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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Meeting my neighbors in faraway land

MOZAMBIQUE | Saturday, 14 April 2012 | Views [298]

I didn't expect many tourists in Tofo apart from South Africans, who live close enough to spend a weekend at the beach here.  Tofo is a diving hot spot, so besides South Africans, most other tourists will be divers, many from Europe.  So imagine my surprise when I met a film crew from Hong Kong (all divers), and someone from San Francisco.

During one of the Marine Megafauna Foundation talks, Andrea introduced a film crew from Hong Kong who were following Andrea on her dives to film hers and MMF's work; she explained the crew was filming a documentary on the shark-finning industry, and Tofo was selected as one of the hot spots to highlight.  Coincidentally, the crew was in the dive boat with me the next morning, so I greeted them in Cantonese and we started to chat.  (I normally don't initiate conversations with strangers, but I was intrigued by their work; also, because Tofo is not yet a popular travel destination with few tourists, I am interested to see how people chose to come here.)  The crew explained they are filming a five-part documentary on the shark finning industry, and they have filmed all over the world where either shark finning or trading takes place.  The documentary is sponsored by RTHK and will be broadcasted on TVB (a Hong Kong TV channel) at the end of this year or early next year.  I am thrilled such a documentary is being made, and feel lucky to be here to witness it.  We chatted throughout the boat ride to and from the dive site; I learned there is diving in Hong Kong (in Sai Gung, NT) and it's becoming less pricey so more people can afford and thus is gaining popularity.  The three of them in the crew were experienced divers; they brought their own gear and were so comfortable underwater, filming with a professional video camera, squeezing in between narrow reefs to chase fishes.  At the end of the dive, they invited me to join them for dinner, seeing how rare it was to run into a fellow HK'er in Africa.  I gladly joined them that night, along with the director (an eccentric looking guy with long, slightly salty-colored hair), two other film crew members, and their local tour guide M, who is the very first Tofo resident to be certified as a divemaster and is a strong advocate for marine conservation in Tofo.  We had a delicious meal at a local restaurant (took a few hours because there was almost an hour's wait after every order), and had cake at the end since it was M's birthday.  The crew were leaving two days later, and one guy who is actually a doctor (not sure how he's part of the film crew but I didn't ask), offered to give me the medication he brought since he thought they could come in handy during my extended stay, awesome!

The next day, I met the crew at a guest house (like a bed and breakfast) where they were staying for the last night only; they were not impressed with the lodging they were at, which was supposedly the nicest and certainly the most expensive in Tofo.  I walked in and was shocked; it looks like a house that belongs in Malibu!  The top floor has a giant kitchen with really nice kitchen appliances, a formal living room, sitting room with nice couches and two flat panel TVs, and a huge square-shaped bar with chairs surrounding all sides; there's a balcony as long as the width of the house with a BBQ grill and outdoor seating for dining.  The lower floor has the guest rooms and another sitting area.  The entire place is tastefully decorated in black and white, with some African art scattered.  Compared to where I'm staying, this place is a mansion!  I have to admit it's not very "African" so it lacks African charm, and the house can easily reside in Europe or Australia or any other continent, but if I ever come back as a tourist, that's where I want to stay.   The doctor in the HK film crew gave me a shopping bag of useful items:  clothespins, a towel, new soap and shampoo, insect repellent, instant oatmeal, and numerous medications (cold tablets, sea sickness tables, antibiotics, fever reducers); I joked that I've offered them nothing while they've fed me and now given me free stuff, and the doctor waved it off and said we HK'ers should look out for each other, I was really touched!  I ended up staying for dinner at the house; they hired the cooks at the guest house to cook for the entire crew, and made chips, spaghetti, roasted chicken, and roasted crawfish.  I have a feeling that would be the most extravagant meal for the duration of my stay in Tofo!

During that same dive with the film crew, I also met an American gal who had planned a holiday to Tofo and South Africa, but she ended up canceling the South Africa leg to stay longer in Tofo to dive.  Turned out she's from San Francisco, and came to Tofo because she had read about the work that Marine Megafauna Foundation is doing and wanted to learn more in person.  She has way more diving experiences than I have, so I asked her about diving in North America (she thought Monterey is too cold, while Cabo San Lucas is a great destination in North America with good bargains).  She also incorporated some local volunteering work as part of her holiday, which I think is admirable and something I'd like to do in the future.  We ended up diving together again a few days later (in between running into her in town, Tofo is small) and chatted more about food (how I really miss good coffee) and San Francisco restaurants (she tried dining in the dark before at Indigo, which I think is scarier than a negative entry in diving! )  

I hope I will get to meet more "neighbors" in the coming weeks.  It's really great to see tourism growing in Tofo, which creates more jobs and opportunities for the locals.  I've thoroughly enjoyed meeting these folks, not to mention the meals and goodies I got out of them.  Maybe, just maybe, Anderson Cooper will decide to film a segment here on whale sharks or manta rays, I can dream...

Tags: hong kong, san francisco, shark finning, tofo

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