Today, two fishers accompanied me across the island and over the dunes to the ocean side, or as people refer to it here – to the high seas. It was a clear day. From the top of the dunes we gazed across the island as the light dunes merged into green of the plains and then blue of the ocean. I asked how their family came to live on the island.
Before the colonial time, we lived in Sofala, in central Mozambique. That was before the time that they demarcated countries. There was just land, and each people defended their place. There was a war for land between our people and another. Our great-grandfather (or great-great?) ran away for safety. He carved a simple wooden boat out of a tree and found his way to this island. Here he came across other people – the Vahoka people. But their languages were similar and they could understand each other. The people of the island gave him some land, he married and had seven sons. Four died, which left three sons. One was the father of my father. Now this is our home. We arrived so long ago that even our grandparents don’t remember that first great-grandfather that arrived here.
Our conversation meandered and as they pointed out places that they used to live or farm on – that they moved away from when the island became a park, we chatted a bit about the National Park of Bazaruto. The fishers feel like the park (and the government) is corrupt and never considers the community. They called the Park Administrator racist – where racist means a person who does not have a heart. They said that most of the rangers don’t know how to swim, they don’t know about the nature that exists in the park. But then we chatted about the ecologist, Paul Dutton who spent many years on Bazaruto before the park became a park and was the first warden of the park in 1989, following an agreement between EWT and Mozambican government. They spoke about him with reverence and spoke about how he enters their world passively, and included the community in everything he did. I have heard bits about Paul Dalton. But I don’t know his full story. It’s nice though to hear that someone did something right, and that his legacy remains.