It’s impossible to talk about Mozambique without describing the warm, azure waters of the Indian Ocean and its sweeping, pristine sandy beaches fringed by palm trees. Its coastline is some 1,500 miles long and includes the perfect honeymoon islands of the Bazaruto and Quirimbas Archipelagoes for when you really need to get away from it all.
Mozambique has taken great strides towards protecting its natural heritage. Diving and snorkeling on its reefs can result in encounters with manta rays and immense but harmless whale sharks.
Perhaps the quintessential Mozambican experience is to relax in your hammock with a local 2M beer or ‘R&R’ (rum and raspberry) cocktail, gazing out over the ocean as the sun sets.
- Sail through the clear, azure sea on a traditional dhow excursion
- Scuba dive in the Indian Ocean and explore some of the worlds most extraordinary coral reefs
- Soak up the sun and sand while you lounge on one of Mozambique’s stunning beaches
- Immerse yourself in Mozambican culture by trying the seafood dishes made famous by the spicy Peri Peri sauce
Gateway cities: Maputo
Best time to travel: January and April through December
Benguerra is the focal point of the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of Indian Ocean islands just north of Vilanculos. The islands are known for their crystal-clear waters, and the many opportunities to observe the prolific marine life that congregates just off the perfect, white-sand beaches. The most sought-after creatures are the dugong which – legend has it – inspired the myth of the mermaid. They share the waters of Bazaruto with dolphins, sea turtles and myriad brightly colored fish. Benguerra was once part of the mainland, which explains the presence in its lakes of a population of freshwater crocodiles. Benguerra is perfect for either active holidays (fishing, diving, horse-riding), and also for more self-indulgent beach time. Whether you come here to catch blue water fish (and then put them back!) or just some sun, there’s plenty of beauty and atmosphere to soak up on Benguerra.
GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK
Gorongosa is Mozambique’s premier wildlife viewing destination, and the result of a remarkable transformation. Although Mozambique is stable now, much of the wildlife in the park did not survive the country’s civil war. With the return of peace came the opportunity to restore the park to its former glory. While this is an ongoing process, a great deal has been achieved through far-sighted management and animal reintroductions. Gorongosa is truly a hidden gem, featuring an incredible array of habitats from high plateaus to wetlands and rainforest. Towering over everything is the massif of the eponymous mountain, although as a landmark it is now rivalled by the park itself. Gorongosa is a prime example of Nature’s remarkable powers of recovery, and of what sustained conservation work can achieve in preserving and protecting Africa’s wild places.
ILHA DE MOÇAMBIQUE
Imagine a condensed version of Zanzibar’s Stone Town, with white-painted buildings glittering in the tropical sun, and you will get some way towards picturing this unique historical site. Despite its tiny size, this island (now linked to the mainland of northern Mozambique by a slender causeway) played a disproportionately large role in the histories of both Mozambique and Portugal (the former colonial power). Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for a rewarding excursion, with its meandering alleyways, and market traders hustling much as they have for centuries. The small Portuguese chapel on the island dates from 1522 and is believed to be the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere. The sense of history is palpable here, but this is also a living community, proud of its identity. In such an atmospheric place, it’s not hard to close your eyes and be transported back centuries.
Formerly known as Lourenço Marques, the capital of Mozambique has long enjoyed a reputation as being a city of cool jazz licks and hot nights and was for many years the place to party for travelers from across the region. A potent combination of rhythm, rum & raspberry cocktails and 2M beer kept revelers dancing until dawn. Plates of “LM prawns” doused in fiendishly hot sauce kept people thirsty for more tunes, and more liquid refreshment. Maputo is a calmer these days, with visitors just as likely to seek out its Portuguese and Art Deco architecture, or cross the brand-new bridge to the lovely, laid-back White Pearl Resort. Rising above most other buildings, the deceptively simple spire of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is a helpful way to get your bearings. Its gleaming white exterior and cool interior remind many visitors of the experience of walking up a beach and into the shade of a coconut grove.
Pemba, in far northern Mozambique, serves as the starting point for holidays and adventures in the Quirimbas Archipelago. With direct flights from Johannesburg in South Africa, it is also a destination in its own right, thanks to attractions including excellent inshore reef diving and seemingly endless beaches. The town itself is renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture, while a visit to the souk or market involves going much further back in time and discovering traditional local crafts. These include trinkets made from silver, and wooden carvings: the local Makonde people are renowned for their masks in particular. Pemba offers a genuine taste of Mozambican culture, including seafood dishes fired up by the addition of the infamous peri peri sauce – approach with caution! The palm-fringed Wimbi beach just outside town offers a cooler way to enjoy your time in Mozambique!
QUIRIMBAS – AZURA QUILALEA PRIVATE ISLAND
The Quirimbas form a long chain – like a pearl necklace – of around 32 islands, running roughly parallel to the coastline of northern Mozambique and as far as the Tanzanian border. Their fascinating history is the story of the East African coast in microcosm, and there are traces of history everywhere, from ruined forts to abandoned colonial-era beach villas. The main appeal to modern travelers, however, is the islands’ exceptional beauty – think desert islands in a clear, warm, azure sea. The diving is spectacular, with multiple dive sites offering superb coral reef encounters. The marine life is prolific – and can be experienced on traditional dhow excursions, or by sea kayak for the more adventurous. Luxurious eco resorts like Azura Quilalea Private Island offer unique experiences that reveal the secrets of mangrove swamps and coconut plantations, and the fascinating history of Ibo.
This coastal town – the gateway to the Bazaruto Delta – is a study in contrasts. Traditional houses with roofs of woven leaves nestle in the shade of swaying coconut trees, while the main market streets are vibrant and colorful. Dhow and even helicopter trips connect travelers to the islands, and the local people are very welcoming to the tourists who have revived the town’s fortunes. Luxury beach resorts like Santorini offer unparalleled views out across the tranquil Indian Ocean, and many wonderful ways to make the most of your vacation. From spending long languid days in a hammock between two palm trees to winning an impromptu game of beach volleyball or mastering a stand-up paddle board, this is as relaxing rewarding way to spend your precious days off. It’s also a feast for the taste buds: superb seafood dishes are inspired by each day’s fresh catch.