Cruise Destination Review: MSC Cruises’ Pomene Bay in Mozambique

Pomene Bay in Mozambique was until now a hidden gem, one of the most beautiful and unspoiled destinations in the region. It’s no longer hidden, having recently been added to MSC Cruises’ selection of destinations on its South African cruise itineraries, but remains one of the most beautiful spots on the east coast of Africa. And MSC Cruises plans to keep it that way.

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It’s located in the Mozambique Channel 605km north of Mozambique’s Capital Maputo and 170km south of Vilanculos, so its only visited on MSC Cruises’ itineraries of more than four days. MSC Sinfonia will call once a week in the bay for a full day as part of an itinerary that also includes the Inhaca Archipelago on the long-standing Portuguese Island.

In the 2018/19 South African cruise season, the bay will be visited by MSC Musica, which will replace Sinfonia next year as this is her last cruise season out of Durban.

The beautiful stretch of coastline offers breath-taking white sandy beaches and crystal clear, blue waters that are home to a rich variety of marine life thanks to warm currents from the Indian Ocean. There are a wide variety of tropical fish to spot while snorkeling and it is sometimes even visited by turtles and dugongs.

On land, there are an abundance of plants and birds (even flamingoes!) and there are spectacular mangrove forests surrounding the bay are part of the Pomene Nature Reserve, a protected marine area that has managed to preserve its authentic and wild beauty thanks to its remote location.

This authentic and wild beauty is something that MSC Cruises has stressed it wants to maintain. The cruise line operates a no trash policy, with all rubbish taken back to the ship for disposal in Durban, while all construction in the area has been done to international preservation standards.

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The area has an MSC Pomene Safari Beach Club, that offers a range of facilities dedicated to the guests, including a Club House complete with swimming pool, three beach bars and spa services from the MSC Aurea Spa in two private cabanas.

A further eight cabanas able to accommodate up to six people each and six private cabanas can be booked for the day.

For the kids, there is a jungle gym play area that will host animations, games and activities. To ensure an authentic look and feel, local artists have provided carvings and light fittings for the buildings and many of the furnishings have been made locally.

Guests can also visit a nearby fishing village, where you can purchase local handicrafts, or you can choose to explore the area at your leisure and rent equipment to discover the ocean with snorkels, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards.

A whole range of quality organised excursions are available, designed to meet differing holiday needs and showcase the highlights of the bay.

The Pomene Bay experience with MSC Cruises

If you’re cruising to Pomene Bay, try to be in one of the first groups of passengers to tender ashore so that you can get a good spot on the beach or by the pool. Sinfonia carries 2,600 passengers after her recent refit and refurbishment, and Musica will carry a similar number, so that beach can get crowded later in the day when the rest of the passengers wake up and finish breakfast.

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So mid-morning to the afternoon is the best time to enjoy the beach before heading out on the booked excursions. We’d recommend kayaking in the bay because the snorkeling, although replete with the chance of seeing amazing marine life, will mostly likely consist of a lot of murky water because of the strong currents common to this stretch of sea.

There are eight different shore excursions offers at Pomene Bay, including snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and a hotel ruin tour.

In addition to kayaks there are also stand-up paddle boards for rent plus a whole range of other organised excursions such as a Pomene Hotel ruins transfer, a nature reserve mangrove tour, or an ocean safari.

Lunch is served on the island, a wonderful beach braai buffet, along with fresh fruits and of course pasta (MSC Cruises is Italian after all). And after lunch why not chill out in one of the private beach cabanas (though these is an extra charge for this), but it comes with bottled water, tropical snacks, a bathroom, and heavenly beds for an afternoon nap. The pool and the beach itself, however, are free of charge, along with the grass beach umbrellas.

Pomene Bay excursions

There are eight different shore excursions options with MSC Cruises, all of which are rated easy, except the Nature Reserve Mangrove Tour because it involves a lot of walking and long periods of standing, putting it in the ‘moderate’ category.

Pomene Nature Reserve Mangrove Tour

There are an abundance of plants and birds and even flamingoes in the area and the spectacular mangrove forests surrounding the bay, part of the Pomene Nature Reserve, are the perfect place in which to discover them. The area is a protected marine reserve that has managed to preserve its authentic and wild beauty thanks to its remote location.

Moderate

Adult – US $22

Child – US $19

Duration: 1 hour

Pomene Hotel Ruins Transfer

Visit the ruins of the vibrant and once-famous Pomene Hotel. You can almost feel the vibes from past holidaymakers, although the area subsequently became a Renamo stronghold during the 20-year civil war.

Built in 1964, the hotel had impressive views of Ponta da Barra Falsa and Pomene Bay. Stroll around the abandoned buildings, remnants of Mozambique’s colonial past – you might discover an interesting relic. In 1992, the mounting of a thousand-pound Marlin was found in one piece

Easy

Adult – US $12

Child – US $9

Duration: Unlimited

Stand-up Paddle Board Rental

If an organized tour of the mangroves isn’t to your taste, rent a paddle board and do it on your own instead.

Easy

Adult – US $15

Duration: Unlimited

Sea Kayak Rental

If you’re not sure about your ability to balance on a paddle board you can rent a kayak instead.

Easy

Adult – US $19

Child – US $19

Duration: 50 mins

Pedalo Boat Rental

The pedalo boats for rent are super comfy paddle boats that you can take all over the bay and get a closer look at the mangroves. The price is a little hefty in rands, but you have it for the whole day!

Easy

Adult – US $29

Duration: Unlimited

Pomene Snorkelling

This can be a bit hit-and-miss because of the current, which has a tendency to turn the water a bit murky. The price is also quite high for what you get. In the next excursion option, you’ll see that you can just rent a mask and snorkel by the hour instead, for a much cheaper price.

Easy

Adult – US $32

Child – US $25

Duration: Unlimited

Mask & Snorkel Rental

Easy

Adult – US $7

Child – US $7

Duration: 1 hour

Ocean Safari

Then there is the Ocean Safari option, which involves a guided tour of the bay on a boat, complete with snorkeling, which gives you the best change of seeing some of the areas marine wildlife as your guide knows the best spots.

Easy

Adult – US $29

Child – US $22

Duration: 1 hour, 30 mins