What to do
Fishing, whether from the rocks on the shoreline or from ski-boats on the deep sea, has reached legendary proportions off Mozambique, especially in the areas around the Bazaruto Archipelago. Nacala, Pemba and the northern llhas das Quirimbas.
Mozambique is world-renowned for its game fishing. Travel agents (see page 50) can refer you to sport fishing companies which operate from Maputo, Ponta do Ouro, Inhaca, Bilene (San Martino), Xai-Xai, Benguerra, Magaruque, Bazaruto, Beira and Pemba. Enquire about ‘Gone Fishin’ on Inhaca Island. Contact Mozambique Connection in Johannesburg at tel. (011) 626 2650, or Charles Norman Fishing Safaris, tel. Johannesburg (011)8883168.
Boats are sometimes available for charter at the following places: Ponta do Ouro, tel. (0323) 73 2503/5, Bilene, tel. South Africa (01351) 5 3996, Xai-Xai, tel. Johan Erasmus (022) 2 2942, fax 2 2804, and at the islands of Bazaruto, Benguerra and Magaruque, tel. Johannesburg (011) 626 2650.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
Wherever there are ski-boats for hire, you can assume that there should be scuba gear available as well. If you are a novice, enquire whether resort diving courses are on offer at the hotel or lodge you intend to visit - Bazaruto Lodge, for example, runs outstanding diving courses; contact Pestana Hotels and Resorts, tel. Johannesburg (011) 368 1947.
There are excellent scuba reefs situated off the following locations: Ponta do Ouro, Ponta Malongane, Inhaca Island, Praia da Xai-Xai, Praia de Závora. Prala da Barra near Inhambane, Morrungulo, Bazaruto, Magaruque, and Santa Carolina Islands, Vilankulo, Inhassoro, Pebane, Fogo (fire) Island, which is 150 kilo-metres north of Quelimane, Angoche town, Mozambique Island, Pemba and amongst the Quirimba Archipelago between Pemba and the border with Tanzania, particularly opposite the village of Pangane.
For snorkellers there are numerous shallow reefs along the entire Mozambican coastline (which is more than 2 500 kilometres long). Favoured places are the reefs around Inhaca island at Santa Maria and off the lighthouse, while Praia do Xai-Xai boasts reefs near the Complexo Halley and a tidal pool at Wenela.
In the Inhambane area ask for Praia do Tofo, Pandane and Coconut Bay, while up at Pemba the reefs off Praia da Wimbe are shallow and spectacular. Snorkelling is also superb around any of the coral islands of the Quirimba Archipelago.
Scuba diving and snorkelling facilities are available at some resorts to the south of Beira (Inhaca Island, Xai-Xai, Morrungulo, Vilankulo and the islands of Magaruque, Benguerra, Bazaruto and Santa Carolina). Mozambique’s kaleidoscope of corals and exotic tropical fish offers some of the finest diving and snorkelling in the world.
The opportunities for bird-watching are excellent amongst the foothills of Mozambique’s mountainous regions, for example mounts Gorongosa and Vumba in Manica province and Namuli and Chiperone in Zambezia province.
The country has a high diversity of birdlife (over 700 species), and a number of species which cannot be seen anywhere else in southern Africa attract a steady stream of birdwatchers from neighbouring countries.
The most popular birding spots include Panda (Inhambane Province), where the Olivehaeded Weaver (southern Africas rarest resident species) can be seen, Gorongosa Mountain (the only place in southern Africa where the Greenheaded Oriole can be seen), and Chinizua, where coastal forest species such as Gunning’s Robin and the Whitechested Alethe can be seen. Compared to Chinizua, the hunting concessions bordering the Zambezi Delta (Coutadas 10, 11 and 12), offer bigger expanses of pristine coastal forest and are easier to get to by road, but have not yet been discovered by birdwatchers. The concession operators are keen to host birdwatchers, but arrangements should preferably be made in advance.
Other birding hotspots which are as yet virtually unknown include Mount Tsetserra (Manica Province), one of the most beautiful places in the country, and Mount Namuli (Zambesia Province), where the endemic Namuli Apalis and the rare Dapplethroat and Cholo Alethe can be found. Sites where spectacular concentrations of waterbirds can be seen include the Maputo Special Reserve, the Bazaruto Archipelago and the Urema River floodplain in the Gorongosa National Park.
One of the attractions of Mozambique is that it is by far the most poorly known part of southern Africa, and birdwatchers are likely to make new discoveries in almost any part of the country. Northern Mozambique is especially poorly known and ripe for exploration. All birdwatchers, whether resident or visiting, are invited to contribute to the Mozambique Bird Atlas Project, which is run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust/Forum Natureza em Perigo.
The Birds of Southern Mozambique by P.A. Clancey (Africa Bird Book Publishing)
The Atlas of the Birds of Sul do Save, Southern Mozambique by Vincent Parker (Endangered Wildlife Trust/Avian Demography Unit) (also available in Portuguese).
The Birds of Inhaca Island by Fred de Boer and Carlos Bento (BirdLife SA)
The Birds of the Maputo Special Reserve by Vincent Parker and Fred de Boer (Endangered Wildlife Trust/Avian Demography Unit).
Surfing spots include Ponta do Ouro in the far south and Tofinho, a few hundred metres south of Tofo, close to the fascinating town of Inhambane, as well as Pebane and Quinga on the northern coast.
Although not offered on an organized basis and dangerous offshore during the cyclone season, which lasts from November to April, dhow (lancha) trips are a memorable experience, as well as being the only available means of transport along some sections of the coast. These graceful craft are still built according to the same design and manner as the vessels which first plied the trading routes between India and Africa centuries ago. To watch the crew as they effortlessly manoeuvre their boat through shallow channels that weave between coral islands is a privilege and experience which you will cherish forever.
Eating prawns has become more expensive since the glory days of vinho verde and chamuças, partly due to over-exploitation of this resource by Russian trawlers during the 1970s and 1980s, and partly because the local population was forced to strip the coastline to survive during the past conflict, after their cattle were rustled or shot by bandits. And yet it is still possible for example to buy prawns weighing up to 300 g each for Mt3 000 (about R1,50) at small beach restaurants in the vicinity of Inhambane, Vilankulo, Inhassoro, Beira, Quelimane and Angoche.