Expert Reviews – Mozambique
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Idyllic beaches and unspoiled wilderness in recovery
Mozambique has one of the most beautiful unspoiled coastlines in Africa. However, most beach tourism is confined to its islands: Bazaruto in the south and the Quirimbas in the north. Both archipelagos are renowned for their idyllic beaches and fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities.
Compared to many other east and southern African countries, Mozambique doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of safaris but there are a few gems. Maputo Special Reserve offers a unique ‘beach and bush’ experience; the marine wildlife viewing is out of this world but the main reason for the reserve’s creation was to protect Southern Africa’s last remaining coastal elephant population. Gorongosa National Park is perhaps Mozambique’s hottest safari destination. Once known as the Serengeti of Southern Africa, it is on a strong path to be worthy of this nickname once again. As the park has received higher protection, animals are coming back and the lion population (between 50 and 70 individuals) is a good indication of a recovering ecosystem. Limpopo National Park, the counterpart of South Africa’s Kruger National Park and still a Big Five destination, has obvious potential but wildlife numbers are quite low at present.
The one park that makes my heart bleed is Niassa Game Reserve. This incredibly large tract of unspoiled wilderness (three times the size of the Serengeti) somehow fell off the map when the only lodge closed several years ago. When I last visited, I had the whole place to myself to explore on foot, by canoe and by 4x4. I urge any adventurous travelers driving around Mozambique to head out there…this might be one of the last remaining places left so wild and totally undeveloped, yet not depleted of wildlife.
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Beaches, history…and a bit of safari
Mozambique is first, second and third a beach nirvana, fourth an area of historic of interest, and maybe eighth or ninth a safari destination. Running all the way north from Ponta do Ouro (on the border with South Africa) to the mighty Ruvuma River (bordering Tanzania), the country’s 2500km of Indian Ocean frontage is studded with palm-lined tropical beaches as attractive to sunbathers and swimmers as they are to snorkellers, divers and game fishers. The country also boasts a few compelling old ports, most notably Ilha do Moçambique, which served as the Portuguese capital from 1530 to 1898, and is one of the most compelling and atmospheric historic towns anywhere in southern Africa. By contrast, the country’s main potential safari destinations either suffered heavy losses to poaching during the years of civil war, or remain largely undeveloped. That said, the refurbished Gorongosa National Park is well worth a visit, and has the long-term potential to become as important an attraction as it was in the colonial era, while the almost inconceivably vast Niassa National Reserve in the far north is a magnet for truly intrepid travellers with their own 4WD and plenty of time. For now, though, the main reason to visit Mozambique is its beaches, marine wildlife and towns – the game reserves are still something of a sideshow.
Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Bordered by the Indian Ocean which is dotted with tropical islands offering beach holidays and burgeoning game-viewing
Mozambique’s 2,500-km-long, sunny coastline features stunning, white-sand beaches backed by swaying palms, and world-class coral reefs primed for swimming, diving and snorkelling, and sunset sailing on traditional white-sailed dhows. It’s also well-known for its super-friendly people and delicious food – think succulent prawns, piri-piri chicken, soft Portuguese rolls, and fresh cashew nuts and fruit straight from the trees.
Highlights include two clusters of postcard-perfect islands with their exclusive resorts – the six-island Bazaruto Archipelago off the coastal town of Vilankulo, and the 32-island Quirimbas Archipelago near the Tanzanian border. Then there’s the cheaper Inhambane region, loved by South African families, fishermen and campers, and here Tofo and Barra beaches are my favourites, where humpback whales, dolphins and nesting turtles might become potential company. I also recommend mangrove-covered Ibo Island and coral-rock Ilha de Mocambique for their atmospheric crumbling Portuguese colonial-era architecture, and there are excellent restaurants and good standard hotels in the fast-developing capital Maputo.
Despite the coastline owning the spotlight, Mozambique’s national parks are rebounding thanks to greater protection and conservation initiatives like the restocking of large mammals. The two most accessible are: the beautiful Gorongosa, which is now home to elephant, lion, hippo, buffalo, crocodile, and numerous antelope (it’s famous for its big herds of waterbuck and sable); and Maputo Special Reserve, with elephant, crocodile and hippo, and it’s recently been re-stocked with zebra, giraffe and antelope such as impala and kudu (these have mostly come from Swaziland).
Mozambique is one of my most-liked African countries and I’ve visited many many times, as both a tour leader and on self-drive trips – the most epic being several weeks largely following the coast from Vilankulo all the way north into Tanzania. I’ve also crossed from Kruger National Park into Parque Nacional do Limpopo. But you don’t have to be that adventurous, with flights landing at Maputo, Vilankulo, Inhambane and Pemba. Resorts can easily be combined with South Africa’s Kruger or reserves in KwaZulu-Natal, and hopefully as its parks improve further, a bush-and-beach safari will become viable in just Mozambique.