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TOPIC: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania

Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 9 months ago #8192

  • Toby
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Hi everybody,

I intend to do a trip in July which - according to my planning so far - would take me from Mozambique to Tanzania. I had in mind to cross the border from Mozambique to Tanzania from Pemba to Mtwara. I posted an inquiry about that route in Lonely Planet and got the answer that you can read below. Can anybody comment on that experience? Has anybody had a better experience or can you confirm the report? Right now I am thinking of not going that way.
Thanks for your help.


Here is the reply I got:

I did a return journey from Mtwara to Pemba and Mocimba and back in June, 2011 and DO NOT recommend it. In fact, I created an account on Lonely [/b]Planet just to discourage and warn people of this journey. While I understand you may be a naive and new traveller in Africa and the likes of Northern Mozambique may attract you as a hidden adventure where foreigners seldom go, you are making a mistake if you take this journey and if you are bringing friends and family along with you then you are putting them in danger. Adventures are fun, but this trip is not safe at all and should be avoided 100%.

FROM TANZANIA

From Mtwara there are 1-2 small busses making a simple 1 hour journey to the border post in Tanzania, the bus leaves at 4 or 5am and costs 5,000 TSH. Things seem fine at this point, the road is rough but nothing like the Mozambique side.

After this bus trip the whole bus journey will turn into a suicidal adventure. The boats you will have to take to cross the Ruvuma are NOT SAFE at all, ask locals about the last time one was capsized by the hippos and crocodiles that are everywhere in the river or the last time they sank due to being overloaded. If that's not enough they commonly get caught in the sand due to the water being so shallow. They fill them up with too many people and goods and move them using a completely inadequate motor, the boat hardly moves when its in the water. The boats are made of wood and commonly snap, they have holes everywhere and passengers are often asked to move around to save the back of the boat from submerging. The boat lies very low in the water at all points. To say one last time, they are not safe and they are the only way across the river.

There are no metal/heavy duty ferries that cross the river, you cannot transport a car or motorcycle safely across the river. The people who operate the ferries are lawless and do steal, they will charge whatever they want to and leave you stranded in the middle of the river on the sand island you must walk across each time if they want to.

WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN MOZAMBIQUE, there will be pick up trucks waiting for the ferry and hawkers asking you to change your money with them. The situation can become very hectic very quickly and there are absolutely no buildings on the other side to find space. Change money while you are waiting for the Tanzanian immigration office to open and pay the boats in the local Mozambique currency.

If you are lucky you will find a blue covered pick up truck that you can sit inside. If you are not then you will have to sit on the edge of a normal pick up truck for four hours and hang on for your dear life. It should take no more than a half hour to reach the Mozambique border post. When you arrive, immigration officials will almost certainly ask you to bribe them. When I travelled the immigration officials lined us all up outside the office and told all of us to give them money. Those who refused were beaten publicly, the officials are not uniformed and do not have an visible ID. We heard complaints on the way back from Mozambique in Tanzania of American tourists who had $500 forcibly taken from them. There are no other buildings other than the immigration offices, don't plan on being able to consult the public or call anyone for help. There is no mobile service and there is not help.

After leaving the immigration office you will travel for up to two hours to Pemba on what is the worst road you can possibly imagine, it is more fitting for a mountain bike trail than any type of off road car...there are no busses. You need to be very careful not to bounce or fall off the back of the car as the driver will drive fast. You will commonly be asked to get off of the pick up truck as it passes through streams. Your biggest fear however of being on the pick up truck is it breaking down. This happened to me in both directions. There is no civilisation, mobile service or help between the point you get off the boat and Pemba but there are quite a few lions and frightening stories that go along with them killing people on this road.

Apart from the suicidal nature of this journey, Pemba and Mocimba are terrible places to visit. The beach areas are not developed whatsoever and there are no restaurants, nice hotels or shops to cater for visitors. Both places look like ghost towns throughout the day. In Mocimba when consulting the only restaurant on the high road we were told that we would have to bring our own food from the market for them to cook! There is also only one affordable hotel in Mocimba which cost a fortune.

