From the overgrown outposts of Portuguese outposts along the mighty Zambezi to the ancient, mysterious Mwenu Mutapa Kingdom and the enchanting and unique Mozambique Island, Mozambique offers an enticing and fascinating blend of cultures. Arab dhows and modern speedboats crisscross the translucent tropical waters of a coral-fringed coastline, where scuba-diving opportunities rival the world’s best. One of the lasting legacies of Portuguese and Arab traders and colonists are the colourful settlements found along the coast. Maputo, Inhambane, Beira, Quelimane and Pemba display a variety of architectural styles- form Manueline to gaudy 1930’s-insprired Art Deco. So far, fortune –seekers have failed in their quest to find the legendary mines of King Solomon, said to contain hoards of gold, yet the stunning diversity of coastal, riverine, mountain and forest environments are Mozambique’s real treasure trove- home to a splendid array of fauna and flora, interspersed with traditional villages.
Praia do Tofo (Tofo Beach) lies on the Indian Ocean coast, on Ponto do Barra peninsula in Inhambane Province, 22 km drive from Inhambane city. Tofo is home to beach villas, laid back rustic beach bars and backpackers, hammocks underneath palm trees , full- moon beach parties, snorkeling with whale sharks and sea turtles, surfing at unspoiled beaches, deep sea fishing, hiking to villages in the palm-forests, and experience a conglomerate of cultures and nationalities’ in its purest form.
Tofo’s tourist industry is built around its exceptional opportunities to see Manta Rays and Whale Sharks which are permanently resident in these waters- Tofo is one of the best destinations for divers/snorkelers to see Whale Sharks.
Diving centers run snorkeling trips to swim with the Whale Sharks and diving trips to see the Manta Rays (these dives are below 20 metres). Tofo beach, running from a rocky point in the south up much of the length of Ponto do Barra is a haven for surfers and bathers.
Direct flights to Inhambane from Johannesburg have enabled this industry. Otherwise Tofo is about 6 hours drive north of Maputo on rough roads. From the north, Tofo is about 5 hours drive from Vilankulo.
Inhambane is a sleepy historic town known for its rusting colonial architecture and has been popular with tourists in recent years. The settlement owes its existence to a deep inlet into which the small river the Matamba flows. Inhambane is one of the oldest settlements on the East Coast of Mozambique. Dhows traded at the place as early as the 11th century. Muslim and Persian traders were the first outsiders to arrive to the area by sea and traded pearls and ambergris and also traded at Chibuene in the south. The area became well known for its local cotton spinning and production by the Tonga tribe. Sometime before the Portuguese came to this town, the Karanga had invaded Inhambane and formed a number of local chieftains which dominated over the Tonga cotton workers and the rewards of trading with the Muslims went to them.
When Vasco da Gama rounded Africa in the late 15th century he pulled into Inhambane to replenish stocks and to explore. He took an immediate liking in Inhambane and named it Terra de Boa Gente or ‘Land of the Good People‘. The Portuguese eventually established a permanent trading post at settlement in 1534. Inhambane was then chosen as the first Jesuit mission to East Africa in 1560.The 170 year old Cathedral of our Lady of Conception is located in the old quarter of the city where a rusted ladder leads to the top of the spire, offering panoramic views of the city and harbor. The city is now home to a museum and a market and is known for its nearby beaches of Tofo and Barra. The central market located along the main boulevard called simply “Mercado Central” offers numerous foods, ranging from a colorful array of spices and vegetables to prawns, fishes and cashew nuts.
Xai-Xai, formerly João Belo, developed in the early 1900s, under Portuguese rule, as a companion port to Lourenço Marques (currently Maputo), though its economic significance was never on par with Mozambique’s largest city. Before independence from Portugal in 1975, Xai-Xai was known as João Belo, in the Overseas Province of Mozambique. João Belo grew and developed under Portuguese rule as a port, agricultural and industrial centre (rice and cashew were produced and transformed), a provider of services, including a district hospital and banking, and an administrative centre. Tourism was also important with beaches and hotels. In 1970, the city had 63,949 inhabitants.
After independence from Portugal it was hit hard by 2000 floods of the Limpopo, with some buildings 3 metres (10 ft) under water. However, shortly after the waters receded the town was opened for business again.
