With over 2,500kms (1500 miles) of coastline the tourism industry in Mozambique is predominately based on the attraction of its white, palm-fringed beaches, lapped by warm currents and boasting coral reefs, islands and archipelago's with dazzling marine life...but as game reserves like Gorongoza and Niassa come on stream more options to combine bush-and-bush are beginning to present themselves (Gorongoza was once, back in the early 1960s, one of THE top game reserves in Africa!).
As the country re-enters the international tourism scene many new lodges and luxury hotels are opening to cater for the discerning visitor. The coral reefs and open seas off Mozambique are some of the world's richest, making the country a haven for snorkelling, diving and deep sea fishing.
Also coming into view are the safari destinations of Gorongoza NP and Niassa Reserve which are both undergoing rehabilitation. Niassa remains one of the last havens for the endangered wild dog and sable antelope.
Opposite the coastal town of Vilanculos, about 10kms (6 miles) off the coast of Mozambique lies the Bazaruto Archipelago, one of the most serenely beautiful coastal regions on the continent, complete with azure waters, sandy beaches, palm trees, pristine coral reefs, and big game fish.
This idyllic archipelago consists of a chain of five islands (Bazaruto, Benguerra, Margaruque, Banque and Santa Carolina). The entire area between the mainland and the 150 fathom mark is a protected conservation area, with the northern section of Bazaruto Island being declared a National Park. The archipelago is the perfect venue to view a variety of abundant wildlife including humpback whales, turtles, manta rays, dolphins and dugongs.
Through the deep channels surrounding the archipelago one has quick access to the continental drop-offs, which are the haunts of marlin, sailfish, and other deep sea game fish. The kilometre wide gaps between the islands through which the sea surges with the tides are prime angling areas, rich in kingfish, queen fish, 'coutra', barracuda and other predators, who congregate here to feed on the passing trade. The islands' crystal white beaches and coral gardens just offshore are a diver's and snorkeller's delight.
The town of Pemba, known in colonial days as Porto Amelia, lies on one of the world's largest natural deep water harbours in the far northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado, just 240 km from the border with Tanzania.
Some 60 km north of Pemba begins one of the most fascinating stretches of Mozambique's long coastline. Here in some earlier age the relentless ocean detected a coastal weakness and broke through, flooding the hinterland to create a new and shallow, mangrove-rich coastline that is both nursery and kitchen to marine life. Of the original coastline nothing remains but a string of islands large and small. These are the Quirimbas, rich in history of the days when Arab and Portuguese tussled for domination of Africa's east coast.
The mostly shallow waters between the islands and the mainland are richer in trevally and other gamefish than most anglers can ever imagine. To this end light tackle and especially fly-anglers are well catered for. But move just a few hundred metres outside the line of islands, and the ocean floor falls away into astonishing canyons and precipices, so that within a stone's throw of shore one is in the royal blue deeps of prime marlin water. Here is where not only billfish but also big yellowfin and dogtooth prowl.
Once considered one of the great game parks of southern Africa, Gorongoza suffered the almost total obliteration of its wildlife during the many years of civil unrest. Positive steps are now being taken to re-stock this once awesome reserve, whilst improvements to infrastructure and facilities are under way. Excellent birding with good populations of buffalo, wildebeest, sable, eland, zebra and other grazers. The first private safari operator within Gorongosa has now begun walking safaris, including game drives (day and evening/night), from a semi-permanent tented camp within the Park.
Niassa Reserve, at 42,000 km2, is the largest conservation area in Mozambique and contains by far the greatest concentration of wildlife in the country. Despite years of human conflict it supports a remarkably rich and diverse collection of wildlife. The results of an aerial census carried out in October 2002, the third one since 1998, estimated an elephant population of 12 000 with evidence of an increasing trend in numbers. The Reserve also has over 9000 of the sable antelope and several thousands each of Cape buffalo, Lichtensteins hartebeest, eland, and zebra. There are smaller populations of kudu, bushbuck, impala, wildebeest, waterbuck, reedbuck, and hippo. Duiker and warthogs abound. Lion, leopard and spotted hyena are common. The endangered Cape hunting dog (African wild dog) occurs with an estimated population exceeding 200 animals, which makes the Niassa Reserve one of the last best refugees for this species. Of particular interest are three endemic subspecies, which exist in Niassa but are rare elsewhere, namely: Niassa wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni), Boehms zebra (Equus burchelli boehmi), and Johnstons impala (Aepyceros melampus johnstoni).
