Mozambique is a big country, with hundreds of islands scattered along its coast.
MozambiqueThroughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mozambique was in a mess – used as a pawn in the Cold War and wracked by poor governance and civil war. This drew to an end in mid-1990s, and the country started to get back on its feet. In the last decade tourism has started to grow here.
Mozambique is best known for its beach holidays which can be amazing. Long, palm-fringed beaches with sand so fine that it squeaks underfoot, remarkable deltas, shady mangrove forests and freshwater lagoons; tropical islands surrounded by turquoise waters, where iridescent fish swim amongst pristine coral; this is the coastline and islands of Mozambique.
However, Mozambique travel, especially on the mainland, can be difficult. Hence our Mozambique programme has always concentrated mainly on beach holidays on the islands. These split into two archipelagos:
Bazaruto ArchipelagoThe coastal town of Vilanculos acts as a gateway to Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago - a chain of four main islands: Bazaruto Island, Benguerra Island, Santa Isobel and Santa Carolina (formerly known as Paradise Island). A marine national park covers most of the archipelago, protecting the exquisite marine life in these turquoise seas. A beach holiday in these islands combines well with a safari to southern Africa. (Read more about Bazaruto Archipelago… )
Quirimbas ArchipelagoIn the far north of Mozambique, north of the coastal town of Pemba, lies the amazing Quirimbas Archipelago: about 12 major islands and 20 smaller, coralline outcrops. Some are within The Quirimbas National Park, but throughout these islands the marine environments are often pristine and largely unexplored. It's an amazing area to visit which is only recently becoming known. There are a couple of remote lodges; getting here can be costly. It is usually best combined with a safari to Tanzania. (Read more about the Quirimbas… )
However, recently a few remote and adventurous safari options have started to open up in the interior of Mozambique. These are still in their fledgling stages – but will appeal to 'old Africa hands' looking for something new. Gorongosa National Park and Niassa Reserve offer real wilderness experiences, best suited to those wanting a touch of adventure in a place that has seen virtually no tourism. The game here is very wild and not prolific; so these areas are not suitable for those wanting to tick off the big five. Being so new, even Expert Africa has not yet visited these reserves, but we are excited about what they might offer, and so include them here:
Gorongosa National ParkIn central Mozambique, Gorongosa is in its early days as a safari destination and game viewing here is challenging. However the Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore its ecosystem. With exciting projects to relocate wildlife from areas such as the Kruger and a real focus on redevelopment – the game will get better. In the meantime – this is a rarely visited area covers 3,770 square kilometers and so offers a fantastic wilderness experience and great walking.
(Read more about Gorongosa National Park … )
Niassa ReserveAlongside the Tanzanian border in the far north of Mozambique, the Niassa Reserve is an impressive 42,000 square kilometers. As one of the largest protected areas in Africa – it is a vast expanse of wilderness and with few other visitors you are likely to see little or no other people during your time here. This park is perfectly suited to people who want experience a vast untouched wilderness with no one else around. (Read more about Niassa Reserve … )
The other areas of Mozambique that we occasionally send travellers to (or through) include:
Pemba & the northern coastIn northern Mozambique, Pemba itself is a fairly neat, unremarkable town, with a good hotel if you need to overnight here. This is the jumping-off point for trips to the Quirimbas Archipelago, and there are a few lodges on the mainland around here, which have the advantage of being generally less costly than the islands. (Read more about this area… )
MaputoIn southern Mozambique, Maputo is Mozambique's capital; it was founded in the late 18th century and named by a Portuguese trader. Now it's a vibrant, modern African city where the roads are lined with makeshift stalls, old colonial buildings and modern offices. More complex trips around Mozambique may occasionally require a night's stop here to make the flight connections work. (Read more about Maputo… )
Manda WildernessInland, and on the north-west side of Mozambique, this is a wilderness reserve on the shores of Lake Malawi. Transport logistics make this easy to combine into an itinerary around Malawi, yet tricky to approach from the Mozambique side! (Read more about Manda Wilderness… )
Marine LifeOn most of the islands the marine life is untouched, so the scuba-diving in Mozambique can be superb. Shallow reefs protect a kaleidoscope of neon-bright clownfish, angelfish, moorish idols and lionfish. Further out, the coral harbours rays, sharks and three species of turtles, whilst the rich waters of the deep Mozambique Channel are the cruising ground of harmless whale sharks, spectacular game-fish, whales, dolphins and a population of rare dugongs (sea-cows).
The marine life around Mozambique's more remote islands is outstanding; both the Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos are dotted with pristine reefs. Most lodges have dive centres where you find qualified diving instructors and quality equipment. Novices can take short 'resort courses', or complete courses started at home, learning in amazing shallow reef areas with first-class marine life.
Manta rays, groupers, potato bass are common (as are magnificent whale sharks from December to February), while marlin and sailfish abound in the deep-water channels. Around the Bazaruto Archipelago you'll find sea grass beds and some impressive coral walls.
The Quirimbas also have some huge underwater drop-offs; researchers have so far catalogued over 354 species of reef fish, five species of turtle and 30 different genera of coral.
One of Mozambique's pristine islands can make a magical destination for a week's beach holiday – and there's never been a better time to visit!