If you must pass the border between Tanzania and Mozambique then do so using the Mkapa Bridge that connects with good towns on both sides, but in general consider Northern Mozambique a boring, unexciting and dangerous place to go. It is underdeveloped, does not offer any business services for visitors and has nothing to offer inland or coast side.
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Re: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 9 months ago #8215

Greetings.

Wish I could figure out why it has taken me so long to get around to replying to this one. My first reaction was: "Heck, what an adventure; Something to tell your grand-kids, and to write a blog about on the internet!"

Firstly, July is a very good time to do this trip. The rains long over and the roads dry, the Rovuma low. Note that if you want to be sure to avoid the sandbanks in the Rovuma wait for high-tide (avoid neap tides when there really is no high tide), if the boat ferry avialability allows.

But after reading it again, I do think that there is a lot I need to clarify.

Regular users of mozguide will know that during June and July of 2011 I was in Cabo Delgado Province supporting Nick North on his fund-raising run through the length of Mozambique. The run was from north to south and that it why, on June 20, 2011, along with my 9-year old son, Luke and Nick North, I arrived at Quionga, staying overnight at a missionary's house.

Early the following morning we drove down the beaufiful track that was in quite good condition (could be a nightmare in rain) to the Namoto border post. Parts of the causeway across the mangrove flats had been washed away, but in the dry season it was easy to take my Toyota Condor 4x4 for a "wade" across the sandy channels.

The police and immigration officials at Namoto were relaxed and friendly, as were all the vendors and boat touts hanging around. I handed over the vehicle Temporary import permit and we were allowed to drive past the border gate the 3km to Singa which is a cluster of 'baracas' or temporary stalls at the riverside where the boat ferries collect and drop off the local travellers heading to, or from Tanzania.

So far, everyone all smiles.

I have heard many stories of travellers (backpackers) using this crossing and yes the boat owners do try to rip-off foreigners, but the trick is to befriend a local and give him the money to pay on your behalf BEFORE YOU GET ON THE BOAT. If asked for more money show a credit card (good to carry a cancelled card) and explain you can only get more cash in Mocimboa da Praia and need the rest of you cash for the 'chapa'- taxi ride - rip-off problem solved.

QUOTE: "Change money while you are waiting for the Tanzanian immigration office to open and pay the boats in the local Mozambique currency."

MIKE: Very good advice, but the ferry operators do accept Tanzanian shillings, and will give you a poor rate if you want to use Mozambique Meticais. Today it is about Tsh60 to the Mozambican Metical.

QUOTE: "The boats you will have to take to cross the Ruvuma are NOT SAFE at all, ask locals about the last time one was capsized by the hippos and crocodiles that are everywhere in the river or the last time they sank due to being overloaded."

MIKE: Regarding the condition of the boats, I have previously twice been taken across ithe Rovuma to Tanzania and back on one of their boats. See picture in the link that follows, but the boats that I saw were good, solid fibreglass - but yes overloaded - so a good idea to be able to swim and put your passport in a sealed bag.

PICTURE OF BOATS ON ROVUMA NEAR NAMOTO: www.mozguide.com/index.php/news/137-north-south-run-update

QUOTE: "capsized by the hippos and crocodiles that are everywhere in the river or the last time they sank due to being overloaded"

MIKE: Yes there are hippos and crocodiles in the Rovuma but I did ask the locals to show me where and they explained they tend to keep away from people due to trapping and illegal hunting. The police at the Namoto post did say that a vehicle being carried on the makeshift (3 boats lashed together) car ferry did capsize once but not due hippos, crocs or sandbanks but due to overloading.

QUOTE: "The people who operate the ferries are lawless and do steal, they will charge whatever they want to and leave you stranded in the middle of the river on the sand island you must walk across each time if they want to."

MIKE: Perhaps it helps that I speak Portuguese and some Swahili, but I found the ferry operators quite friendly and clearly very skilled with regard to when and how to cross the river. I watched boats coming and going and they moved quite well in the water, the outboard motors managing quite well. Perhaps at low-tide or when there is a strong outgoing tide, they might have problems. There were lots of women and children on the boats and no-one appeared to be scared or concerned - a good sign as they can't swim!

