A Traveller’s Guide to Mozambique

Mozambique, located on the Indian Ocean coastline of Southern Africa, is an idyllic holiday destination for families, honeymooners or groups of friends. In Mozambique, you can forget about your everyday life and just relax, whether your idea of relaxing is lounging on the beach, sightseeing, or partaking in adventurous sports.

Mozambique has a rich marine life. From tropical fish to sea turtles to whales, you can see it all. In fact, the coast of Mozambique is famous for the annual whale migration which takes place during the winter months (May to October). During this period, tourists are assured of seeing whales close inshore as they blow, tail slap, and leap out of the water.

It is best to visit Mozambique in the winter season for cooler temperatures and the least chance of rain. If you opt for summer, though, expect typical tropical weather: hot and humid temperatures along with frequent downpours which are brief but vigorous.

In this guide, I am highlighting four of the best towns to visit in Mozambique.

Ponta D’Ouro

A school of dolphins in Ponta D’Ouro.

Ponta D’Ouro (“point of gold”) has a small village, but it mostly consists of tourist camps. This town is a favourite of divers and surfers.

Ponta D’Ouro is ideal for South Africans who don’t want to drive far, as it is only a 15 km drive away from the Kosi Bay Border Post between South Africa and Mozambique. If you’re driving there from Maputo, on the other hand, you have to take on a 120 km-long sandy road.

Things to do

For the animal lovers, DolphinCare-Africa offers Dolphin Encountours that give people the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Additionally, you can also view nesting turtles. Ponta D’Ouro’s coast is one of the favourite nesting spots of Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles which nest from November to March.

Moreover, you can also try scuba-diving or surfing. With some of the most perfect waves in the world, Ponta is ideal for surfing especially.

Another highlight is going on a Shebeen tour along the road from Ponto D’Ouro to Ponta Malangane. There are about six to seven rustic bars along a stretch of rough road. This tour is a great way to get to know some Mozambican locals.

Where to stay

For an authentic beach-style experience, stay at Ponta Beach Camps. This affordable resort is located directly on the main beach, under the coastal dune trees. There are two types of accommodation: Barracas (spacious, reed-constructed “Mozambique style” rooms) and Safari Tents (smaller, classic safari tents). You can either eat at Barraca de Ponta, the resort’s popular restaurant, or cook your own food in the communal kitchen. A PADI five-star dive centre operates from Ponta Beach Camps, offering both dive charters and scuba-diving training.

Gala Gala Eco Resort has private campsites in addition to the cabana accommodation. Each site is grassed, has an electrical plug point and a private ablution with a shower, toilet and basin. The campsites are 500 m to the beach where there is a deck with lounge chairs. The resort has a large swimming pool, WiFi, a restaurant, and a bar.

Gamboozini Lodge has a selection of bungalows, dorm rooms, and camping space. The comfortable rooms all have fans and mosquito nets. The lodge has a quality restaurant and bar, as well as a braai (grill) area. The facilities include free WiFi in the rooms and lobby.

Maputo

The capital city of Maputo.

This bustling city is Mozambique’s capital. Maputo may seem chaotic, but it is nonetheless well-worth a few days’ visit. Its architecture ranges from historic colonial palaces to new high-rise constructions. However, the majority of the architecture comprises Stalinist-looking concrete buildings.

Things to do

Sight-seeing in Maputo is a must:

  • National Art Museum: The museum hosts a collection of Mozambican sculptures and paintings, for instance several canvases by the world-renowned Malangatana.
  • The Central Railway Station on Praca dos Trabalhadores is a beautiful historic building with marble pillars, wrought-ironwork, and a massive central dome. The best time to visit is on Friday and Saturday evenings when there are live music performances.
  • Jardim Tunduru: The small botanical garden features a greenhouse, colourful tropical flora, tennis courts, and a statue of Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel.
  • Museum of the Revolution: The museum chronicles Mozambique’s fight for independence from Portuguese colonialism.
  • The Iron House or Casa do Ferro Avenida Samora Marcel is a building designed by Gustave Eiffel, architect of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Originally intended to be the governor’s home, it turned out to be too hot to live in under Maputo’s tropical conditions, thus no governor ever lived there. It is now a museum.
  • Museu de História Natural, Praca Travessia de Zambezi: This enjoyable museum has lots of stuffed animals, birds and reptiles with full-size models of elephants. In addition, it has an interesting collection of wooden carvings.

Furthermore, you can enjoy the beaches, explore the harbour, or visit Maputo Elephant Reserve just outside the city. Maputo also has a wide variety of nightclubs, such as Dolce Vita, Africa Bar, Coconuts Live, Mundos, and Havana Bar. (Did you know? There’s no drinking age limit in Maputo.)

Where to stay

Fatima’s Place is a large backpacker’s lodge. Guests stay in affordable dorms. Facilities include one free internet computer available. Fatima’s also offers shuttle service to Fatima’s Nest in Tofo beach, around 7-8 hrs north of Maputo. While this bus is convenient, it can also be dangerous. Take at your own risk.

