. I’ve never been able to do it without swallowing half the ocean, feeling nauseated, and then getting a headache for having my mask on too tight. Every time I’ve taken a snorkelling trip, I’ve ended it by vowing to never take one again.
But whale sharks! Manta rays! After five years of travel, these megafauna had somehow always alluded me. Probably because I hate snorkelling. I’d love to see them up close and Tofo is supposed to be the best and easiest place in the world to spot whale sharks.
Should I hop on a boat and strap an awful mask to my face in search of these gentle giants of the sea?
I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t.
My ocean safari was simultaneously the best, worst, and most terrifying snorkelling experience of my life, and I’ll save the full story for a future post.
One thing I will say about it is that there’s an awful lot of ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, and the waves were so violent that there were straps on the floor of the boat to keep you from falling out.
I’ve never felt so sick before in my life.
But you should still totally do it if you get the opportunity.
Back on dry land, I couldn’t be happier.
Like many beach paradises around the world that I’ve fallen in love with, I soon settled into a routine on Tofo that brought me nothing but joy.
9 a.m.: After an indulgent lie-in, I would pull myself out of bed and onto the gorgeous guesthouse terrace. Breakfast was served for all of the guests here each morning, and it was always guaranteed to be an extravagant affair.
I would usually opt for the fresh mango or passionfruit juice for my drink, then load up my plate with fruits and treats from the buffet table, depending on what’s on offer that day. Everything’s cooked fresh that morning, whether it’s bruschetta, egg tarts, homemade breads and jams, or a coconut muffin.
From the menu, I’d often order the Mozambican version of the full-English breakfast, because I’m a stereotype when I travel, but I’d sometimes go for the apple and cinnamon pancakes if I was feeling like truly kicking my Whole30 diet in the balls.
10 a.m.: Time for an early morning walk in an attempt to keep a small level of exercise in my life. Mornings were one of my favourite times to wander around the entire village in exactly three minutes. It was blissfully quiet then, with most tourists out on the dive boats and everyone else sleeping off their hangovers.
11 a.m.: Beach time! I head down to the sand with a towel and my Kindle and lay out for a couple of hours to soak up the hot Mozambican sun. My refreshment is a giant coconut that I pay 50 cents for, and being in the middle of the low season, the touts become friends rather than aggressive hawkers. I sit and chat with them for most of the morning.
1 p.m.: It’s time to find some lunch. I wander back into the village and stop at a shack that looks good. Most days I opt for seafood of some sort — I’m never too fussed what it is, as I know it’s guaranteed to be some of the best of my life, not costing me more than a few dollars.
3 p.m.: Nothing happens quickly in Tofo, so by the time I’ve eaten, it’s mid-afternoon and I’m ready for a shower.
4 p.m.: Afternoon tea is served at Baia Sonambula, so I pop over to the terrace with my laptop and grab several slices of the freshly-made cake, a large glass of coconut water, and sit on a sun lounger to answer a few emails. I’d planned to work while I was travelling in Mozambique, but I’m so impossibly relaxed that I can’t bring myself to write more than a few words each afternoon.
6 p.m.: Sunset. I grab a cold 2M beer from the bar at my guesthouse and write in my diary while the sun sets in the distance. Eventually, the mosquitoes start to devour me and I head back to my room to bathe in repellent.
7 p.m.: In the evenings, I’m always startled to discover how many people are actually in town. And that there’s a lively nightlife scene. There’s beach bars, live music, drinking, and dancing, but a more mellow scene, too, where you can sit down and chat with travellers from all over the world. There’s something about Mozambique that attracts hardcore adventurers to its shores, and there was always someone with an interesting story to talk to.
When it came time to leave Tofo, I nearly didn’t.
It’s the sort of place where travellers turn up for a few days, then leave a month later, if ever at all.
I loved it. I loved my routine. I loved the beach. I loved dolphin-spotting from my balcony. I loved my guesthouse. I loved the seafood. I loved the friendly locals. I loved the fresh coconuts. I loved the break from work. I loved the slowed down way of life.
In fact, I loved everything but the snorkelling.
But is that really that much of a surprise?
Does Tofo sound like your kind of beach paradise?
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Amazing trip. I will go to Zanzibar soon hope I will find similar place. Africa is awesome.
I wanted to get to Zanzibar on this trip, but didn’t have enough time. Hopefully I’ll get there soon! :-)
This sounds like a dream!
I love finding a good healthy routine while traveling. It sounds like you had the perfect routine!
I really did :-) and although I loved Vilanculos, I was so, so sad to leave Tofo!
“I’ve never felt so sick before in my life.”
“But you should still totally do it if you get the opportunity.”
So much for selling it! LOL!
Why was it considered “Low” season? Was it the weather, or just that everyone’s in school/working/not on holiday?
Ha! Well if people don’t get seasick, it’d probably the best experience ever :-)
It’s the middle of cyclone season in Mozambique in January/February, which puts a lot of people off. They’re both unbearably hot months and typically get a ton of rain. There was actually a big cyclone there a week or so ago there that destroyed 10,000 homes.
Good call on the guest house! It’s beautiful! I like to go places during rainy season sometimes too. It keeps the crowds away, and so far I’ve been lucky with weather.
I’ve been pretty lucky, too! My entire South Pacific trip was during their cyclone season, as well, and I only had two days of rain over that three week trip.
WOW! What a gorgeous place! I love living through your travels. I’m stuck with local adventuring until school is done and I’m back to work.
I’ve definitely been there! It was a long few years while I was at college but desperate to start travelling.
