~ The April-Fools Edition
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Celebrate 45c Click here to visit www.extraextra.co.za Virgin April 2009
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Wednesday 1st April 2009
Established October 17 1887
Virgin Money Cardholders Free Edition
Man-Sized Prawn Discovered
Off The Coast Of Mozambique!

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When we go to Mozambique, we want the rumours to be true. We want turquoise water, cheap cashew nuts and enormous prawns. We want pineapples the size of watermelons, watermelons the size of small zeppelins, beaches whiter than shirts in an Omo advert and coconuts full of ice cold beer. In short, we want too much. But Pemba, Mozambique’s Northernmost town, comes miraculously close to fulfilling our unreasonable desires.

Tourism is said to be down up to 40% in Mozambique this year, as European and American tourists, beset by the gloom and doom of the credit crunch, have either stayed home or driven to the nearest local beach. For South Africans, this means good deals on flights to the country, and cheaper, emptier lodges.

Pemba is not the best kept secret it once was. Real Estate has skyrocketed since prospectors, many of whom are South African, began acquiring land in earnest now a decade ago. In the mid nineties, an acre of land on the beachfront could be bought for R2000. This year, that same plot will sell for R1 million.

Among the earliest property pioneers are South African couple Rudi and Brenda Franck, owners of Pemba Dive and Bush Camp, a 40 hectare farm complete with campsites, backpacker’s lodges and self-contained chalets, for which they paid not a cent but instead traded a rubber dinghy with a 50cc engine.

Wild West deals like that are long gone now, but if the land is mostly bought up most of it is nevertheless still mostly undeveloped. In stark contrast to local Indian Ocean destinations such as Umhlanga Rocks or Plettenberg Bay, Pemba is still remote. Put it this way: if you run out of parmesan, you run out of parmesan.

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There are, however, sufficient home comforts if you care to look for them. Pemba is the capital of the north Mozambiqan province, and as a result has banks, travel agents, internet cafes and taxis parked on most street corners. Getting around is cheap and easy in taxis, and close to negligible if you travel with the locals in minicabs.

Wimbi Beach, a crescent of white sand, arching palm trees and turquoise water, has a few high-end hotels and guest houses, while the other side of the peninsula are the mangrove orchards and wilder bush, thick with baobab trees, though there too are the sort of beaches that make you wonder whether someone has stuck a postcard of paradise on the inside of your sunglasses.
The dive shop on Wimbi Beach offers PADI diving courses, which cost around R3500 and take five days to complete, though some reefs can be seen with a snorkel and goggles if you don’t have the time, money or inclination.

Flights to and from Johannesburg operate three times weekly on LAM, Mozambique’s domestic airline, and twice weekly with SAA Airlink. A return will cost in the region of R5000, though you can usually find a deal for less. It is cheaper to take a bus to Maputo and fly in from there, cheaper still to take buses all the way, though this can be a three or four day odyssey spent mostly on vehicles that sometimes only barely qualify for the term.

April and May are the wettest months in Mozambique, but rains fall in afternoon or evening frenzies – the rest of the time it is warm and dry and everything you had hoped it would be from the carefully chosen picture on the website. Indeed, for once, most of Pemba is just like the illusion it seems.

 
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