Often described as one of Africa’s last frontiers, Mozambique, a large country in the southeastern part of the continent, is among the most variegated places in the world. Geographically, it has a rugged, underdeveloped north, a hiker’s paradise, along with an extensive coastline with innumerable opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The population is just as diverse, reflecting the indigenous African tribes who first settled there, the Arab seafarers who traded along the coast for centuries, and, finally, the Portuguese colonists who ruled until 1975. Despite the many setbacks that have plagued the country since then, including civil war, floods, and drought, Mozambique is starting to bounce back and is slowly gaining a well-deserved reputation as a country that promises as much adventure as relaxation.
1. Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park: A massive swath of land that comprises national parks in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe and allows visitors to cross the borders freely within the park, Limpopo is home to nearly 150 kinds of mammals, including elephants, giraffes, and buffalo.
2. Gorongosa National Park: This once legendary park in northern Mozambique was nearly destroyed during the country’s civil war. Now newly refurbished, it’s returning to its former preeminence and is worth a visit to check out impalas, warthogs, unusual birds, and more.
3. Local Fare: In Maputo, feast on some of the ultrafresh seafood caught off Mozambique’s 2,500-kilometer-long coastline; the grilled prawns and octopus are especially good.
4. Montes Chimanimani: Along the Zimbabwe border, this mountain range, thick with pine and mahogany trees and scores of medicinal plants, is ideal for rugged, off-the-beaten-path hiking and camping.
5. Ilha de Moçambique: This tiny island off Mozambique’s northern coast was once an important Arab trading port; today its historic, colonial-era buildings and diverse population, with strong Islamic and African ties, makes it a fascinating place to explore.
6. Archipelago das Quirimbas: These 32 islands off the town of Pemba, which can be reached by motorboat, offer white-sand beaches, snorkeling among coral reefs, and sightings of humpback whales.
7. Ponta de Ouro: Just miles from the South African border in southern Mozambique, this quaint town boasts some of the country’s loveliest beaches and opportunities to scuba dive among dolphins.
8. Lago Niassa: A giant, incredibly clear lake that borders Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania, Niassa (also known as Lake Malawi) is thought to contain a greater number of fish than any other lake in the world.
9. Angoche: A quiet, historic town in the northern part of the country that still bears the influence of precolonial Swahili and Arab traders, Angoche is worth a quick trip for a look back in time.
10. Manica: Once an important gold trading area, this picturesque town in central Mozambique is now known for its thousand-year-old Chinamapere rock paintings, which are considered sacred by local residents.
The best time to visit Mozambique is between May and October, when it’s pleasantly sunny and dry and temperatures average 66 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celcius.) The country’s rainy season generally lasts from October to April, with temperatures jumping up to the 80s (20s.) Overall, the southern part of the country is cooler and drier than the north.
Visas: A passport that will be valid for six months upon a visitor’s arrival and contains at least three unstamped pages is required for entering Mozambique. One-entry visas can be purchased at the airport, but visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain their visas prior to traveling. If you’ve previously traveled to a country where yellow fever is present, you must produce a certification of vaccination for yellow fever. (Getting vaccinated just to prevent any hassles at the airport isn’t a bad idea in any case.) All travelers must, however, carry their yellow vaccination books.
Transportation: LAM, Mozambique’s national airline, offers flights to Maputo’s international airport (MPM) from Lisbon and several African nations. TAP, Portugal’s national carrier, also has flights between the two cities.
Once in Mozambique, you’ll find regular flights between all the provincial capitals through LAM and a few other small airlines. When traveling by train is your preference, you may choose routes between Maputo and the South African border at Ressano Garcia and between cities in northern Mozambique. In terms of public transportation, the minibuses called chapas are almost always packed, make for an uncomfortable ride, and are vulnerable to accidents. If you’re up for the adventure, look for chapas in most town centers. They don’t follow a formal schedule but rather depart when they have filled with passengers.
Mobile Phones: A GSM mobile phone can be used in Mozambique; consider buying a prepaid SIM card at the airport if you don’t have an international plan.
Owing to poor road conditions and frequent incidences of vehicle hijacking, tourists should not travel by land after dark. Residual land mines left over from the country’s civil war also remain, so travelers are advised to stick to main roads.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Important items like passports and excess cash should be kept in a safe place.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Mozambique or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.
Mozambique’s first inhabitants were San hunters and gatherers. By the fourth century A.D., Bantu-speaking peoples had settled in the area as well. Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498 and quickly established trading posts and forts along the coast; later, they moved inland in search of gold and slaves.
By the early 1900s, the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to private, largely British-owned companies, which established railroad lines to neighboring countries and forced Mozambicans into slave labor in the mines and plantations of nearby British colonies and South Africa. Since Portugal intended to benefit only white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique’s national integration or its economic infrastructure.
After World War II, as other European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the notion of Mozambique as an overseas extension of the mother country, and emigration to the area skyrocketed. Mozambicans formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which launched an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in 1964. After ten years of intermittent warfare and an anticolonial coup in Lisbon, Mozambique became an independent nation on June 25, 1975.
Following independence, the leaders of FRELIMO’s military campaign established a one-party state and outlawed oppositional political activity. The new government lent support to armed liberation groups fighting the white-minority-rule governments in South Africa and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). In turn, those countries sponsored an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). The civil war that ensued between the two groups lasted until 1992, leaving a million dead and millions of Mozambican refugees.
Years later, with a fragile peace in place and a newly adopted, multiparty constitution, Mozambique seemed headed in a positive direction when it was hit with another series of setbacks. In 2000 and 2001, devastating floods swept through the country, affecting a quarter of the population and destroying much of its infrastructure, and in 2002 a severe drought afflicted many central and southern parts of the country. The good news is that recent years have brought a great deal of beneficial change to Mozambique. Foreign aid, economic reforms, and the resettlement of civil war refugees have all contributed to economic growth and a promising future.
1. Nearly twice the size of California, Mozambique is situated on Africa’s southeastern coast and shares borders with Tanzania and Malawi to the north, Zambia to the northeast, Zimbabwe to the west, and South Africa and Swaziland to the southwest. The country is split into 11 provinces, including the capital city, Maputo, which has provincial status.
2. The local currency is the metical (plural “meticais”), whose symbol is MZN. (One U.S. dollar is equal to approximately 36 MZN.) U.S. dollars and South African rands also may be used in Mozambique.
3. Mozambique’s constitution protects media freedom, but criminal-libel laws inhibit liberty of expression. The country’s main daily newspapers are Noticias, of which the government owns a share, and Diario de Mocambique, which is private. A handful of private weeklies are also published: Demos, Zambeze, Domingo, Savana, Fim de Semana, and Folha Universal.
4. Portuguese is Mozambique’s official language; Makua-Lomwe, Swahili, and other indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country.
5. Smoking in public places is prohibited in Mozambique; certain restaurants and bars contain separate smoking areas.