Connect the dots

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cidade do Paraiso?

At first glance, Vilanculos sounds like a perfect seaside town with the turquoise, calm, tropical fish filled Indian ocean and the nationally protected Bazaruto Archipelago with its white sand beaches and towering dunes easily reachable by
dhow, a traditional fishing boat. But a closer look shows a vacation spot that is suffering. Suffering because the prices for food and accommodation are grossly inflated and lodges are made to keep you from ever interacting with local culture. With locals paying nearly 50% more for tomatoes than they would only 30 km north and the problem of over fishing, it's an economy not working very well.

Even the Zimbabweans managing the place where we were staying how it was only a matter of time until it all fell apart. During the boom and the trouble in neighboring Zimbabwe, many Zimbabweans, as well as South Africans, constructed many large lodges and enormous self-catering (having a complete kitchen) homes. The gigantic 4 bedroom/4 bath house we had rented was a result of this mania. Fortunately, they were able to cut us a good deal for an over week stay. Unlike many of the other hotels in the area, the managers of this lodge were in the mindset that having a few beds filled were better than having none. The formula for this place was that the vacationers would have a housekeeper and even someone to do grocery shopping for them but would cook most meals in the house. Throughout South Africa, many people who go on vacation never step into a restaurant but braai or cook their own food. Hence, the large amount of self-catering options throughout South Africa. In some spots, a large town only had one restaurant, and usually only a Spurs Steak Ranches (for you Americans: think Sizzler).

But Vilanculos is not the only town that suffers from this. Most of the southern coastal area of Mozambique is geared for tourists wishing to not leave the comforts (nor the cuisine) of their homes.

We considered moving further north but with Mamalene's vacation time running out and the best options to fly Mamalene back to Johannesburg being in Vilanculos, we were going to make the best of it.

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