I’m envious of the “self indulgent lie in until 9 am!” I was awake at 5 am today (kids woke up and also we are in a hotel room).
Tofo sounds amazing!
Ha! Having lie-ins is definitely one of the most underrated parts of travel.
I completely agree!!!
Mozambique is high on my list of places to visit, but I’ve never actually heard of Tofo until your post. It sounds like a paradise! I am a diver myself, so it’s cool to know there’s diving available there too. Thanks for sharing, Lauren!
Yes! Definitely go check out Tofo — the diving is so amazing (so everyone told me)!
My friend has actually just set up a dive centre in Tofo – it looks like an amazing place! Plus that guest house looks worth visiting for alone, wow.
Oh, wow! That’s so cool. Soon Tofo will have more dive shops than restaurants, haha :-) But yeah, you should definitely go visit your friend if you get the chance.
Now I want to go… Guess it’s added to the long, LONG list. I almost want to go in the off-season too as it seems it may have even made your trip more relaxing!
Yay! I’m happy to hear that :-) I really liked it during off-season, although there was a cyclone that damaged the guesthouse I was staying at just a few weeks after I was there, so you definitely run the risk of getting caught up in bad weather, too.
I love that 10am is ‘early morning’ for you. I am working back in an office for the next month for the first time in months and it’s so damn hard to get up early day after day – I’m jealous!
Ha! I guess it’s not really early morning, is it? Although it certainly felt like it given how few people were around :-)
i really really would like to visit Mozambique! Thanks for sharing this post with us!
No problem! I hope you manage to make it there soon.
Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. Love how you get down and real about how you spend your days while traveling and taking away the false fantasy of impossible traveling. Love these insights to the day-to-day of traveling and being in a foreign land!
Love from Singapore,
Thanks for the lovely comment, Yeeling. I know that before I travelled, I had no idea what my days on the road would actually look like, so I love giving an insight into the reality for you guys :-)
Wow Lauren, I love being reminded of Tofo. It’s only September that we were there, but I find myself pining for a return. Blogged similarly on it:
Envious that you stayed at Baia Sonambula, some travellers we met whilst there were staying there and they adored it. I know they took a direct hit from Storm Dineo during February, but they’re back open since – we’ll certainly go there when we return, which we definitely will!
I really enjoyed reading your post about Tofo, Barry, and I’m envious you got to spend eight days there :-) I saw they’d been hit badly during the storm on their Facebook page, so I’m glad to hear they’re now back in action.
I hadn’t heard of Tofo before reading your post but now I’m looking at flights to Mozambique. It sounds like paradise… just one question. How much is a beer?
Success! Mozambican beer is as cheap as $1 a bottle, and you’ll pay around $2-3 for an imported one.
I’m planning on visiting Mozambique next year. What’s the easiest way to get to Tofo?
Fly to Inhambane and take a minivan/taxi/transfer to Tofo. It’s about 30 minutes from Inhambane Airport.
I love your post, you found exactly the right words to describe Tofo… It’s such a magical place! I spent 3 month there and it was the hardest thing to leave. I still miss all the people, the beach, the ocean… I learned to dive there (although people told me it’s the toughest place to do this) and I loved it. You should try too! And I promise you, after one month being on the boat every day, sea sickness gets better! ;-)
That means a lot to me — thanks so much, Jasmin! And lucky you getting to spend three months there :-)
Hi Lauren, I heard about you through a friend of mine who recently read your book and accidentally came across your blod today. My wife and I are embarking on a year long travel experience in 3 months time, starting in South Africa and going to South East Asia via Austrlia and New Zealand. Mozambiue had been on our list, but we took it off as we thought it looked like too much of a faff to get to anywhere decent once we got there. Guess what? It’s now back on the agenda thanks to your post. :) Happy travels, Hayley x
I’m so happy to hear that, Hayley! It is a bit annoying to travel around the country, but it’s so, so, so worth it!
PS: sorry about all the typos!
No worries :)
As I write this I’m currently planning a trip with a Danish friend to Johannesburg, South Africa I was looking at other places within a reasonable distance both would like to make the most of this trip. I was thinking of Mbabane – Maputo I accidentally came-cross Tofo when on booking.com looking into Mozambique I’ve been looking in Tofo it it’s definitely on the list! I have few questions if you don’t mind first would we have any major problems getting from Maputo to Tofo is it relatively easy? we’ve done Europe SEA South-Amercia between us Secondly I’ve checked out Mozambeat Motel reviews look really good you said most backpackers stay at Fatima’s any advice where to stay out of the two suggested, I couldn’t find Fatima’s on any of the usually booking sites.
P. S It really the next Goa?
I really liked your blog about Tofo. I have been going to Mozambique a few times already and I love it there, its always difficult to leave. I am actually thinking about leaving my European life and going to live there. I would like to open a bussiness there. From your experience there, is there something that you think was missing in Tofo? Something that you liked they had?
I would really appreciate your reply!
You are living the dream! Travelling for ever!!
Hey Sofie! To be honest, I don’t think I spent enough time in Tofo for me to offer an educated opinion, but best of luck if you do decide to move there! :-)
Did you prebook your accommodation or did you just book it once you arrived? I am going with my fiance in March and their prices seem a bit higher than when you went. I wonder if I should try and negotiate a lower price in person…. would appreciate your experience!
I prebooked mine, although it was the lowest of low seasons. You could probably negotiate on arrival though.
Hi There! Thank you for sharing your experience in Mozambique. I am wondering how you managed to travel from Tofo to Vilankulos. Did you rent a car or have a driver? Thanks!
I rented a driver! I think it was $100 for the car.