Mozambique is located in Southern Africa along the coast of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Tanzania. It also shares a border with Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia.
The former Portuguese colony was once a premier destination for wealthy European tourists. Civil war, however, destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure leaving tourists, let alone the local population, with sparse options. The warring factions, Renamo and Frelimo, came to terms on a peace agreement in 1992 and the country has since enjoyed a renaissance among adventurous travelers.
It’s proximity to South Africa has resulted in a steady influx of investment into tourism facilities along the south-east coast of the country. Mozambique has some of the best beaches on the East African coast, offering azure waters, coral reefs and subtropical islands. Tourists are flocking to hot spots such as Tofu, Vilankulos and the Bazaruto Archipelago.
The capital Maputo is located in the very south of the country, a stones throw from the South African and Swazi borders. Scheduled buses ply the 6-hour route from Nelspruit and Johannesburg (8 hours) to Maputo. Heading into Swaziland, minibuses leave Maputo every hour just east of the central market.
While run-down, dark and somewhat unnerving, the capital Maputo is not without it’s charms. The picturesque train station, designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1910, is just one of many beautiful spots around the city that speak to the country’s European influences. For a more traditional feel, the bustling central market teems with life – especially seafood. Prawns are a Mozambican specialty and fisherman bring them in by the truckload around dusk. A definite highlight is the Maputo fish market, located on north end of Avenida Marginal. This is the first stop for local fisherman who unload the best of their catch here before heading into town. The market is surrounded by small bars and restaurants that will cook your purchase for a small fee – which may or may not include a few of your shrimp!
Heading north out of Maputo most travelers make their first stop in Inhambane, which is the transit point for the beautiful beaches in Tofu. Inhambane is a non-descript, sleepy little town. A wide boulevard sweeps through the middle of town where you can find the main market, small shops and absolutely phenomenal fresh bread. Internet is available in Inhambane, just ask around to see which one is open. Power shortages limit availability. Minibuses run regularly from just behind the market to Tofu. Tofu consists of a pristine mile-long beach, complete with gorgeous sunsets and amazing surf. Several backpacker lodges have been set up along the beach with dorms, singles and camping.
Few travelers venture far past Tofu. The surf/dive mecca of Vilankulos lies approximately 300 km up the highway from Tofu. Part of the Bazaruto Archipelago this beautiful area allows travelers to sail under the night skies on traditional dhows, go big game fishing or simply enjoy the surf.
The Northern stretch of Mozambique, from Beira through to the Tanzanian border is as rough as it gets. Lonely stretches of surprisingly decent highway give way to dusty one-horse towns. Once the dust clears however towns such as Pemba, la Ilha de Mocambique and the Querimba Archipelago offer a phenomenal glimpse into a much less frequented part of Mozambique. Regular luxury bus service makes travel in this area a relatively easy proposition.
Be forewarned that travel in Mozambique is not all fun and games. Tourists are frequently pulled aside and asked for their documents so be sure to carry at least a photocopy of your passport at all times. More importantly, millions of landmines remain scattered throughout the countryside. Do not walk off the beaten path. Annual flooding means that areas that were once considered safe are off limits. And like in any big city, use common sense to avoid being rendered a victim. Crime isn’t abnormally high in Mozambique but big, dark cities aren’t always friendly so be on guard at night.
Do so and you’ll quickly find that Mozambique is one of the friendliest places in Africa. Locals will welcome you with massive smiles and shouts of Bom Dia! Don’t miss out on this amazing piece of Africa.