The main activities in Mozambique are all water or beach oriented:
Deep Sea Fishing:
Mozambique is reputed to have some of the best game fishing in the world.
Mozambique boasts some of the finest saltwater fly-fishing in Africa. Using fly fishing boats equipped with fish finders, fly fishers can throw a line for an absolute wealth of species. Most commonly encountered are kingfish (including Giant Trevally) king and queen mackerel, kawakawa and springer. Even the much sought-after bonefish is found around the islands and is occasionally caught fishing deep.
Scuba diving & Snorkeling:
The impressive beauty of the surrounding coral reefs is enriched by the stunning diversity of the tropical fish which abound in this sub-tropical ecosystem. Both the Bazaruto and Quirimba Archipelagos' have earned the name as the "Pearl of the Indian Ocean". Scuba diving and snorkeling can be arranged from all of the lodges and island resorts, with a good selection of dive locations being available.
Laser sail boats, windsurfers, surf ski/canoes, sea kayaks and paddle skis are also available.
Hiking, Birding & Beachcombing:
The islands offer pleasant nature hikes with some good birding. The unspoilt and tranquil beaches are ideal for long scenic beach walks and shell collecting.
Available only on Benguerra Island - take a gentle ride along the beach or to the fresh-water lakes and massive sand dunes behind the resort.
Catamaran charter cruises can also be arranged. Ask for details..
Visits can be arranged to the local markets at Vilanculos and Pemba or perhaps just have a look around town.
You can also set sail for a day amongst the islands on a traditional Dhow.
Arrange with your hotel for a castaway picnic.
And of course there is always the swimming pool and bar...
Vilanculos, Pemba and Maputo (the capital) are the entry points into Mozambique from neighboring countries (en route to the many lovely beach and island destinations on offer).
Whilst Vilanculos is the jumping off point for the Bazaruto Archipelago there are a number of 'mainland' lodges worthy of consideration. The small town is an interesting and down-to-earth African coastal village that is worth a visit itself. The airline is modern and (realtively) effiecient too.
Likewise, Pemba town is the gateway for the Quirimba Archipelago in thye far north of the country, although it too has a number of enticing hotels close to town.
Coastal resorts can be found both north and south of the capital Maputo, with both road and helicopter transfers available. Maputo is by far the contry's largest city which, despite many years of civil unrest, is slowly making its way back to be being an eclectic mix of new and old.
Some points to note when planning your itinerary:
Mozambique combines well with South Africa and Tanzania with flights from Kruger NP, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam .
Reasons to go:
- to relax and be pampered (ideal for before or after a hectic safari schedule).
- romantic solitude (ideal for honeymooners).
- exotic location (stunning beaches, Palm trees, African fisherman, bustling markets, Arab dhows and an exciting mix of Africa, Portuguese and Arab cultures).
- its fabulous marine life and stunningly clear waters.
- an abundance of outdoor activity options including scuba diving, snorkeling, big game and saltwater fly-fishing.
- the sheer atmospere of it all...
Mozambique offers a significant cultural contrast to the other countries in the region, with its blend of African, Arab and Portuguese influences. This mix is especially noticeable in its Afro-Portuguese cuisine; its colonial architecture and the Latin beat of music in the clubs and discos. All this creates an atmosphere that is unique within southern Africa. The cosmopolitan existence of Mozambique started well before the first Europeans arrived in the region. Arab sailors are thought to have been trading with Mozambique prior to 600 AD, bringing spices and trading gold and ivory. Today, about a quarter of the population is Muslim, about one fifth are Catholic, and the remaining are animists.
Flights into Mozambique, mostly from South Africa, are limited but access is growing.
Mozambique combines well with a safari in Tanzania, Botswana or South Africa - bush and beach - and is a great 'chill-out' location after your time on safari (and all those early starts!).
The Niassa Reserve and Gorongoza are still in the early stages of tourist development with the first safari camps now established - recommended for the more adventurous traveller!
Visas should be obtained PRIOR to arrival in Mozambique.