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.
Reserva do Niassa and Lago Niassa (Lake Malawi)
Known as ‘Africa’s last true wilderness’, the Niassa Reserve, at 38,000km2 (14,668 sq miles), is the largest game reserve in Mozambique. Surprisingly it has over 12,000 elephant, 8000 buffalo, and with around 200 animals, is one of the last refuges of the highly threatened wild dog (lycaon pictus). Lago Niassa has wild beaches such as Chuanga near Metangula and Nkwichi which is adjacent to a fledgling reserve near Cobúè called Manda Wilderness. Access (LAM flights) is via Lichinga, which has a the suprisingly large and comfortable Hotel Girassol Lichinga.
The Gessners, a family of German extraction, own coconut plantations on Quirimba Island as well as a delightful home. Quilálea marine sanctuary is nearby, reached via Quirimba’s airstrip and a 20-minute boat ride.
A momentous event occurred at Mueda in 1964, setting in motion formal resistance to Portuguese rule. Makonde elders, rebelling against the confiscation of their land by the settlers, attended a meeting with the Portuguese governor here and hundreds of them were machine-gunned during an ensuing riot. Today the town has a memorial to the Mueda Massacre.
Ibo is just one of over 30 coral islands that form the Arquipélago das Quirimbas, stretching for some 250km
Pangane and the Ruvuma Ferry
Before 1975, Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, was called Porto Amelia. The residents have dubbed it Mozambique’s papaya paradise, which is fairly apt, as this little port is located on a headland squeezed between a magnificent inland bay and an idyllic beach where tall papaya trees lend their shade.