The complete guide to Ponta Malongane

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 16 August 2016

A Ponta holiday is the easiest way for South Africans to experience Mozambique: but you’ve got to beat the crowds. My mission was to write a complete guide for having the best holiday in Ponta Malongane, so the following is the result of visiting every establishment, dining at every restaurant and taking advice from Mozambique-savvy travellers.

Less than 10 kilometres from the Kosi Bay border post, you slip the car into 4×4 mode to take on the sandy roads. Once there, you eat spicy chicken and just-caught prawns, thank the waiters in Portuguese – obrigado – buy fresh pão (bread) and sip on R&Rs (rum and a splash of raspberry) without converting any currency.

Fresh prawns on ice and colourful drinks on the beach.

Fresh prawns on ice and colourful drinks on the beach.

It’s also an Easter and Christmas destination, with border queues stretching three hours-long, and this influx has created a super-developed Ponta do Ouro populated by red-skinned holidaymakers, thanks to too much rum and sun. But about five kilometres north of this crazy town, you can find sanctuary. Ponta Malongane is quieter, more beautiful and home to the same stretch of wide coastline bordered by high, forested dunes – so this is where I recommend you stay on a holiday in the Pontas.

(Want the other half of the story? Keep your eye out for our guide to Ponta do Ouro next week!)

The Sunset Shack in Ponta Malongane has the best peri-peri chicken I’ve ever tasted. And I’m not alone in thinking this. My dad sits across from me at the wooden picnic table. We’re one of three tables seated in the sand on a summery evening out of peak season; music floats out from the bar over Lake Sugi. We wait over 30 minutes for our meal, but with little concern as we’re happily sucking on 2M – the best Mozambican beer (we both agree). From beneath the rustic cabana, we watch the sun setting over the scenic freshwater lake and start to get a little hungry.

 

This is pops fishing off the Mozambican coast.

This is Pops fishing off the Mozambican coast.

Then the electricity cuts, the music stops and the candles come out, but flames continue licking our chicken on the re-fuelled grill. Our chip-lined platters arrive in the dark – they are absolutely enormous and turn out to be the best my pops has eaten in the past 26 years. The last time chicken tasted this good was in the south of Johannesburg during the Eighties, he says. Here you don’t bother to unwrap the knife and fork from the serviette – using your hands is the only way to properly appreciate a meal like this.

 

How to have the perfect holiday in Ponta Malongane

 

The original resort at Ponta Malongane - home to old-school camping spots in an amazing location.

The original resort at Ponta Malongane – home to old-school camping spots in an amazing location.

Locals refer to Ponta Malongane as simply ‘Malongane’ and Ponta do Ouro as ‘Ponta’ or ‘Town’. During my research, I discovered that the majority of houses in Malongane are in estates. (In fact, driving from Malongane all the way to Ponta Mamoli – 13 kilometres further north – one gate after another opens onto roads heading up the dunes to estates with views over the ocean.) You can rent homes from some of the private owners here, camp at Parque de Malongane or, more wisely, procure refuge at Tartaruga Maritima tented camp. It’s well priced, placed as number one on TripAdvisor and exceptionally tranquil, surrounded by coastal forest. Camp supervisor Moses Tembe has a wealth of knowledge on the best things to do and eat in the area and he’s an incredible host – nothing is too much trouble.

 

The forest setting and interiors at Tartaruga Maritima.

The forest setting and interiors at Tartaruga Maritima.

Tartaruga means turtle in Portuguese. If you visit between November and February, you may be lucky enough to spot these ancient reptiles laying eggs on the beach, or even see the hatchlings. As I drove up every dune to assess estates and suss out campsites, my heart grew fonder of our accommodation at Tartaruga. It’s close enough to walk into the village of Malongane to find fresh bread made in a traditional wood-burning oven and browse the craft market near the camp entrance (without being pestered by hawkers).

The village is a network of barefoot-friendly shebeens – every rustic hut has signs for beers and rum. There are a few general dealers selling Mozambican basics such as cashew nuts, eggs, onions, coconuts, beans and, when in season, small mangoes.

