FOLLOWING tenuous dollarisation of our economy and essentials being available locally (at a price), there were no huge ill-mannered crowds of folk fighting to get out, then back in, toÂ Zimbabwe with basic provisions at the Mozambique border post last week. In fact hardly anyone crossed!
When I went to Indigo Bay, Bazaruto Island in October, after abject chaos both sides of the frontier, almost every one of scores of cars outside Shoprite, Chimoio or over the road at Sena Centre for hardware, tools and electric appliances, bore distinctive Zim yellow number plates.
Last week there were two Zimbo vehicles at the supermarket; ours was the only one at Sena. I bought 12â€ tyres and tubes, unavailable for ages here, but, in Manica province, at least 30% dearer than in South Africa.
However, I was in Mozambique: not any other neighbouring state and needed them!
At Vilankulos, outside the packed Taurus supermarket, parked in bustling streets and outside the Indonesian-style timber-and-thatch â€œcasasâ€ where we stayed, at Archipelago Resort, Zimbabwe plates outnumbered Mozambican registrations and everyone we met seemed to be a Zimbabwean on the Coral Coast on leave, running a business, or keeping a low profile while the horror on our farms continued unabated.
Most Zimbabweans and ex-Zimbos live well in this little paradise on the sun-drenched sparkling blue-and-green-hued Indian Ocean, where crystal clear water is usually blood temperature.
Kyle and Nicole Forrester certainly have an idyllic life running Archipelagoâ€™s diving school. The young couple and their boys, being home-schooled, once farmed in Marondera.
They have a fleet of boats, scuba and snorkelling kit for sale or hire and are internationally PADI-licensed (Professional Association of Dive Instructors); to teach deep sea diving to holidaymakers.
Boat trips to Bazaruto archipelagoâ€™s coral reefs and islands are a must and a have-to-see, however long or short the stay, is Pansy Island (due to an abundance of pansy shells) which appears only in its rare, pristine beauty at low tide.
Death Island also disappears at high tide, acquiring its grim name because Arab slave traders would there dump potential trouble makers or the frail in their human cargo destined for the slave markets of Muscat or Zanzibar to drown as the tide turned.
Diving is exceptional, among unspoilt coral reefs and on a good day â€œrabbitsâ€ or veterans can expect to see large schools of reef and pelagic fish, snapper, fusilier and coachman in shimmering multicolours among pastel living coral.
Often spotted are reef sharks, honeycomb rays, devil fire fish and kingfish. Great eating fish can be speared or caught by line. Prodigal Son proved one of the nicest line fish Iâ€™ve ever eaten: grilled, pan-fried or deep-fried with chips and/or fragrant steamed rice and fresh salad and continental style crusty bread, it provides a memorable meal, especially if self-caught.
Farther offshore thereâ€™s whale spotting in season and highlights of a boat trip to one of the many exotic bird-rich tropical islands can also include seeing turtles, dugongs and dolphins.
There are many places to stay in Vilankulos, from back-packersâ€™ dives to up-market hotels, several more of which near completion after major refurbishment.
Archipelago is perhaps mid-range, price-wise with accommodation only from US$30 p/p/p/n. The in-house Vista do Mar Restaurant serves gourmet lunch and dinner, specialising in freshly caught seafood.
Each â€œcasaâ€ is fully equipped for self-catering. There are several small restaurants, bars and pensaos in walking distance, serving bargain meals and substantial breakfasts.
Zimbabwean Ben van Wyk, assisted by his partner â€œVossieâ€ Hammond (nee Vorster) who does the books, is Archipelago GM. Ben was in civil engineering and oversaw much re-building of Mozambiqueâ€™s roads and infrastructure after 40 yearsâ€™ conflict.
Front of house manager is Nick Falk, who worked in logistics in war-torn Darfur in The Sudan and Saudi Arabia before returning to his native southern Africa.
Patrick and Mandy Retzlaff have found peace in this tranquil setting with the 100 or so horses they rescued from very un-tender mercies of so-called war vets seizing their Mhangura farm and terrorising neighbouring properties.
It was on Patâ€™s brother Paulâ€™s Enterprise Valley holding that harrowing footage of pet dogs being beaten to death by apparently drink- and drug-crazed occupiers, led by Chinotimba, was shot: a clip shown on TV stations around the world.
Mandyâ€™s heart-rending story can be found at mandyretzlaff.com
They run Mozambique Horse Safaris from Archipelago. Itâ€™s touching to see once traumatised noble beasts sleekly groomed and well fed ending an exhilarating trek on golden sandy beaches swimming in the surf with their riders.
The Coral Coast is a wonderful place, just a few hoursâ€™ drive from Harare, to enjoy the great outdoors, but can also be almost Ibiza-like at party time!
There are superb restaurants serving such delicacies as lobster, crayfish, prawns of all sizes, calamari, line fish, shellfish. Look out for clam chowders in which you can stand a spoon and melt-in-the mouth curried prawns.
You can also eat good steaks, chops, burgers, salads, fruit and pizza (try German-owned Casa Guchi, which also does tremendous breakfasts.)
There are pubs, clubs, beach parties and local discos. Larger establishments periodically import live entertainers from Zimbabwe or South Africa
Contacts for Archipelago Resort Harare 446421/446433Â firstname.lastname@example.org
BY DUSTY MILLER