Sunset Central

Bridget Hilton Barber

BRIDGET HILTON BARBER  visits Lagoa Poelela Resort, near Ponta Zavora in Mozambique’s Inhambane provinceJust what is it about a perfect sunset? Is it the colour, the symbolism, the feeling it brings?  Sunrise is a joyous outbreak of new possibilities. Sunset is the slow farewell, the heart breaking goodbye, the last kiss before the lover gets on the train. It is pain and pleasure. It is the onset of darkness, the end of reason. It is Hesperian depression personified.

Sunrise at Lagoa Poelela. Picture: Bridget Hilton Barber

I have spent much of my life as a travel writer chasing the perfect sunset. I found it at Lagoa Poelela, near Inhambane, in southern Mozambique. Sunset at 5pm, said their sms with directions. It was all the bait we needed to put foot. From the main EN1, we turned off the road to Ponta Zavora, an upcoming dive-n-surf spot, and barrelled down coconut lane (Inhambane province has three million coconut trees) arriving within half an hour of the sunset.

Oh my.

To the distant thrum of the unseen sea behind enormous dunes, the orange sun and copper waters of Lagoa Poelela performed an extraordinary farewell dance. As the sun slipped sexily down the skies, there were pink and coral clouds, wild bronze and mackerel silver reflections. Flocks of birds shadowed the sky. The jetty poles stood in black silhouette. We stood in wonder. Well, just for a moment. Then we got out cameras, accepted G&Ts and got stuck into the perfect sunset.

Chatting, snapping, sipping, snapping. Once I worked for a travel magazine whose delightful curmudgeon of an editor, if you’ll indulge the paradox, made his young photojournalists swear they would never, ever, submit a photograph of a sunset. He’d have no truck with chocolate box rubbish, he said.

The Lagoa shore … Picture: Bridget Hilton Barber.

Sunsets were natural occurrences that happened daily and did little to expand our understanding of humanity or travel.

I spent many unhappy hours restraining myself  from taking sunset photographs, even in the Zambezi where they are famously wild and red. “This one’s for you, bru,” I said out loud, as I snapped my thousandth shot of the perfect Lagoa Poelela sunset.

Lagoa Poelela is Sunset Central. Facing due west, this eco-lodge is set on the shores of Lagoa Poelela, a lake that never reaches the sea. The lagoa (lake) covers around 76km2 and is surrounded by wetlands, estuaries and coconut groves. The lagoa is fairly low in salinity (you could mix it with whisky at a push) and high in birdlife.

You can explore the beaches here, or walk in the surrounding indigenous bush full of wildlife and birds. Or explore the mangroves and estuaries in a kayak. Quite rightly, no motorised activities are allowed here, so no quad bikes, motor boats, or jet skis.

Silver horizons at Lagoa Poelela. Picture: Bridget Hilton Barber

It’s very Zen hanging out alongside the shores of the gentle lagoa.  You can hear the constant unseen sea, like the sound of something arriving. The Indian Ocean is 2km away and you can walk or 4×4 your way there. The best thing to do here, I think, is head out into the lake on a kayak. You can move quietly through the waters, explore the edges of the lagoa, listen to the birds, or paddle straight out in the direction of the silver horizon….

I love this place. It’s got a whole lot of soul.

The lowdown: Lagoa Poelela has three self-catering beachfront chalets.  All have big open plan lounge and kitchen areas, and verandahs facing the lagoa with front row seats for the sunset. Two of the chalets sleep eight people in four double rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and the third lodge sleeps six people in three double en-suite rooms. There’s also a reed open-walled restaurant and bar where you can enjoy light lunches or long lazy dinners. Or just hang out watching the soulful lagoa.

If you do want to go snorkelling, diving or 4x4ing, Lagoa Poelela will happily arrange it for you. They’re also building a dive resort in nearby Pont Zavora, which is right on the beachfront with killer views. On offer in the area is scuba diving, perchance to spot manta rays or whale sharks, horse riding on the dunes, or painting workshops.