Northern Mozambique

Northern Mozambique is naturally divided by Malawi into two distinct regions: the north-east and the north-west. The north-eastern region consists of the provinces of Zambezia, Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa. Extending from Chinde on the Zambezi delta in the south to Namoto village at the mouth of the Rovuma, and from Cóbuè near Lake Malawi's Likoma Islands in the west to Mozambique Island in the east, this is a vast area of mysterious mountains (Namúli and Unango), historic settlements (Angoche, Mozambique and Ibo islands), idyllic islands (lihas das Quirimbas) and wildlife (Niassa Reserve).

The coastline is over 1 000 kilometres long. Tiny coral creatures that thrive in the warm tropical water have produced about one hundred coral isles and islets. The main island grouping off Zambezia is the Moebase Archipelago. The Angoche Archipelago lies adjacent to Nampula Province, while the remote llhas das Quirimbas lie between Pemba and the Rovuma. Deep, vast inland bays are also a notable feature of this seaboard, with Nacala harbour among the world's deepest and Pemba Bay one of the world's largest natural ports.

Mozambique's coastal flats, hundreds of kilometres wide in the south, are at their narrowest in this region, where the Mozambican Plateau replaces the Mozambican Plain as the dominant relief feature. This is the result of an underlying geological structure, composed of immense volcanic batholiths exposed by erosion throughout Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa provinces in the form of obelisk-shaped granite domes. Mounts Namúli (2 419 m) in Zambezia, Mitucué in Nampula and Jeci in Niassa are all examples of granite domes. Apart from these enormous basalts, metamorphic rocks occur widely and marble quarries operate at Montepuez in Cabo Delgado province. Minerals and semi-precious stones such as tourmaline, aquamarine and morganite occur around Nampula town, Nacala and Morrua.

Major rivers in this region include the Zambezi; the Rovuma, forming the boundary between Mozambique and Tanzania; the Lugela, rising on the Malawi border near Mt. Mulanje; the Molócue, which has its source on Mt. Namúli; the Lúrio, which forms the boundary between Nampula and Cabo Delgado; and the Lugenda, draining lakes Chiuta in Malawi and Amaramba in Mozambique. Yet another major freshwater feature is Lake Malawi (Lago Niassa), with a 250-kilometre-long coast alongside Niassa Province.

The north-western region comprises the province of Tete. Resulting from the penetration by Portuguese explorers and traders up the Zambezi valley as far as Zambia's Luangwa River, this remote region is different and very distinctive from the rest of the country. The Cahora Bassa dam and hydro-electric scheme is located in the Zambezi River in the heart of Tete Province, and the resultant 270-kilometre-long lake is both a fishing mecca and a highway to wilderness areas otherwise inaccessible. Tete, the province's capital city, dates back 300 years and has long been a hub of trade in southern Africa. Today the suspension bridge spanning the Zambezi at Tete is still on the trans-African highway and is the only crossing point (apart from the Sena bridge) for vehicles downstream of Chirundu.

The western border is formed by the Luangua River. Bin-Bin village on the Malawi frontier lies on the eastern extremity, while Missale is the northernmost town and Chindio on the junction of the Shire and Zambezi rivers is the southernmost point. Although the Zambezi drains the entire area, major tributaries such as the Luangua, Lula, Luenha and Revúbué have carved deep valleys in Tete province before flowing into the Zambezi. From the bottom of the Zambezi valley, to the tip of the Angónia plateau's Mt. Dómuè (2 095 m) on the Malawi border, this area of Mozambique exhibits many landscape and climatic variations.

Geologically, this region is a complex mix of volcanic, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Tete province is rich in minerals such as coal, gold, copper, iron and nickel, as evidenced by the coal mine at Moatize and the alluvial gold diggings around Chifumbazi. Lava flows surface as hills on the Zimbabwe border around Nyamapanda, and intrusive granite batholiths surface as domes around Muende on the Angónia Plateau. Large areas of erosion occur within the boundaries of the Zambezi drainage basin and depositional flats formed by the flooding Zambezi are present on its banks, where it joins the Shire River.

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