In 2000 Mike Slater published "A Guide to Mozambique" which was later released through Struik. Although the book is now out of print we have updated and reproduced the entire book for you online here.
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Introduction to Mozambique
From the overgrown remnants of Portuguese outposts along the mighty Zambezi to the ancient, mysterious Mwenu Mutapa kingdom and the enchanting and unique Mozambique Island, Mozambique offers an enticing and fascinating blend of cultures.
Arab dhows and modern speedboats crisscross the translucent tropical waters of a coral-fringed coastline, where scuba-diving opportunities rival the world's best. One of the lasting legacies of Portuguese and Arab traders and colonists are the colourful settlements found along the coast. Maputo, Inhambane, Beira, Quelimane and Pemba display a variety of architectural styles – from Manueline to gaudy 1930s-inspired Art Deco.
So far fortune-seekers have failed in their quest to find the legendary mines of King Solomon, said to contain hoards of gold, yet the stunning diversity of coastal, riverine, mountain, and forest environments are Mozambique's real treasure trove – home to a splendid array of fauna and flora – interspersed with traditional villages.
Although sadly neglected during the years of civil upheaval, the Gorongosa National Park, Maputo Elephant Reserve, Bazaruto National Park and the Niassa Reserve are being rehabilitated, while Tropical Island gems like Magaruque, Benguerra and Bazaruto offer seclusion, luxurious accommodation and excellent diving, fishing and bird-watching.
Whether your visit finds you on one of the endless deserted beaches or diving off the coral isles, you will discover a country filled with the enchanting sights and soothing sounds of Africa.
- Travel Tips
This important southern Indian Ocean port lies less than 100km (60 miles) from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa. With its subtropical climate, beautiful sheltered bay and blend of Portuguese architecture, African spontaneity and Indo/Portuguese/African cuisine, Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques) has retained much of its colonial mystique. Nightclubs swing to samba rhythms until dawn and a host of quiosques (kiosks) serve galinha piri-piri (chicken piri-piri), matapas (a cassava-leaf dish), bacalhau (dried cod) and some of the best batatas frita (fried potato chips) in the world. Hundreds of salões (sidewalk cafés), dozens of nightclubs and the odd suitably sleazy strip joint complement the vibrant atmosphere of this capital city that feels more Latin American than African.
Modelled on Portuguese harbour cities such as Lisbon and Porto, Maputo’s wide avenidas (avenues) are lined with pavements inlaid with black-and-white stone mosaics. Laid out in a grid pattern in 1847, the ‘long’ avenues extend at right angles to Avenida da Marginal while the ‘short’ avenues traverse Maputo Hill away from the bay. By car, you will enter the city via the large traffic circle on Av. 24 de Julho, and proceed for 5km (3 miles) before reaching Av. Julius Nyerere, the heart of the cima, or upper city. Visitors arriving at Maputo International Airport will enter the city via Av. de Acordos de Lusaka. This becomes Av. da Guerra Popular on reaching the high-rise area, runs downhill to the baixa – the lower city – and ends at the massive ‘peace goddess’ statue in the centre of the square opposite the Maputo Railway Station.
The Lagoon Coast
Like a string of jewels, Mozambique’s coastal lakes stretch for 500km (311 miles) from Ponta do Ouro in the south as far north as Inharrime. Many lagoons and estuaries, like Piti, Quissico and Poelela, have been cut off from the sea by some of the world’s tallest forested sand dunes. Others, such as the estuaries formed by the Tembe, Maputo and Umbelúzi rivers as well as stunning Lake (lagoa) Uembje at Bilene, are open to the sea, providing protected spawning grounds for the area’s fish species.
Whether seeking solitude on the shores of a lake, casting for game fish at the ‘Cape of Currents’ close to Závora Lodge, paddling a canoe up the Incomáti River estuary, exploring the superb coral reefs from Ponta do Ouro, Praia do Tofo or Morrungulo, or taking a self-drive safari in the Maputo Elephant Reserve, this strip of tropical coastline promises surprises from the crest of every dune and around the next headland along each idyllic beach.
This is Da Gama’s Terra da Boa Gente (Land of Good People) – a reputation still deserved today, nearly 500 years after the Portuguese explorer anchored off Inharrime and was showered with gifts by the locals.
The proximity to Maputo International Airport (from where light aircraft may be chartered) and the wide range of accommodation on offer make the Lagoon Coast an ideal starting point for a Mozambican adventure. Base yourself at one of the charming and ideally located resorts and lodges described in this chapter and from there explore the variety and haunting beauty of the lakes and lagoons and their flora and fauna.
Inhambane and Surrounds
Inhambane province and its capital of the same name lie outside the destructive path of most of the tropical cyclones that can wreak havoc along this coast. The area’s isolation has ensured its relative escape from modern influences; much cultural and historical heritage has been retained.
