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.
Pomene and Ponta da Barra Falsa are situated on the point of a large peninsula reached via a scenic track, negotiable for the last 5km (3 miles) by 4WD only. The once-famous hotel now lies abandoned and in ruins, but a wonderfully positioned lodge has now opened.
Morrungulo (Nelson’s Bay)
This divine little coconut grove with its beach-fringed bay is primarily a sport fishing and diving location ideal for families. The first stunning views of the camping area are of lush green grass under gently swaying coconut palms – and a few steps away unspoilt, glistening white sands stretch in an arc from horizon to horizon. This is delightful Nelson’s Bay, named after the Zimbabwean family who owned the resort before 1975, and who, by buying the coconut palms, managed to hold onto it through the dark years when the tourists stayed away. Old man Nelson died in 2004, but his son has taken over and is continually improving Morrungulo.
Maxixe and Surrounds
About 460km (285 miles) from Maputo, Maxixe (pronounced ‘Masheesh’) is the only section of the EN1 that touches the long Mozambique coastline. Maxixe is therefore an obvious place for travellers to kick off their travelling boots and get some of that sea breeze through their hair. Maxixe’s jetty, just 50m (165ft) across the road from the Mobil service station, is one of the world’s last major dhow staging posts. The EN1 passes between the town and the bay, so apart from the Campismo da Maxixe (camp site) all other facilities are on your left, if travelling north, and on your right, if travelling south. Alongside the EN1 there are brand-new service stations located on either end of the town’s outskirts. You will be able to find limited spares and repair facilities in Maxixe.
With its carpentry shops and colourful market, Massinga is worth a closer look on your way to somewhere else. The true significance of Massinga will only be revealed to those unfortunate enough to damage an essential part of their car in the area. Behind one of the two filling stations in Massinga, there is an excellent little workshop, where a mechanic (mecânico) does a fine job of welding together broken bits of suspension or chassis while you sip one of Rashid’s wide variety of drinks at his restaurant, Dalilo.
Paindane is an exciting and accessible snorkelling paradise. A superb inland reef (Lighthouse Reef), which is only a few metres deep at high tide, is protected from destruction by the powerful currents, waves and surges by a sand bar. Visibility under the surface is usually at least 20m (65ft) and in midsummer can be as much as 40m (130ft), making Paindane beach one of the very best snorkelling spots on the East African coast.
Ponta da Linga Linga
Linga Linga is not to be missed if you have a (slightly) adventurous spirit and a desire to experience non-commercialized, uncomplicated Mozambique. Dhows leave for Linga Linga irregularly from the Inhambane and Maxixe jetties so get down to the waterline, put out word that you’re headed for Linga Linga, and soon (could be the next day) a dhow will be at your disposal. For the same price per day as a dozen beers would cost you, a sturdy, seaworthy craft and crew will be at your disposal. If the wind is right, the trip will take three to four hours, but if it fails, prepare yourself for an uncomfortable wait. The sun is the worst enemy of becalmed sailors; so take along plenty of water and a capulana (sarong) to rig up for shade.
Guinjata is a great destination especially for the fishing, diving, boating and 4WD fraternity. Facilities are comprehensive and the almost exclusively South African clientele are well cared for – right down to a pub and toilets on the beach.