We pulled into Bamboozi on the afternoon of the 23rd. We were full of excitement, this was to be one of our highlights and there had been plenty of talk in Capetown about these next 5 days. Coincidentally Dan had just completed checking in when we arrived and he seemed as pumped as we were. The place had a party feel about it, similar to Airlie Beach I guess, and we were itching to get boozied at Bamboozi.From what we had heard, Tofo was famous for 3 things - whale sharks, scuba diving and wild parties, and by chance we had arrived the night of the infamous full moon party at Dino's. It had been almost a month since Boner and Susies farewell and our last big night out, but before I could hit the bar I had some things to arrange.We had scheduled a whale shark dive the following day, this was to be the highlight for us but more importantly I needed to organise a Christmas lunch. Those who know Karen well (and probably even those who don't) will know that she is an absolute freak for Christmas, and being away from her family it was important for her in particular, to make it a special day. With Bamboozi's Xmas dinner of oxtail and gammon sounding less than appealing we needed to find an alternative and the lack of options was worrying to me. I spoke to some expat residents who had few suggestions but for a local place that had burnt down recently and was being rebuilt - we needed some other options. I had read about a 4-star resort 45mins away, and unable to get in contact by phone Kaz and I hopped in the car and headed off whilst the others got acquainted with the bar. Most surprisingly this luxury resort was not offering any sort of Xmas lunch, but they did suggest the Barra Beach Lodge (BBL) further down the road. BBL was of a similar standard to where we were staying, perhaps even a little nicer and we spoke to the scatty manager who agreed to take us in on the condition we brought our own table and chairs. This option seemed a little odd, but this was Africa, and we had few other alternatives so we took her details and continued on. We followed signs to a further lodge, the buffet menu seemed similar but the setting not quite as nice and besides the manager seemed less inviting and demanded a cash deposit on the spot.It was almost dark when we arrived back at Bamboozi, a consensus for Xmas at BBL was reached, and whilst Karen and I played catchup, the others made our job easy by heading off for a quick power nap………I guess the build up was just too much.We convened at the bar to get the party started, Dan was decked out in his "party shirt", and after a few 2M's (Dosh Ems) and shots, we made our way down the beach to Dinos and the full moon party. Plenty of people were gathered and there was a good vibe but it was a challenge getting to the bar, so bulk ordering was the name of the game and like many nights before, the rest was a fun-filled blur. Early morning and we stumbled our way home along the beautiful Tofo beach and back to our chalet.Our chalet, as it was called was merely an A-frame wooden hut with a palm roof. It had a kitchenette and tiny bathroom, although the floor to the shower was simply a series broken wooden slats to the sand below. We had running water, but it was brown and smelt like it was being pumped from a stagnant pond or recycled straight from the toilets. We could also hear the lodge generator all through the night, but as for our power, well it just didn't work. For this we had paid a premium rate of £50, a lot in Mozambican terms, but compared to the simple huts the guys were staying in, I guess we were doing ok.With Xmas the following day and unsure of the local work ethic over this period, we made out our way out of bed just in time to hit the local market before our Whale Shark "Ocean Safari", so called because spotting sharks or any other animals was as much about chance as any on-land animal safari. We needed to stock up on a few things in order not to starve over the next few days. Being the morning after the night before, none of us were thinking too well and we returned with a couple of loaves of bread some fruit, a few dozen beers and ice - all the essentials we could think of at the time.We were late for our ocean safari, but being Africa it meant little and perhaps even worked in our favour as the other dive boat was loaded full of 20 other people whilst the 6 of us were briefed and given our own boat - who ever said the early bird catches the worm.Launching the boat was an adventure in itself. Being a surf beach the inflatable "rubber ducky" boat with fibreglass hull was towed to the edge of the water by a rusty old bomb which was barely a chassis with an engine that would only have not looked out of place here in Africa. We pointed the boat to the surf and waded out into the shallows awaiting a lull in the swell. It was all about timing as we stood holding the boat and the captain onboard revving the twin outboard engines. At this point, the prospect of crashing through the surf became all too much for Susie, and as she suffered a panic attack, bailed out and returned to shore the captain issued the word for us to "get in". Everyone dived in head-first like we had been instructed, sliding over the edge of the boat on our bellies like a pack of awkward seals, legs and arms going everywhere. We slid our feet under the straps and held on tight as we crashed out beyond the breakers. Safely beyond the breaking waves the captain/owner wished us all the best and promptly dived over board to swim to shore. We all looked at each a little shocked and confused, before a young local kid (we thought was along for the ride) stepped up and took the controls. It was a little disconcerting that our captain was12 years old. In all honesty he was probably in his late teens, but he still