Xai-Xai is a bustling town with markets, shops, restaurants and bars. A few blocks from the central market, there is an open-air furniture factory, located underneath several cashew trees. The beach of Praia do Xai-Xai, approximately 12 km from Xai-Xai, has been a popular tourist attraction since Mozambican tourism, originally under Portuguese administration, was first developed before 1975. A coral reef running parallel to the shore offers good snorkeling and protects the beach from strong waves. In addition, the Wenela Tidal Pool, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of the town, includes a natural tunnel and blow hole that links the pool to the Indian Ocean.
This peaceful town, known as San Martino in the days of Portuguese Mozambique, is situated on a hill overlooking the sprawling waters of the Uembje Lagoon. It’s a massive stretch of water which is 8 km wide and 27 km long, plunging up to depths of 50 metres, but so shallow near the shores that it’s perfect for children.Although the white sands and clear lagoon make you feel as if you are in Greece, this is real Africa with rolling sand dunes, lush vegetation and just a boat ride away, the powerful breakers of the Indian Ocean.
Large numbers of flamingos and other water birds flock here in summer to pluck the spoils from the shallow fringes of the saline water. For the rest of the year, Bilene is all about sailing, diving, fishing, swimming and snorkeling.
Bilene is about 180km from Maputo and offers a good beach destination for those a bit jaded by life in the ever-growing capital.
It’s also a good stopover spot, being on the coastal road to Xai Xai, Inhambane and the Bazaruto Archipelago. Its location as the closest Mozambican beach resort to Johannesburg means that the town sees a large number of South Africans during the school holidays.
Vilankulo (or Vilanculos) is a coastal town in Mozambique, lying in the Vilanculos District of Inhambane Province. Vilankulo is named after local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, and some of the “bairros” (suburbs) are named after his sons. During colonial times the name was changed to Vilanculos since the Portuguese do not use the letter K much, and commonly use the ‘ssh’ sound of the S. At independence the name was changed back to Vilankulo – with a K and no S. Today the district is called Vilanculos and the town Vilankulo, and many residents have Vilankulo as their last name.
Vilankulo has been growing extensively over the last decade, and has been the recipient of considerable inward investment into its tourism infrastructure. The gateway to the archipelago is the town of Vilankulo Dhows travel between the town and the Bazaruto Archipelago. The town itself is only about 5kms long filled with all the amenities needed to make your visit comfortable yet local. The airport is based on the outside of the town with flights arriving and departing on a daily basis. Vilankulo has an array of options when it comes bars (barracas) and restaurants, if local is more your flavor work your way from The Market in the center of town towards the main beaches of Vilankulo. If you prefer something a little more exclusive there is a wide variety of exquisite lodges to visit.
It is home to a new international airport, which serves daily flights to several regional destinations, including Johannesburg, Maputo, Swaziland, and elsewhere.
The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of six islands in Mozambique, near the mainland city of Vilankulo. It comprises the islands of Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Banque, Santa Carolina (also known as Paradise Island) and Shell. This Group of islands offer the idyllic unspoiled tropical island setting for your vacation. The area offers unspoiled coral pink beaches, World Class deep sea fishing, salt water fly fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The Bazaruto Archipelago is a protected National Park – the islands are pristine and undeveloped – no roads, no shops, no tourist attractions – just unbelievable natural beauty!
The islands were formed from sand deposited by the Limpopo River, which has since shifted its course. Tourist attractions include sandy beaches, coral reefs, and opportunities for surfing and fishing. The archipelago became a National Park in 1971.
Santa Carolina is just 2 miles by 0.3 miles in size Santa Carolina is a true rock island with deep channels. Santa Carolina has three beautiful beaches with coral reefs close to the shore. The island, also known as Paradise Island for obvious reasons is regarded as the ‘gem’ of the islands forming the Bazaruto Archipelago which is a proclaimed marine national park that boasts sensational beaches and magnificent scenery
Maputo, formerly Lourenço Marques/Lourenzo Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. A port on the Indian Ocean, its economy is centered around the harbour. It has an official population of approximately 1,244,227 (2006), but the actual population is estimated to be much higher because of slums and other unofficial settlements.