QUOTE: "It should take no more than a half hour to reach the Mozambique border post."

MIKE: In June of 2011, it took Nick 20 minutes to RUN from the Rovuma river to the Namoto border posts. It took my 9-year-old son 10 minutes on a mountain-bike and it took me perhaps 5 minutes in my 4x4, and I was driving slowly. The distance is just 3km.

QUOTE: "When you arrive, immigration officials will almost certainly ask you to bribe them. When I travelled the immigration officials lined us all up outside the office and told all of us to give them money. Those who refused were beaten publicly, the officials are not uniformed and do not have an visible ID."MIKE: We experienced courtesy and friendliness. All the officials and police were neatly uniformed and did not even mind being photographed. There was no atmosphere of fear at all. The missionary in Quionga did tell us, however, that Somali refugees who try to sneak past the border post in the bush, are sometimes being caught and beaten up by Mozambican soldiers.

QUOTE: "We heard complaints on the way back from Mozambique in Tanzania of American tourists who had $500 forcibly taken from them. There are no other buildings other than the immigration offices, don't plan on being able to consult the public or call anyone for help. There is no mobile service and there is not help."

MIKE: From June 21 to July 15 The only other travellers heading north to Tanzania via Namoto (or south from Namoto) we met on the road were an Australian/Russian couple who we met at Quionga. They were considering using the local makeshift ferry but when they saw how wide the river was, and how flimsy the ferry from Mozambique, and the Tanzanian traders all had signals from Tanzania so communication is quite good.

QUOTE: "After leaving the immigration office you will travel for up to two hours to Pemba on what is the worst road you can possibly imagine, it is more fitting for a mountain bike trail than any type of off road car...there are no busses."MIKE: OK, enough of being diplomatic; This is total Bull-shite! In a good 4x4 vehicle, Singa - Namoto - Macomia - Sunate - Pemba is about 8 hrs, mostly on good tarmac. Your 4x4 pick-up from Singa will take you to Palma from where there are many chapas and buses to Pemba every day.

Nick ran every kilometer of the road from Namoto to Silva Macua (Sunate on most maps) at the junction to Pemba, and Luke and I cycled a lot of it. So I am qualified to comment on the conditions of the road, as of July 2011.

Namoto to Quionga (17km, half-an-hour) in the dry season is drivable in a non-4x4 pickup truck and mostly very nice double track through beautiful forests. We did see elephant droppings on the track but the elephants are unfortunately very shy as they are harassed by locals trying to keep them out of their machambas (maize fields).

Quionga to Palma (22km, less than an hour) is easy sandy track, 4x4 nice but not needed, with one washed-away bridge but was being fixed. Drive around through river needs to be checked but not difficult.

Palma to Mocimboa da Praia (82km, 2hrs) is good sand track to wide gravel road. Also one damaged bridge but easy drive-around. Good accommodation at Pensao Wivo .

Mocimboa da Praia to Oasse (Pemba - Mueda - Mocimboa da Praia junction): 42km, half-hour. Good tarmac. Fuel stations and good accommodation at Chez Natalie or OK at Pensao Magid.

Oasse - Chai (64km 2-3hrs) very badly broken up tarmac with continuous potholes and jagged tarmac.

Chai - Macomia (42km, 2hrs) initially quite good tarmac, some potholes, but then sand track diversion next to new road under construction to 10km north of Macomia. Fuel station (1km south of turn-off to Mucojo) and OK accommodation at Bar Chung.

Macomia to Silva Macua (Sunate) 122km, 2hrs. Mostly good tarmac, some potholes.

Silva Macua to Pemba (80km, 1hr). Very good tarmac. In Pemba my choice of accommodation is Pemba Dive Bush Camp.

QUOTE: "There is no civilisation, mobile service or help between the point you get off the boat and Pemba but there are quite a few lions and frightening stories that go along with them killing people on this road."

MIKE: There are many friendly and helpful people, basic pensoes (guest houses), fuel stations, restaurants (Mocimboa has a good sea-side restaurant and Chez Natalie is also nice), schools, clinics, police stations, shopes, bank and ATM in Mocimboa da Praia, Macomia, plenty in Pemba. Pemba has an international airport, expat clinic, lots of hotels, lodges, shops etc etc.