looked liked he had skipped school to earn a few bucks and in favour of something a little more fun. He drove the boat like it was stolen, perhaps that was where he had had his practice, but in fairness he knew what he was doing, and we were all comfortable with the situation. The ride out was fantastic, the boat powered across the water, getting air on the small swells and you couldn't have wiped the smile off our faces if you tried. At this point we were enjoying the ride so much, I wouldn't have cared had we not even seen a whale shark, the journey alone was worth the money. No sooner had this thought entered my mind, when our guide questioned us "are you ready for your first whale shark?" and instructed us to get our snorkelling gear on. The boat idled within range of the shark and we jumped in, the creature cruising straight for us. Since I was a boy I have been fascinated by marine animals and had long dreamt of this moment. Perhaps 10metres away, the wide mouth of the shark came into focus as it sifted the surface layers for krill and plankton. Cruising so slowly and effortlessly, the animal was amazing. If we had remained in its path, it would have slowly dived to avoid us but most likely accidentally nudged us to the side in the process. Perhaps 5 or 6m in length, it was a true gentle giant and we were now within inches of it. As it gradually descended to avoid the gathering masses from the other boat, we dove down and swam beside the majestic creature, eyeball to eyeball we could have reached out and touched it, but eventually we ran out of breath and all we could do was follow it on the surface until it gradually disappeared into the depths. We clambered back into the boat, exhausted by the experience, and now the adrenaline had worn off, feeling slightly worse for wear by the previous night at Dino's. By now all 5 of us were sucking in the deep breaths, holding your breath for long periods of time when hungover is never recommended. We'd all been there before, but we weren't going to let this ruin our day, so we headed off in search of our next shark. It was only minutes before our second spotting and we were back in the water. It was another mesmerising experience but this time it lasted much less time before the timid creature glided out of sight. Back in the boat and more deep breaths. Again we spotted another shark, and by now we had managed to shake the other boats, this allowed for an even more personal and amazing experience. We continued on, and encountered a couple more sharks, it was more of the same but each was as equally impressive as the last. Saving the best for last and as if he knew it, our final shark cruised into sight, the biggest and most carefree of the lot, perhaps 8m long he hung around for what seemed an eternity before vanishing to the depths just like those before him. I cant say we had had enough, the experience was so wonderful we would never want it to end, but by now we were paying for our previous nights indulgences, the swell had picked up and Bones and Dan were increasingly suffering from sea sickness. It was time to head back to shore. The trip back was much like the journey out, riding the swell, the smiles on our faces were even wider than on the way out. We stopped beyond the breakers, braced ourselves and took off full speed towards the shore, riding the waves and beaching ourselves as far up the bank as possible.Exhausted from the day, but even more so the night before, we took down a couple of 2M's and headed back to the chalet. It was already Xmas back home in Australia so we called home to send our best wishes before hitting the sack in plenty of time for Santa to arrive.We awoke on Christmas day without the excitement of years gone by. In Africa there had been minimal festive build up. No pine trees, decorations, painful choral renditions of christmas carols or even the last minute shopping rush. Neither the cold winter wonderland, mulled wine or Christmas markets from the previous couple of years and without presents or family it felt somewhat un-Chrismassy. We were still excited about the day ahead, and it was great to have the Americans with us as well as Paul and Susie - but it just didn't feel that much like Christmas.We exchanged Christmas wishes with the rest of the gang, packed our table and chairs and waited for our "taxi" to take us to BBL. We were never really sure our lift would show, but when the beat up rusty old minivan drove through the gate we each shared a sigh of relief that we would not be drawing straws to be the designated driver. It wasn't far to BBL, perhaps only 15km and we were in no hurry - thankfully neither was the driver as the beat up old van had some definite suspension issues. The back springs were so soft they had surely been fashioned from an old coat hanger and consequently each pothole was exaggerated by a large bang and spine jarring thud of metal on metal. My coccyx permanently damaged, we arrived at BBL and were pleasantly surprised to find the manager had remembered we were coming and had even found us some furniture, which had been neatly set in the corner for us. We were relieved to find that we would not be positioned in the scorching sun, as was the original plan, as the day was searing with perfect blue skys and just a gentle breeze. The view was fantastic as we sat on the wooden deck overlooking the golden sand and electric blue Indian Ocean, the perfect beach paradise. There was now nothing left for us to do but raid the bar and enjoy our Christmas day. We ordered champagne, but the closest we could get was some sickly sweet sparkling rose, and when that got a little too much we called for some white, but the best they could drum up were a few bottles of Portuguese green wine (a lightly fizzy white wine