The town developed around a Portuguese fortress completed in 1787. In 1871 the town was described as a poor place, with narrow streets, fairly good flat-roofed houses, grass huts, decayed forts and rusty cannon, enclosed by a wall 6 ft. high then recently erected and protected by bastions at intervals. The growing importance of the Transvaal led, however, to greater interest being taken in Portugal in the port. A commission was sent by the Portuguese government in 1876 to drain the marshy land near the settlement, to plant the blue gum tree, and to build a hospital and a church. A city since 1887, it superseded the Island of Mozambique as the capital of Mozambique in 1898. In 1895, construction of a railroad to Pretoria, South Africa caused the city’s population to grow.
Prior to Mozambique’s independence in 1975, thousands of tourists from South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) frequented the city and its scenic beaches, high-quality hotels, restaurants, casinos and brothels.
Maputo is home to the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique’s first university, and to the main campus of the Universidade Pedagógica, another major Mozambican university. The city has a museum of Mozambican history, a military museum, Natural History Museum, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima.
Maputo is a planned city with square blocks and wide avenues, with Portuguese traces and their typical architecture of the 1970s. Portuguese refugees fled in massive numbers at the end of the independence war in 1975, and the resultant lack of skills and capital, in the context of a fierce civil war and government mismanagement, contributed to its state of dereliction in the years following the declaration of peace. Nevertheless, the city itself was never damaged, since it was tacitly considered neutral ground during both the colonial and the civil war. Recovery has always been very slow owing to a lack of investment. In many cases new buildings are being erected for the rising middle class, rather than existing buildings being renovated and many city services are still precarious.
An important cultural and artists’ centre in Maputo is the Associação Núcleo de Arte. It is the oldest collective of artists in Mozambique. Seated in an old villa in the centre of Maputo the Núcleo has played a significant role in metropolitan cultural life for decades. Over one hundred painters, sculptors and ceramists are member of the Núcleo, which regularly stages exhibitions on its own premises and over the last few years, has actively participated in exchanges with artists from abroad. The Núcleo became well known for their project transforming arms into tools and objects of art. It played an important role for reconciliation after the Mozambican Civil War. The exhibition of art objects such as the Chair of the African King and the Tree of Life was shown around the world, among others in the British Museum in 2006.
Maputo is home to the Dockanema Documentary Film Festival, and international festival showcasing documentary films from around the world.
Inhaca Island (Ilha da Inhaca in Portuguese) is a subtropical island of off Maputo.
The island’s dimensions are approximately 12km (n-s) by 7km (e-w). The highest point above sea level is the 104m Mount Inhaca on the north-eastern shoreline. The south-western peninsula is known as Ponta Punduine while Ponta Torres to the south-east approaches the mainland. Two inland swamps occur at the northerly airstrip and southern Nhaquene respectively. Besides Inhaca settlement on the western shore there are five smaller villages.
Despite being a part of the Portuguese Colony of Mozambique until 1975, the island of Inhaca, so close to the harbour of Maputo, was occupied by the British from 1823 until the Mac Mahon Treaty of 24 July 1875. The British used the island (amongst many others all around Africa) to patrol and control the slave traffic in the region.
The island is regular destination for eco-tourists and ecological researchers. The central land area consists of cultivated fields, while grassy plains are found to the north, flanked by protected under-covered dune forests along the eastern and western shores. Extensive exposed mudflats fringe the western and southern shores at low tide. Three undamaged coral reefs flank the island’s western perimeters, all of which are protected marine reserves. Mangoves cover large sections of the northern shores and southern Saco Bay.
Among 160 coral species are Staghorn and Plate corals. Conspicuous fish are Moray eel, Potato Bass, Baracuda and Kingfish. Others present are Brindle Bass, Scorpion fish, Butterfish, Pufferfish, Parrotfish and Seahorses. Whale sharks and Manta rays visit in summer Humpback Whales migrate seasonally past these shores. Resident populations of the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin and the Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin occur in the waters around the island. The bottlenose dolphin’s abundance fluctuates seasonally, increasing during the austral winter. The humpback dolphin is more resident, living in extremely shallow inshore areas of the western and southern coasts, and form larger groups (11-14 dolphins) than recorded elsewhere in southern Africa. Bottlenose dolphins frequent the waters of the northwestern coast, and their group size varies largely from individuals and pairs to hundreds of dolphins. Two species of Sea turtles (loggerheads and leatherbacks) visit the eastern shores in summer to breed.