And right next door you can find zebra and red-sand dunes perfect for stargazing at Nkumbe Widlife Estate.

Within walking distance from the sea, you’ll find zebra and red-sand dunes at Nkumbe Widlife Estate.

If the novelty of self-catering wears off, there’s always good food at the Marula Shak on Nkumbe Wildlife Estate. This unusual establishment is a welcome change when you are prawned and peri-peried out, offering delicious food such as spring rolls, Vietnamese-inspired pork and cabbage, Zulu sushi and baby prawn bunny chows. It’s not what you’d envision on a visit to Mozambique, but it’s an unexpected retreat in the bushveld.

I didn’t dive in Malongane, but most of the operators in busier Ponta head further north to get to the reefs. It seems the rule of thumb is that the diving experience gets better the further north you go. If you only dive once, do it at White Pearl Resort. A luxurious establishment north of Malongane, the resort is beyond many South African budgets (from R3780 per person per night, fully inclusive), but day visitors are welcome with a minimum spend of R480 per group.

Eye-catching sea life just off shore from Ponta.

Eye-catching sea life just off shore from Ponta.

The facilities are fantastic. I had my best dive experience to date at White Pearl – two Mozambicans took me underwater and the reefs were teeming with life. Bright and colourful schools of fish swam by, starfish lay lazily over the coral and a hawksbill turtle twirled around us.

 

Plan your trip to Ponta Malongane

Getting there

You need a 4×4 to traverse these deep sandy roads. From Johannesburg, take the N17 towards Bethal and Ermelo and then join the N2 heading towards Pongola and Jozini Dam. After the dam, head north to Manguzi and the Kosi Bay Border Control. The journey is roughly 650 kilometres and takes just under eight hours. From Durban, the trip takes five-and-a-half hours. Head north on the N2 to Hluhluwe and take the R22 following the signs to Manguzi and Kosi Bay.

When to go

Avoid peak seasons over Christmas and Easter when it’s crowded and prices tend to spike. If you plan on diving, October to March is the best time for whale shark sightings, dolphins, manta rays and big bass.

 

Cashew nuts and hand-carved crafts at the local market.

Cashew nuts and hand-carved crafts at the local market.

 

Costs

We hired a 4×4 from Bushtrackers for roughly R1200 per day and spent about R4500 on fuel and food for two people. The total cost of eating out every day for six days, beer, fuel, tolls and hiring a car was about R10 500. We’ve excluded the cost of accommodation and activities because prices vary depending on whether you’re camping or not.

Need to know

The majority of vendors in Ponta accept rands, but bring meticais as some places advertise in local currency. Prices at the market also tend to be slightly better in the local currency. There is a pharmacy and ATM in Ponta do Ouro, but only the bare essentials in Ponta Malongane. The electricity cuts out sporadically, so bring a torch and solar lights. Petrol and diesel is available at the local filling station, but can be more expensive than SA, so fill up in Manguzi before crossing the border. If you don’t have a 4×4, leave your car at the border for about R30 per day and arrange a transfer with your chosen accommodation. Bring cash. Few restaurants have card machines and I found that when I did swipe, the bank charges were hefty.

 

Things to do in Ponta Malongane

Dive or go on an ocean safari with White Pearl Resorts. The guides and facilities are top-notch, and the gearing-up process and launch were well planned. It’s a steep price at about R1 300 pp, but absolutely worth it. 011-026-7178, whitepearlresorts.com

Day visitor facilities at the beautiful White Pearl Resort.

Day visitor facilities at the beautiful White Pearl Resort.

Walk to Ponta do Ouro from Malongane on the beach. The six-kilometre walk should take just over an hour and it’s a great way to appreciate the beautiful beaches.

Take in the views with a cocktail at Jack’s Barefoot Bar, Jenny’s Bar, Golden Beach Village and 360 Degrees Restaurant & Bar. All offer excellent beach views from the top of the dunes and have similar menus. You can practise your golf at Jack’s driving range and 360 Degrees is definitely the big party spot. Jenny’s Bar was the priciest. Some areas even have South African cellphone signal – you’ll find most of them on the road from Ponta Malongane heading south towards Ponta do Ouro.

