Inhaca Island, easily accessible from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is probably one of the easier, more accessible and affordable "island" snorkeling getaways in Southern Africa
About 30 Km's offhsore from Maputo, Inhaca Island is a gem of a spot to get away from it all and relax. Sandy white beaches, clean, warm water and endless snorkeling opportunities, for most South African's, Inhaca represents an easy getaway with some epic snorkeling
Getting to Inhaca
From Maputo you can either charter a flight to Inhaca Island or do it the "real way" and take the government ferry across to the island. The ferry departs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 07h30 and returns each day at 15h00. The trip takes about 3 hours and costs MT400 per person (About US$15)
Alternatively, the Vodacom Ferry, which is more "touristy" runs on weekends from Maputo to Inhaca. Either way, the ferry trip can be VERY hot, so come prepared with plenty of water and sunblock.
Snorkeling at Inhaca
The best snorkeling sites at Inhaca are at Coral Gardens (about 1km down the beach from the main jetty area) and also directly across from Santa Maria. Both sites ideally require a boat to take you out there where you can drift along some very healthy looking coral reef. If you are a strong / confident swimmer, these reefs can also be reached by snorkeling directly offshore, they are about 500m out from the land. The Pestana Inhaca Island Lodge has a fully equipped activity centre that organises snorkeling trips for the public. Or just get one of the local fisherman to take you out for about half the cost.
The snorkeling is mainly around a good variety of reef fish, including Spotted Rubberlips, Jewel Damsels, Zanzibar Butterflyfish, Purple Butterflyfish, numerous surgeons and a great variety of Trigger Fish and File Fish. Turtles are apparently spotted along the edge of the reef channel quite regularly.
We did find that the invertebrates in tjhe area were rather thin on the ground and very few nuidbranchs, anemones and urchins that one would expect in such an area. Overall, great, healthy looking coral, insane fish variety but not huge numbers. If you do snorkel this area, try visit at spring low tides where you can get closer to the reef, at high tides, the reef is well over 2m deep and difficult to appreciate it to it's fullest.
If you have some time to kill between exploring the reef and island, explore the shallow sea grass beds just offhsore from Inhaca Island. The water is clean and seldom much more than a meter or so deep. Excellent for seeing huge variety of starfish as well as (if you are lucky) a chance to find a seahorse.
Interestingly, the coral reefs are part of a protected marine sanctuary but we did see people selling dried sea horses, cowrie shell and other marine life on shore in front of the hotel. One does wonder why this is not controlled or discouraged by the hotel and park officials. On this note, dont forget, you will need to pay a MT200 park fee upon arrival (US$5-7)
The village at Inhaca is a great spot to get a cold drink, good meal and enjoy the incredibly relaxed village vibe. We found the entire island to be very tourist orientated, safe and friendly. Food was of a good quality, affordable and everyone very helpful, it really is a far cry from the busy capital of Maputo, just 30 Km's away.
Nearby islands include Portuguese Island, which has beautiful open sandy beaches, great swimming but not much in the line of snorkeling.
For other nature lovers, the Mangrove and Forest areas of Inhaca offer excellent bird watching