alternative), with labels that looked like they had been left over from the colonial occupation. It was cheap and cheerful, but undeterred we drank whatever wine they could find. It all served to wash down the Mozambican buffet and get us all a little jolly. When the last of the prawns, oxtail and spicy mussels had been devoured we made our way to the beach, waiting the obligatory 30mins before swimming of course.We spent the next 2 hours body surfing and playing in the waves. The water was warm and there was no need to get out except to reposition ourselves after being swept back down the beach by the weak current. Our fingers wrinkled, our bodies exhausted and our mouths dry we headed back to the bar as the sun set on another great Christmas day. More beers and more cheap wine as we waited for our rickety bus to return and collect us. With no sign of our driver, we called "Bruce" and were told he would be there to pick us up in 40mins, when 40-mins became and hour we called again and I was given an even less distinguishable Portuguese answer. We were fairly confident our man was going to show because conscious of this exact scenario, we had agreed to withhold payment until the return journey, even if only $15, it could have been a fortnights wage to him. Time means little in Africa, but 2 hours on we had changed our minds and were beginning to wonder whether he would actually show. The bar owner seemed nonchalant and merely put it down to tardiness, "they've got the time, but you've got the watch" he joked, and no truer word had been spoken throughout our travels to date, but by now it was dark and we were wondering just how long we would have to wait. After all we had no other options, it was rural Mozambique and we were at the end of a dirt track in the middle of nowhere on Christmas night. We were reasonably content as long as the bar remained open but when 8pm rolled round we had lost all faith in Bruce, especially as he had stopped answering his phone - perhaps the lure of a few Christmas drinks had proved too much for him (although this wouldn't have stopped most Africans driving anyway). We chatted to the owner and he remained unphased, perhaps because he had been drinking as long as we had, or maybe just because he knew that "cash was king" and for a price you could always get what you needed here in Africa. Obviously motivated by the increasing look of concern on our faces, or perhaps the fact that we had begun sizing up a comfortable position to sleep on his wooden deck for the evening, the owner enlisted the help of his bar staff to start doing the ring around to find us a way home. Another couple of hours passed and increasingly concerned by the bar staffs body language we again engaged the owner. With the whole of Mozambique seemingly out celebrating, we were eventually told that the best they could manage was a ride in the back of a ute, and that it was on the way to collect us. We were a little nervous, but possibly for no other reason than the fact that our bums had been deeply tenderised on the bumpy ride over, and that was when we had had a seat, we imagined a highly uncomfortable journey home, but luckily for us our senses had been numbed. The "bakkie" as they call them in these parts arrived and we piled in along with a couple of locals. As we finally headed towards home, we were pleasantly surprised by the intact suspension and the fact that we knew we had a bed for the evening. We cheered on the locals and shouted "Bom Festa" as we passed the masses who had gathered at the villages along the way, celebrating Christmas with massive street parties. It was a different cab ride home, a unique Christmas taxi, but with the wind in our hair and the beer flowing in the back it was thoroughly enjoyable.Arriving back at Bamboozi, but not quite finished with Christmas yet, we headed down to the beach with a few drinks and the glow in the dark Frisbee. Dan and Alex had repeatedly talked up their skills with a disc, but perhaps playing on a uneven surface in the pitch black after drinking for 12 hours was not the best time to show off their expertise, as like the rest of us they continually stumbled and fumbled about like amateurs. Exhausted by another day of over-indulgence it was time for bed.Boxing day, and due to time restraints we had scheduled some scuba diving that was to be our Christmas presents to each other. Having not dived since our Padi course in Airlie Beach 4 years prior, it was advisable that we undertook a short pool refresher course to hone our skills. Unfortunately though, I was feeling extremely worse for wear, most likely the result of a dodgy shellfish from Christmas lunch and after several brief attempts to leave our chalet it became apparent that we would need to reschedule. Travelling in Africa we had expected to encounter a bout of the runs and food poisoning at some stage, but surprisingly it had taken nearly a month, longer than we had both anticipated. The day was nice, too nice in fact as I spent the day lying in bed, slowly roasting in the stuffy chalet. I was glad for the proximity of the toilet, but that was about all I was happy with. By late afternoon, and with the help of the "Travelling Well" self diagnosis bible, I was in good enough condition to reach the bar, but the all-you-could-eat pizza was a waste of money, and it wasn't long before I was back in bed. Everyone was a little tired and partied out from the previous nights, and I was glad not to be missing too much action.The following day and I was feeling a little better but far from on the top of my game. We were running out of time to fit everything in before we had to leave Tofo, we had already extended our stay by one night, and the others were ready to move on. Tofo was world renowned as a diving