No Place Like Africa

This story starts off two years ago when I was last in Mozambique. Whoever I spoke to, especially the experienced Mozambique ‘old boys’, spoke about a mythical place called Africa Bank. Their stories were of untouched reef, amazing catches and personal bests…

September is not usually the best time of the year for spearfishing as it is the start of the rainy season and generally has big swell at the same time. I was very nervous organising a 2 week trip over this period, but I hadn’t been to Mozambique in ages and was itching to get back.

Now you’re probably wondering where Africa Bank is and mentally planning for it to be your next spearing holiday, well good luck… The reason not many people have ever been there or even heard it mentioned, is because it’s a logistical nightmare. Not only is it a 50km out to sea from the nearest resort, but the nearest petrol station is a 3 hour drive from that resort (6 hour round trip). Transporting 600 litres of fuel plus boats, gear and food was a real mission. A massive amount of planning was needed and for the past 2 years that is exactly what I did.

If everything went according to plan, I was hoping to be able to dive on 3 or 4 of the 10 days we would be there. We were very fortunate and actually managed to go fishing or diving every single day but only ran to Africa twice due to fuel restraints. The 2 trips to Africa Bank were without a doubt some of the best diving I’ve ever experienced….

First visit

We had been watching the weather and it was predicting 15 to 20 knots every day, so we were staying on the local reefs to save fuel for a good day to hit Africa. Every day the wind just never came and we’d be sitting out there on a glassy sea saying, “we should’ve gone to Africa”. After another windless night, we were up at 4, made the call to go and loaded an extra 50 litres of fuel on top of the already 150 litres in the boat. It was on!

Luckily the sea was dead flat and we were able to launch in the dark with only our Petzel headlights. About 15 minutes into the run, a light easterly picked up. Shit! Had we just made a bad call? Everyone was starting to look worried. The sea started getting bumpy and the thought of the 50km we still had to run was not appealing. The call was made to push on and I put the throttles flat and prayed things would take a turn for the better. Thankfully about 20 minutes later the wind dropped off again. After almost a 2 hour run, my whole body was aching and we decided to have a short rest. It would be an understatement to have said that I was overjoyed when I turned the GPS on and found that we only had 5 kilometres to go.

We started sounding around and found a drop off going from 30 to 18m that looked like it could be productive. We followed the reef and found the northern drop off. I had a good feeling about the place and decided that I would dive with a float line for a change. As I jumped in and the bubbles cleared, I saw a Wahoo right in front of me! Unfortunately, by the time I had my gun loaded, the fish was already out of range.

I continued my drift and out the corner of my eye, saw something big swim up to my flasher. I initially ignored it and continued scanning for Wahoo, thinking it was a Potato Bass. It was only once I realised that it was in fact a giant Malabar and started chasing it, that it headed back down to the reef. When the fish reached the reef, I saw another oversized Malabar waiting for it.

Both were just staring at me while holding their spot in the current. I tried to get close enough to them to take a shot, but the current was too strong and was pulling my float along the surface at a steady rate. When I resurfaced, I climbed onto the boat and immediately unclipped my float line. I was not a happy camper.

I did a couple more drifts looking for the Malabars, but they must have wised up. They are definitely one of the best camouflaged fish on the reef and, you won’t see one unless they move or are on the sand. By this time, Trevor and my dad had already caught 2 Couta with their rods and I hadn’t even seen one. Damn.

I did a couple deep dives on the outside edge hoping to bump into a Malabar or deep swimming Couta. On my way up from a long dive, I looked up to see a Marlin had just swam over me and out of range. If I had been looking up while ascending, I probably would have had a shot. Now I was really getting miffed.

I decided to try the inside edge where it came from 18m on the sand up to 8m on the reef. Nice easy diving. It was just awesome, top to bottom viz and loads of Kakaap on the bottom. All between 5 and 8 kg and not something I was used to. I did a dive thinking they were going to scatter but they just kept their distance like lost puppy dogs. Eventually one came in and I tried to place a perfect head shot. Unfortunately my shot landed high and the fish tore off. Out of nowhere a Zambezi came tearing in and literally turned at the last second! Holy shit that was close! Probably the most I’ve ever been buzzed by a shark and I climbed into the boat absolutely rattled.