Reminders of the war and authentic peri-peri chicken, flame-grilled the proper way at Zitundo.

Reminders of the war and authentic peri-peri chicken, flame-grilled the proper way at Zitundo.

Experience authentic Mozambique on a guided tour to the nearby village of Zitundo. There are the dilapidated remains of colonial times and peri-peri chicken peri-peri chicken on the menu at a cafe where the waiter brings a jug to your table so you can wash your hands before dining. Arrange the tour with Bill Budd. +258-844-284-748

Shop at the craft market outside the entrance to Tartaruga Maritima. There are countless wooden fish carvings on sale, baggy island-style clothing, and little wooden toy Land Rovers and fishing boats. Don’t buy the shells, though, as they’re apparently collected further north and are often doused in acid to kill any sea life and maintain the colours, which bleach naturally.

Find the best fresh bread on the main road towards Ponta do Ouro at Quiosque Sivike, made in a traditional wood-burning oven. Bread made at the shop inside Parque de Malongane also came recommended and is softer, but it’s made in an electric oven.

Tune into 87.8 FM and listen to old-school favourites onLM Radio.

 

Where to stay in Ponta Malongane

Tartaruga Marítima tented camp is the best bang for your buck here. The amenities are faultless, service is excellent and the beach absolutely gorgeous. The central self-catering area has private fridge space and killer views over the open ocean, and each evening your table can be set if you plan to dine here. My dad found the lengthy stairs a bit of a pain, but it’s a small price to pay for space and seclusion. From R495 pp in luxury tents on raised decks in the coastal forest.

This is me sitting at the shelter leading from Tartaruga Maritima tented camp onto the beach.

This is me sitting at the shelter leading from Tartaruga Maritima tented camp onto the beach.

Nkumbe Wildlife Estate is a tented camp with five two-sleeper units in a sheltered bushveld sanctuary with zebra and a resident duiker. There’s a communal pool and eating area and I felt this camp would be best booked out as a group of 10.

Golden Beach Village comprises various houses with private pools, some with panoramic sea views and others ensconced in forest. The spacious and well-decorated houses sleep up to eight. From R800 per unit.

Parque de Malongane is the oldest accommodation spot in the area ‒ and you can tell. If you are fully self-sufficient, camping in the shaded, spacious forest sites is still lovely, and there’s direct access to the gorgeous beach. However, the chalets, pub and the dive centre are pretty run down. I suspect little maintenance has happened in the last decade, but you can’t beat the prime location. Camping from R80 per person.

Wakene Beach Estate is great if solitude is your thing. Each of the six spacious campsites
has private ablutions, kitchen facilities and can accommodate 12 guests. Pack a gazebo, as there isn’t much shade. For the best ocean view, book Jabulile’s Camp. From R180 per person.

The best estates: I investigated Vista Alta (email Monja Benson on [email protected] for rates and availability) and Campismo Ninho. Mozambique Connection is a good website for booking these estates and finding out more info, but ask for pictures to ensure it’s what you want.

 

Where to eat in Ponta Malongane

Come to See has great views over Lake Sugi and serves excellent prawn rissoles. It has a varied menu and the food never disappointed. The service is good and the beachy decor makes this place. It’s right outside the entrance to Tartaruga Maritima.

Come to See restaurant is the colour of the azure ocean and dip your toes into sand below restaurant tables at the Sunset Shack.

Come to See restaurant is the colour of the azure ocean and dip your toes into sand below restaurant tables at the Sunset Shack.

Sunset Shack has the best peri-peri chicken and throws fun parties in season. It’s well priced, spacious and rustic.

Bull Republic is new and offers variation from the typical Portuguese menu, such as delicious wraps and burgers. This is the only place I’d order beef from; stick to fish and chicken at the other restaurants.

The Marula Shak is a memorable dining experience in a relaxed bushveld tavern. Choose from several cuisines, such as Vietnamese and Mexican. The food is excellent, so don’t miss it if you’re after something unique.

 

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

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All prices correct at publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before booking or buying.

 






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