Inhaca is home to about 300 bird species, both resident and migratory. Species of conservation concern are the Pink-backed Pelican, Lesser Crested Tern, Crab Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Mongolian Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Mangrove Kingfisher, Grey-rumped Swallow and Spotted Ground-Thrush. The southerly Nhaquene Swamp and Saco Bay are strongholds for the Sooty Falcon, while Terns roost on northerly Portuguese Island. Bird species of limited distribution are Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. House Crows are present since the 1970′s.
This park is at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley in the heart of central Mozambique.Seasonal flooding and water logging of the valley, which is composed of a mosaic of different soil types, creates a variety of distinct ecosystems. Grasslands are dotted with patches of acacia trees, Savannah, dry forest on sands and seasonally rain-filled pans and termite hill thickets. The plateaus contain miombo and montane forests and a spectacular rain forest at the base of a series of limestone gorges. This combination of unique features at one time supported some of the densest wildlife populations in all of Africa, including charismatic carnivores, herbivores and over 500 bird species. But large mammal numbers were reduced by as much as 95% and ecosystems stressed during Mozambique’s long civil conflict at the end of the 20th century.
In 1983 the park was shut down and abandoned during the Mozambique Civil War. For the next nine years Gorongosa was the scene of frequent battles between opposing forces. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting and aerial bombing destroyed buildings and roads. The park’s large mammals suffered terrible losses. Both sides in the conflict slaughtered hundreds of elephants for their ivory, selling it to buy arms and supplies. Hungry soldiers shot many more thousands of zebras, wildebeest, buffalos, and other ungulates. Lions and other large predators were gunned down for sport or died of starvation when their prey disappeared.
A cease-fire agreement ended the civil war in 1992 but widespread hunting in the park continued for at least two more years. By that time many large mammal populations—including elephants, hippos, buffalos, zebras, and lions had been reduced by 90 percent or more. Surveys counted just 15 buffalo, 5 zebra, 6 lions, 100 hippos, 300 elephants and just a handful of wildebeest. Fortunately, the park’s spectacular birdlife emerged relatively unscathed.
In 2004 the Government of Mozambique and the US-based Carr Foundation agreed to work together to rebuild the park’s infrastructure, restore its wildlife populations and spur local economic development—opening an important new chapter in the park’s history.
Between 2004 and 2007 the Carr Foundation invested more than $10 million in this effort. During that time the restoration project team completed a 60 square kilometre (23 square mile) wildlife sanctuary and reintroduced buffalos and wildebeests to the ecosystem. They also began the reconstruction of Chitengo Safari Camp.
Due to the success of this initial three-year project, the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation announced in 2008 that they had signed a 20-year agreement to restore and co-manage the park. Several thousand visitors now enter the park each year, most staying overnight at Chitengo Safari Camp. Some of these visitors go to see the progress being made in the restoration project, and many others are seeing the park for the first time.
In 2009 the first private ecotourism venture started in the park. Explore Gorongosa is a unique safari experience based from a seasonal luxury tented camp. Guests can take guided game and birding walks, night drives, and play an exclusive part in the park’s visionary Restoration Project.
Wildlife: Gorongosa is home to an astounding diversity of animals and plants—some of which are found nowhere else in the world. This rich biodiversity creates a complex world where animals, plants and people interact. From the smallest insects to the largest mammals, each plays an important role in the Gorongosa ecosystem.
Many of the park’s large herbivore populations were greatly reduced by years of war and poaching. However, almost all naturally occurring species—including more than 400 kinds of birds and a wide variety of reptiles–have survived. With effective management and reintroduction of key species, wildlife populations will regain their natural numbers and help restore the park’s ecological balance.
Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is a 35,000 km² peace park that is in the process of being formed. It will link the Limpopo National Park (formerly known as Coutada 16) in Mozambique, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, as well as the area between Kruger and Gonarezhou, the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa.
Fences between the parks have started to come down allowing the animals to take up their old migratory routes that were blocked before due to political boundaries.
On the October 4, 2001 the first 40 (including 3 breeding herds) of a planned 1000 elephants were translocated from the over-populated Kruger National Park to the war-ravaged Limpopo National Park. It would take 2½ years to complete the translocation.
The new Giriyondo Border Post between South Africa and Mozambique has started in 2004. There are new plans that should increase the size of the park to 99,800 km² (36,000 sq. mi.).