The road to the clean port town of Inhambane, a day’s journey from Maputo, is tarred and largely in good condition, having been recently resurfaced and constantly maintained. Scheduled flights from Johannesburg, Kruger International and Maputo operated by LAM and Pelican Air Services serve the town and Travellers with an adventurous spirit and no deadlines may want to try the (irregular) dhow traffic between Beira, Vilankulo and Inhambane. Although not the safest or most comfortable option, it is the most memorable. The jetties at Maxixe and Inhambane are the southernmost anchorage for Arab dhows, known as lanchas or barcos as velas, graceful ancient craft still being built in the villages lining the bay.
Within a 30km (18-mile) radius of Inhambane town lie at least a dozen destinations well worth a visit. From legendary Linga Linga Peninsula (no facilities) at the entrance to Baia de Inhambane (where dugongs are sometimes spotted), Tofo beach (accessible in normal car) where Diversity Scuba offer a chance to explore the undersea world and the serene sands of Ponta da Barra to the prolific marine life of Paindane’s beautiful Lighthouse Reef, and Guinjata Bay’s comprehensive facilities, visitors can expect a cultural, culinary and historical feast.
Africa’s version of the famed Galápagos Islands, the Bazaruto Archipelago and surrounding marine environment is a complex and unique ecosystem, well protected by its isolation. Harbouring one of the last viable populations of dugong along the entire East African coast, the Bazarutos command some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. In descending order of size, Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina (also known as Paradise Island) and tiny undeveloped Bangué Island each have their own charm and character.
Amid the turquoise shallows surrounding each island, in the tidal inlets and shaded sea pastures opening into the deep Mozambique Channel, a wealth of marine life exists. For conservationists the uniqueness of this archipelago lies in its fragile diversity. Wildlife ranges from migrant bird species, frigate birds and falcons to crocodiles lurking in the brackish inland lakes. At least five species of turtle have their breeding ground here, while various antelope, rodents, lizards and snakes inhabit the massive mobile sand dunes and adjacent scrubland.
For the moment, only part of Bazaruto, Benguerra and a narrow strip of adjacent sea have been designated as a national park but it is hoped that co-operation between the WWF International, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Southern African Nature Foundation, International Wilderness Leadership Foundation and Lodge and Hotel owners will lead to a sound conservation management policy, uniting all the islands under the protection of a greater ‘Parque Nacional do Arquipélago do Bazaruto’.
From Beira to Gorongosa and Cahora Bassa
Beira (capital of Sofala province), Chimoio (capital of Manica province) and Tete (capital of Tete) are the largest towns in Mozambique’s central and western region. All three are historically and architecturally fascinating, owing their existence to the need for trading outlets: Chimoio is an important farming centre, Tete is a Zambezi River port and Beira a busy ocean harbour at the mouth of the Púngoè and Búzi rivers. Tete’s two squat sandstone stockades reveal its former ‘frontier town’ status, while dhows, handcrafted nearby, still ply Beira’s ultramodern docks.
In this region the Mozambican Plain narrows, giving way to the Mozambican Plateau and the Chimanimani, Gorongosa and Bvumba mountain ranges. Mangrove swamps still occur sporadically along the coast, but corals are restricted by the shallows produced by a widening continental shelf, as well as the influence of silt deposited at the mouths of the Búzi, Púngoè and Zambezi rivers.
Extensive mangrove swamps occur between Beira and Nova Mambone, and around Quelimane. For birders this habitat is significant – it harbours rare species like the palmnut vulture and elusive mangrove kingfisher, found in greater numbers here than anywhere else on earth.
Gorongosa National Park www.gorongosa.net has reached an advanced stage of restoration and can now accommodate casual visitors who are able to fend for themselves. Supported by a grant from the Carr Foundation plans to reintroduce the once-vast herds of elephant, buffalo and other wildlife and to extend the park’s original boundaries are progressing very well. The raw romance of Africa retains a tenuous grip in this region.
North of the Zambezi
The isolated provinces of Zambézia, Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa make up the area north of the Zambezi River. As evidenced by the 2001 and 2006 floods, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people and prevented the Caia ferry from operating for weeks, the powerful Zambezi still forms a huge barrier to movement between and development of the northern provinces. This is mainly because there is no accessible road bridge over the river downstream from Tete – the 3.7km (21?2-mile) converted rail bridge (built in 1934 and converted for road traffic in 1998) between Sena and Morrumbala now being returned to rail traffic to serve the Moatize coalfields. Now there are two new and reliable 22-ton vehicle ferries operating at Caia, while the Inchope–Gorongosa–Caia highway was completed in 2003. Construction of a $85 million road bridge across the Zambezi at Caia is due to be complete by 2009. Thus the mighty Zambezi that divides Mozambique into two distinct regions – a south influenced by South Africa and Zimbabwe, and a north which relates to Malawi and Tanzania – will no longer be a barrier to progress.
Until the late 19th century, the northern coast from Chinde to Mocímboa da Praia had most of the Portuguese government’s attention. Apart from modest trading posts at Tete, Beira, Inhambane and Maputo Bay, the area south of the Zambezi was considered too far away from maritime trading routes to warrant extensive development. This is why only in 1898 was former Lourenço Marques declared the capital. During the previous four centuries Ilha de Moçambique had been the principal city and busiest port.