(Blue Ocean Network - September 9, 2013) -- Several expert divers with several thousand dives under their weight belts consider Neptune's Arm, in the remote Quirimbas Archipelago in Mozambique off East Africa to be crème de la crème of dives, and with good reason: It’s got everything from jaw-dropping geography to an abundance of marine life both big and small, and near perfect visibility when conditions permit.
The boat ride there can be dramatic enough, with humpback whales often visible migrating along the Mozambique Channel, but the fun really begins beneath the surface. Forty minutes away from Vamizi Island lies a sunken island whose surface is about eight metres down. Swept by currents, this is not a dive site for the easily intimidated or indeed novice diver (you do need an advanced ticket to partake).
This is the edge of the African continental plate, and once you’re in the water the wall drops dramatically into the inky but beautifully clear blue. On closer inspection, the wall – known as Fraggle Rock - is home to an extraordinary amount of micro-organisms. The real fun, however, begins around the corner in an area of canyons and pinnacles.
It’s a stunning coral garden that tumbles down the edge of a thousand metre cliff. The scenery is epic and the quantity of fish that sit above the giant pinnacles that rise from the deep is breathtaking. Thousands upon thousands of big fish that look like dark, impenetrable clouds. I have never seen anything like it.
Circling the giant shoals of fish are large numbers of big, fat grey reef sharks. I saw a few but at the right time of year you can see up to 40 of them on the dive. Add in 40m to 50m visibility if you’re lucky and things just keep getting better.
Author of Dive in Style, Tim Simond, claims Neptune's Arm is the best dive of his life. Tim described seeing ‘an incessant waterfall of long-nose emperors and snappers in their thousands…. while some 30 grey reef sharks patrolled their domain.’
The difficulty is where to look next, and how to regulate your breathing so it’s not all over too quickly, but once back in the boat, you’ll be smiling all the way back to the immaculate Vamizi Island Lodge – the only place to stay in striking distance of the dive site.
The most northern island in the Quirimbas Archipelago, Vamizi Island is an eight-mile long finger of jungle covered island, situated in the Indian Ocean off north eastern Mozambique, Africa.
Fringed by idyllic sandy beaches and pristine coral reefs, Vamizi Island is first and foremost a conservation project, the snorkeling and diving are spectacular because of the conservation work that has been carried out. Part of the guests staying fees goes to help wildlife and habitat conservation projects.
Vamizi Island Resort
Vamizi Island Resort is in a class of it´s own. It also happens to be about the most idyllic barefoot luxury destination on the planet. It has 13 wooden and Makuti(palm leaf) beach houses , very spacious (175m2) and luxurious. Designed by South African Architects COA, they kept the style of the area the Arab influence is reflected in African constructions.
It might seem odd to start with the 'negatives' but when the positives of a place are so overwhelming, it starts to make sense. So, there is no pool (why would there be, with the stunning warm waters and soft sand of the Indian Ocean on every doorstep?), no official spa (but the lodge can rustle up massages, treatments and yoga sessions), and not a huge range of activities (Vamizi is all about diving, fishing or not having an excuse to do anything but chill right out).
The lodge consists of thirteen enormous and supremely elegant thatched beach villas, set well apart from each other to ensure privacy. Each faces its own stretch of beach complete with Swahili day beds and also has a private sun deck so large you could land a helicopter on it. A walk along the beautiful fine white sand beach to the main lodge, watching fishing dhows return as the sun sets, is pretty much guaranteed to relax both body and soul.
At the main lodge, the restaurant serves good quality contemporary cuisine, with fresh seafood supplied from the fishing village on the other side of the island making up a good part of the menu most days.
If you can muster the energy to do anything except relax, marine activities include sea kayaking, dhow sailing, deep-sea fishing (on a tag and release basis), snorkelling and world-class diving. Over 350 species of reef fish are found in these waters, as well as humpback whales, whale sharks, and the endangered dugong. Two species of endangered giant turtles also nest on the island’s beaches.
As well as the Neptune's Arm there are sites closer to home: Skunk Alley, Cave Wall aka the House Reef, which offer really gentle, easy diving with excellent corals, turtles, schools of barracuda, nudibranchs and all the usual suspects and given the variety and sheer quantity of marine life in these seas you are very likely to be surprised.
After a 70-minute dive at Neptune's Arm, I am going to claim this as the best diving in East Africa and one of the best dives in the world. I have never experienced anything like it.
If you want to dive Neptune’s Arm, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, on +44 207 978 0505 or on 1-800 652 1972 if in the US.
By Neill Ghosh, Original Diving
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