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.
Most of the area has a tropical climate; Due to its higher altitude, Lichinga in Niassa is somewhat cooler. The wet and humid months are from November to April, when temperatures rarely drop below 20°C (68°F), and often reach 40°C (104°F). Summer rainfall tops 200mm (8in) monthly at Quelimane, Pemba and Nampula, 300mm (12in) during March at Lichinga, and 500mm (19in) during January at Gurúè. June to August are the cooler and drier months.
The Magic Flute
In the evening, walk through the villages under the casuarinas near Zalala beach and listen. Wind stroking the palm fronds produces a whispering the locals call ‘kassi-kassi’, while a traditional wind instrument, about the size of a flute and made from hollowed-out reeds, called the thulrúka, summons the spirits of forest and sea in order to ensure rich harvests and heavy nets. A band called Thulrúka once played at Zalala, one of its favourite songs being a happy tune called ‘Cião Quelimane’, celebrating the post-civil war freedom to once again be able to say ‘goodbye’.
The Shrinking Delta
When Livingstone arrived at Quelimane in 1856, the river port on the Rio dos Boas Sinais still lay on the northern edge of the wide Zambezi delta. In the south, the delta extended down to the mouth of the Luauá River, making it over 200km (124 miles) wide. Regulation of the turbulent floodwaters by upstream dams at Kariba and Cahora Bassa has effectively weakened the Zambezi’s output and reduced the delta to half of its natural size.
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