VIP Grand Maputo is a conference-hotel near the commercial centre of town, the Feira Popular market. The rooms are pleasantly clean and modern with good WiFi included in the room rate. Breakfast is also included. The hotel has a swimming pool and a restaurant.

Vilankulo

The Bazaruto Archipelago.

Vilanculos is the Mozambican capital of water sports. The town’s main attraction is Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique’s only underwater national park. The Bazaruto Archipelago consists of five islands you can visit, namely:

  • Bazaruto
  • Santa Carolina (known as Paradise Island)
  • Benguerra
  • Margaruque
  • Bangue

Things to do

Around the islands, there are a number of dive sites. Diving in the archipelago gives you access to its underwater wonderland where you can see tropical fish, whale sharks, and manta rays; not to mention the elusive dugongs, thought by some to be the inspiration for the mermaid myth.

The endangered dugong is considered by some as the inspiration for the mermaid myth.

Besides diving, Vilankulo also offers other exciting activities like Dhow safaris (A dhow is a traditional Mozambican sailing boat), kitesurfing, game fishing, and horse riding. For the party animals, Club 360 is open every night and organises parties on weekends.

Where to stay

If you’re on a tight budget, you can camp at one of Vilankulo’s great camping sites. Cosmo Campsite offers an idyllic location for camping by the sea – it is 10 m away from the pristine beach of Vilanculos. In addition, the campsite offers free mini-golf for their guests. Every individual site has a barbecue area and electricity.

Josef & Tina’s is an affordable beachfront lodge with a campsite, a guest house, three suites and three chalets. The small lodge also has its own restaurant and bar.

A favourite in Vilanculos is Casa Rex Boutique Hotel. It has a terrace with magnificent views of the harbour and the Bazaruto Archipelago Islands. The hotel also boasts sea-facing rooms. The facilities include two swimming pools, free WiFi, and a great restaurant offering great unique dishes and delicious seafood.

Archipelago Resort has 18 Indonesian styled bungalows. The 4-Star resort is on the beachfront and has a restaurant (serving excellent seafood), a pool, and free WiFi. It also offers horse riding and deep sea diving.

Tofo

Praia do Tofo.

East of Inhambane, Praia do Tofo is backpacker haven on the coastline. Tofo Beach is known for its beautiful stretches of beach; friendly, laid-back atmosphere; small but lively nightlife; great diving and snorkelling; and vibrant market.

Things to do

Tofo and its surrounding area are excellent destinations for diving. There are some beautiful reefs, some as deep as 30 m, where there are not only colourful tropical fish to see, but also whale sharks, reef sharks, and manta rays. If you’re not brave enough to dive, despair not; you can also see these reefs by snorkelling.

Tofo is also a great place for surfing. If you’re a beginner, Tofo Beach is ideal. Otherwise, Tofino is a good surfing spot if you’re looking for bigger waves.

You can also take a day trip to the historic city of Inhambane. There, you can admire the beautiful colonial architecture (such as the Governor’s House), shop at the Mercado Central Market, visit the museum, have a drink at the harbour, go to the estuary and more.

If you’re looking for something completely different, I recommend a cultural tour. Tofo Life Tours will take you on a tour to a local village. There, you get to make the local dish Matapa from scratch and share it with a local family. While the food cooks, you do other activities such as making reed mats.

Where to stay

Fatima’s Nest is the best backpacker’s lodge in Tofo. Located right on the beachfront, there are bungalows, dorms, permanent tents, and a campsite. Moreover, the staff organises activities every day. This every-night party place has live local music performances, dancing, a beach theatre, and the bar is pumping well into the night on most days. There’s a safe to store your valuables, as well as internet access and cable TV in the bar area.

If you’re looking for a quieter backpacker’s lodge, go for Bamboozi Backpackers (further up the beach) or Turtle Cove (a 10-minute walk from town). Both of these places have a selection of chalets and dorms. The food is good, with Bamboozi having an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet every Wednesday night. Turtle Cove’s facilities include a yoga centre and surf school.

For something slightly fancier than a backpackers, stay in Casa Barry Lodge. This lodge has dive facilities and is home to the Manta and Whale Shark Research Centre which gives talks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

If you are looking for style, quality and comfort, choose Vanilla View. Their upmarket villas overlook the beautiful Tofo mangroves. The houses have open-plan living and breakfast areas, rim-flow swimming pools, and outside seating. Vanilla View offers room service, laundry services, and even private massages.

Last words

An important thing to remember is to do your research and planning properly before you go. Do you need to take malaria pills for the particular Mozambican region you are going to? Is your accommodation safe, comfortable and in a good part of town? (TripAdvisor helps a lot in this department.) What route will you take to your destination?

A final word of warning: Officers in Mozambique are notorious for stopping foreign vehicles regularly for “inspections”, so be prepared if you are driving your vehicle yourself.

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