hotspot, in particular the deep dive to Manta Reef, a manta ray cleaning station, and we needed to complete our refresher and a shallow dive before we could attempt it. My tummy still a little unpredictable, I was a tad nervous about climbing into a wetsuit - in the event of an "emergency" things could have gotten a little messy, but my one saving grace was that you would have never noticed in the pool. The Bamboozi pool was disgusting, cloudy green with bits floating throughout, we have no idea what was in there, and we didn't want to know. Unfortunately we had no choice and quickly went through the motions underwater, although this was made extremely difficult by the fact that the visibility was only about 1ft underwater and you needed to be basically touching each other to see the instructions. The pool dive over and we were back on the dive boat and on our way to Mikes Cupboard, an offshore reef. There were 4 of us on the dive, and 2 instructors so this allowed us plenty of freedom. The dive was fantastic, there was an abundance of marine life and much more than we had seen on the Great Barrier Reef. It was like a whole new world down there, spectacular and colourful, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were both left wondering why it had been so long since our last dive. We had forgotten how much we really enjoyed scuba diving.It was our last night in Bamboozi, we had had a fantastic time and it was all coming to an end far too quickly. It had been great to have Alex and Dan on board and we were sad they were both leaving us the following day, but to celebrate our last eve we had planned a seafood feast. Again we made our way to Tofo market and spent some time haggling with the locals over predominantly prawns and crayfish. We walked away with several kilos of green prawns and 8 or so crayfish - how much it cost I can honestly not remember but if we had not got change out of 20 pounds I would be very surprised.Back at Bamboozi and we began to build a massive fire to cook our dinner. Whilst Dan was out collecting wood he was approached by some locals intent on helping him for a small fee (less than a dollar). We had come across this a lot in Mozambique but up until now we had not taken full advantage of the situation, feeling a touch like slave drivers and instead would have simply done the task ourselves. Suddenly Dan was struck by the simple revelation that employing these locals was both helping them, and at the same time saving himself from unnecessary labour, whether it was collecting wood, going to the shop to buy ice or washing pots and pans, "Bruce" as the local guys had collectively and affectionately been named were queuing up to take our money. To us it was nothing, 50c or a dollar here or there, but Im sure the Mozambicans were equally as chuffed, as they seemed chuckle amongst themselves about the stupid white folk who would pay someone to do jobs that would only take them 10mins or so. There was smiles all round, everyone was happy - but why hadn't we thought of this earlier.Our stomachs full, a pile of empty shells lying before us, we sat around the fire and blew the froth of a couple more cold 2M's. The night was getting on, I was still feeling a little under the weather, but being our last night in Tofo I would've felt cheated by retiring to bed early. Instead, as the others made their way to bed the Americans and I sought relief from the muggy evening by way of a midnight swim. The water was fantastic, warm yet refreshing like it had been all week, and we spent some time body bashing in the surf. Unable to see the waves until the final moments, we would listen for any sound and when we saw the white of the breaking wave begin swimming frantically in order to catch it. Drained of energy but totally refreshed it was time for bed.Kaz and I were up early to pack our stuff before our early morning dive to Manta Reef. We were excited about this dive, it was the most well known dive round Tofo and many people had spoken of it as their highlight. I was still feeling slightly ill, and no better than the day before, but there was no way I was going to miss out. Back in the dive boat we headed out to Manta reef. We had been grouped with quite a few people and one rebellious lady in particular who was to be a major pain in the arse. The dive was a disappointment (Kaz didn't think so), perhaps my expectations were too high but I had really hoped to see a manta ray and despite the other group encountering one, our indolent guide seemed content to waste time (and air) hovering over patches of unexciting reef and on a grossly drawn out ascent. In fairness the dive was still impressive, plenty of fish including large potato bass, an inquisitive turtle and a Spanish dancer, but I was here to see the rays. I shouldn't have complained really, we had been extremely lucky with the whale sharks, and on our return I overheard that they had only seen 1 shark since.Back at Bamboozi and the Americans had planes to catch, the cab was waiting as Kaz and I hurried our stuff together. Back in a rusty old van with no suspension, we were just glad it wasn't "Bruce", that had come to collect his money. We farewelled Dan and Alex at the airport and headed on to Inhambane to meet with Paul and Susie and continue on our adventure.The dive had taken it out of me, and by now I was going down hill, my fever was back and I felt terrible. The drive to Vilankulos took several hours and it felt like even longer as we cruised North on the highway, passing endless grass hut villages scattered along the coastal lowlands. At the time I remember thinking how susceptible the whole area must be to flooding - no wonder the most frequent publicity about Mozambique back home were reports of a country crippled by natural disasters.