Diving Mozambique: Tofo’s Mega Fauna

Photo of the Tofo coast line taken from the air

The coastline at Praia del Tofo

On the southeastern seaboard of Africa, along a 200km stretch of the Mozambique coastline, Mother Nature has conspired to create what can only really be described as a perfect underwater biological storm.

For it is in this remote area that several major African & Indian Ocean currents converge, producing some unique counter-cyclic eddies that suck up rich nutrients from the deep trenches to the south and create huge quantities of zooplankton, the life source of oceanic mega fauna.

This unique mechanism has been occurring largely unnoticed for thousands of years, and has undoubtedly played a major role in the evolution of two creatures at the tip of the mega fauna food chain – the whale shark and the manta ray.

The area, in the southern Mozambique province of Inhambane, is host to some 20% of the world’s population of whale sharks and an estimated 1400 individual manta rays, one of the largest populations of manta rays identified anywhere in the world.

Ironically it was one of the scourges of Africa – tribal warfare, which descended into the protracted and very bloody Mozambique civil war, that kept this unique natural phenomenon largely hidden from the world.

But times have changed and peace has returned to Mozambique, but with it has come other threats that are having a significant impact on this unique marine mega fauna aggregation and now threatens its very survival.

Diving Mozambique – Mega Fauna Aggregations

Aggregations of marine creatures happen when a combination of natural circumstances occurs and create the ideal conditions for large groups of fish or mammals to gather at a specific geographical location.

Major currents in Southern Mozambique

Southern Africa Current Map

Many, such as South Africa’s Sardine Run, South Australia’s giant cuttlefish or Tonga’s whales are very well known, while others are still to be discovered.

But they typically all have the common denominator of seasonal influences creating the pre-conditions for the aggregation to occur.

In other words it happens once or maybe twice a year, for a limited time only, and the creatures that aggregate are basically “hard-wired” to make their way to the location as they sense those pre-conditions developing.

For example, at Ningaloo Reef in northwestern Australia some 7-9 days after the March or April full moon is a massive coral spawning which attracts large numbers of whale sharks that stay in the area for 2-3 months to feed on the resultant zooplankton.

But in southern Mozambique the unique counter-cyclic eddies produce a rich year-round source of zooplankton that is concentrated in a 200km stretch of coastline from Zavora in the south to Pomene in the north and the reliable availability of such a rich food source makes this coastal corridor an extremely important one to marine mega fauna.

Diving Mozambique – Praia Do Tofo

Southern Africa map and the Zavora to Pomene corridor

Southern Africa map and the Zavora to Pomene corridor

The small beachside village of Tofo, has become the epicenter for the large numbers of tourists visiting the area to experience the whale sharks and manta rays first-hand.

Located in a picturesque bay about 16km from the regional center of Inhambane city, Tofo has experienced unprecedented growth as the tourists numbers have increased.

Several dive centers have set up shop and numerous guesthouses & small hotels have opened to accommodate the influx of tourists, which is all very positive in a poor country desperate for growth.

Tofo has also become the base for some groundbreaking research into both manta rays & whale sharks and some quite amazing things are being discovered about these wonderful creatures.

Whale Shark feeding near Praia Do Tofo

Whale Shark feeding near Praia Do Tofo

Next Page: Tofo’s Manta Rays