I had mCel signal in and around Quionga, Palma, Mocimboa da Praia, Oasse, Macomia, Sunate and most of the way from there to Pemba. Same on Vodacom. We had been told about the lions but unfortunately did not see any. There are reports of lions attacking people in the Muidumbe district, rarely.

QUOTE: "If you must pass the border between Tanzania and Mozambique then do so using the Mkapa Bridge that connects with good towns on both sides, but in general consider Northern Mozambique a boring, unexciting and dangerous place to go. It is underdeveloped, does not offer any business services for visitors and has nothing to offer inland or coast side."

MIKE: Never heard of the Mpaka bridge but perhaps this is the Unity One bridge at Negomano or the Unity Two bridge at Congresso. In either case there are only tiny villages on either side of the Rovuma and long distance and bad to impassable (in rainy season) roads either to Mueda (from Negomano) or to Lichinga (from Congresso).

My conclusion can only be that the person who replied to your request for information has never travelled this route and has spent some time cutting and pasting the experiences of other travellers (along with some hallucinations of his (or her) own.

Perhaps one of the best examples I can find of how armchair (or bar-stool) travellers are flooding the internet with rubbish, making a good, up-to-date guidebook (and/or website) even more essential than ever before.

Very nice description from a traveler who did this route: danalbrecht.com/?tag=ruvuma-river

Best wishes and have a good trip on this route in July, my friend.

Mike
Last Edit: 2 years 8 months ago by mozman. Reason: more info found
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Re: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 9 months ago #8216

  • Toby
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Thank you, Mike.

I do not mind too much to pay more than locals. As long as there is no violence involved (as the reply I got in Lonely Planet reports about) I am fine.

Toby
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Re: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 8 months ago #8230

Hi there

thanks for the above info. we are from EAst London in SA. we are planning a trip up the east coast starting in MAy. we will be visiting a friend in Pemba, and going up to Palma to see islands with them. is it possible, or recommended, to cross the river into Tanzania . can the ferries take a 10ton overland 4x4 truck?

is it better to go via the "bridge' at Negomano / Mtambaswala. i am travelling with wife and three young children.

we intend going through to Dar es Salaam & over to zanzibar. where else do you recommend we go in Tanzania, given that my 4x4 driving skill are limited

our plan is to head back via lake malawi and down moz to home

any suggestion you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

any suggestions on places to stay and routes to take on the way. we are open to any and all suggestions

regards

Grant Du Preez
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Re: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 8 months ago #8232

Hi Grant

Firstly I must make it absolutely clear that there is NO vehicle ferry at the Rovuma mouth near Quionga or anywhere else along the river. At Singa (Rovuma mouth) there are plenty of open boats with small outboard motors that carry passengers across to and from Tanzania (Kilambo).

When someone arrives at the rovuma who has decided that they must get their 4x4 across (not bakkie or pick-up sized to Landrover at the biggest), the boat owners get together and lash three boats together and then put planks on top for your vehicle.

Once on this makeshift 'ferry', your vehicle is fairly 'safe' but the procedure for getting on and off can be very scary, particularly if it has rained or you are in a hurry and don't listen to the boat owners advice to wait for the right tide.

So with anything bigger than a 2 ton 4x4 this is not an option so take your truck via Mueda to Negomano and cross into Tanzania there.

For story from some who were brave enought to put there bakkies onto the boats go to:
blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/d...1220250600/tpod.html

Mike
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Re: Border crossing Northern Mozambique to Tanzania 2 years 8 months ago #8234

thanks mike

how long do you reckon it will take from Pemba, over bridge, through to Dar es Salaam? where is best place to refuel and stop over for the night. looked at it on google , a nd it seems around 1200km. thats hectic. how long between main centres?

Travelling with 3 kids in a truck overlander so no land speed records being brocken here

Option 2:

do you reckon rather head back down and around Malawi. what would be best route? Malawi and diesel is our main worry. any info or suggestions.
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