It took me 30 minutes to calm down and get back into the water. The guys had in the meantime been catching Couta without a single one being taxed. I dropped the flashers in and as I was still rattled, I didn’t dive to the bottom, I just scanned from the surface. I had hit the perfect line and the Couta were filing through. I shot a couple to get my confidence back before deciding to try for a Kakaap again. I found a spot where the sand met the reef and there were a couple caves and swim throughs.

It was definitely one of the best quality spots I have ever dived. Big Bohar Snapper, Leopard Grouper, Big Eyed Bream, GT’s and the list went on and on. Clearly, noone has ever dived there and the fish were big and bold. Absolute heaven! Due to the strong current combined with the deep caves, I decided to rather film as I didn’t want to lose my gun.

A little later, I had a Sailfish swim up to my flashers and after realising I wasn’t a threat, it let me swim with it for about a minute. Epic!

By 2pm we decided it was time to head back as the cold 2M’s were calling.

Second visit

We were up early again, made the call, packed the boat and were on the water by 5am. Halfway there, a light westerly started blowing. The last thing we wanted was to have run home into the wind later in the day, especially since we would be 50 km from land. Once again, we decided to press on and hoped it would blow out. Thankfully it did!

We got to Africa in record time and went straight to the northern drop off. The day was going to be a BIG fish day and was all about the trophies – Marlin, Wahoo and anything else massive that came along. We had more than enough Couta and Kaakap and could afford to be selective.

I did a few drifts and saw a couple average sized Couta, but nothing special. I decided to plug a Couta and was busy pulling it in when a Wahoo pulled in and started circling my fish. I called the boat over, passed my dad the gun with the Couta on the end and I shot the circling Wahoo! Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together! It was definitely a good start to the day.

On the next drift, my dad caught a Dorado right next to me and I watched the fight, hoping for a bigger one or something wanting to eat the smallish Dorado come in. Unfortunately nothing did. The very next drift, the boat pulled up to tell me that Trevor was busy fighting a Marlin. I quickly collected my flashers and jumped into the boat.

We followed the fish with the boat, trying to gain some of the lost line but it still took us an hour to get the Marlin next to the boat. The fish was probably 150 kgs, a very nice fish but we had no need to keep it so we released it and it swam off strongly. We were all very stoked.

Anyway, back to the spearfishing… After my long break, I was pretty sure that I had found the perfect drift and went up current another 300 metres. I threw in the flashers, grabbed my gun and camera and fell into the water. I had hardly even loaded my gun when a Marlin swam deep below the flashers, already on its way into the current. By the time I was ready to dive, the fish was already out of range. It was still nice to know that we were on a good line. I continued drifting towards the reef and as I hit the shoal of bait, a pair of Wahoo swam past. I dived toward them but they were too big and too wise and just keep their line which was just out of my reach. As I was surfacing, a huge shoal of Yellowfin Tuna swam past on the surface and I didn’t even bother going for a shot. I have already learnt that Yellowfin Tuna are nearly impossible to shoot in clean water unless you are chumming.

I did another 3 or 4 drifts and kept spotting the same pair of Wahoo. I tried every trick in the book, but they did not get that big by being stupid and I did not even get close to being able to have a shot. On one of the drifts a Marlin swam right up to the flashers. I got the camera rolling and dived, but it just kept its distance in the 100ft viz. I followed it for ages hoping it would get curious and turn broadside, but I did not have any luck. I did manage to get some epic footage of the whole incident though.

On one of the last drifts, I kept seeing the shoal of Yellowfin, but I was not even bothering to try for a shot as I wasn’t really expecting a chance. All of a sudden one just came right in and I got a shot off and stoned it! Wow, what luck! Definitely my biggest Yellowfin Tuna.

We headed home after that, everyone having caught or shot quality fish. There were big smile all around.

One thing about Mozambique is that you always wish you could stay a little longer and dive the reefs a few more times. It’s great to knowing that there are still quality fish around and that it’s not too far from home.

I’ve travelled around the globe spearfishing and I still believe that nothing beats Mozambique.


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