Mozambique is an enthralling destination: you’ll find palm-fringed beaches, incredible seafood, a vibrant culture and some serious adventure.
Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and then suffered a brutal civil war from 1977 to 1992. Since then, tourism has been on the rise. While there's moderate political instability, the south of Mozambique is safe and welcoming to tourists.
The best way to travel in Mozambique is by 4x4 vehicles. Flying to Johannesburg and renting a car will probably be much cheaper than flying to Maputo (check with your car rental company that you can take the car across the border). The main roads in Mozambique are very good, but many destinations are accessible only by gravel or sand roads.
Drivers should have basic car knowledge, as well as some experience driving in sand. Another option is to use the network of buses in Mozambique, though typically this will only take you to places on the main road, such as Tofo and Vilanculos. Greyhound, Intercape and Translux buses run from South Africa into Maputo, and from Maputo there are shuttle buses that run to tourist destinations like Tofo (try Fatima’s Bus).
Alternatively if you are short on time, you could fly to Inhambane Airport, which is very close to Barra and Tofo beach.
If you can manage to organize a trip to Linga Linga, it’s like stepping into an exotic wonderland. The houses in the villages are made completely of palm fronds, the white sand roads snake through avenues of palm trees, and the sailing shows drift pass the beach on their way out to sea.
1. Shop local
Mozambique is a country of entrepreneurs. Alongside the road you can buy roasted cashews, bottles of hot sauce, honey, pickled mango, coconut oil, wooden sculptures and clay pots. In every town you will find a local bakery and market selling produce (make sure you have small change and familiarize yourself with the currency before you go to the market). Many of the lodges and resorts in Mozambique are foreign-owned and tend to be expensive and insular, so if you are ok with rustic facilities, it is worth investigating other accommodation options. In both Pomene and Ponta d’Ouro, there are community-run or locally-owned campsites in beautiful locations. You’ll save money, support local people and get more out of your Mozambican experience if you shop local.
2. Learn some Portuguese
While there are many local languages spoken in Mozambique, Portuguese is the official language. Knowing a smattering of Portuguese will go a long way. At the minimum, get these basics down.
Bom dia = Hello/good day
Obrigada/o = Thank you (The literal translation is “I’m obliged,” which means that if you are a woman, you will always say “obrigada” and if you are a man you will always say “obrigado”).
3. Be malaria aware
Some people claim that it is unnecessary to take malaria pills in the winter in Mozambique (May through September). However, there are still mosquitoes in the winter, and it is still possible to get malaria. So perhaps you might still want to take them, for peace of mind more than anything else.
Choose a pill which has few or no side effects (I used Malarone), bring mosquito repellent, a mosquito net and lightweight, long clothes for the evening.
4. Know the rules of the road
It's tempting to speed in Mozambique as the main roads are good, but to avoid being pulled over, you must vigilantly stick to the speed limit. If you ever are pulled over, be friendly, relaxed and respectful. If you were doing something wrong, pay the ticket and ask for the receipt (this ensures your money is not going straight into the police officer’s pocket).
The police in Mozambique commonly expect bribes to supplement their low salaries; it’s a good idea to have a fake wallet filled with some cash so that in an emergency situation where you feel your only option is to pay the bribe, you don’t end up forking over all your money. Police will check to see you are wearing your seatbelt and ask to see your license, your vehicle registration papers and your 3rd party car insurance (which you can purchase at the border). Police might also check to see if you have safety triangles and a reflective jacket.
5. Drink like a Mozambican
Mozambique has great local drinks. Make sure you do a taste test of these Mozambican beers: Laurentina, Manica and 2M. Try the local Mozambican rum, Tipo Tinto. It's traditionally served with strawberry (morango) soda. The healthier option is fresh coconuts, which are everywhere in Mozambique and are sold in local markets. Delicious!
5 Tips for Traveling Mozambique (and 5 places you must visit while you're there!) #travel
Top 5 Destinations
1. Ponta d’Ouro
Ponta d’Ouro is a great introduction to Mozambique. It’s just over the border from South Africa and so has a substantial tourism industry. The area has a long stretch of beach, a good surf break, and a small town with cafes, bars, restaurants, and a market. There are lots of accommodation options, including beach camping. Next to the large government campsite, there is a rustic but well-cared for community-run campsite which has a secret beach entrance and friendly staff. You’ll need a 4x4 to access Ponta d’Ouro as the last stretch of road is made of sand.
Tofo is well known for partying and diving. Tofo also has seriously delicious and affordable seafood, as well as great souvenir shopping. There’s a beautiful beach (of course), great surf breaks, and also a number of locals hawking souvenirs. If you don’t mind the party vibe, staying somewhere in the town will suit you. There are options further from the beach which are out of the fray, but still not exactly quiet (try Mozambeat for great food and a cool vibe).
3. Linga Linga
Linga Linga is seriously off the beaten track, and you’ll either need a 4x4 or you’ll need to organize a boat from Inhambane. Linga Linga Paradise Lodge offers beautiful, affordable houses (you’ll need to stock up beforehand on everything, including water). For a more catered experience, try Castelo do Mar or Aqua Breeze.
Pomene, which is situated inside a national park, is perhaps as close to paradise as you can get. The water is warm and sparkling clear, and there’s an incredible mangrove estuary. There’s also whale watching, snorkeling, diving and ridiculously long point-break surf.
An interesting feature of Pomene is the old broken down hotel on the point, a leftover from the colonial past. Around the back of the ruins is a cove with magnificent blowholes. Pomene “City” is charming with shops selling very basic dry stock, craft stalls and a bakery (an industrious family bakes bread inside metal drums). In the mornings women from the village may come and sell you fresh vegetables and bread, but to be on the safe side, stock up on basics before you head down the long dirt road to Pomene.
Pomene Lodge, which is marvelously situated on the estuary, has a pool, restaurant, campsite and rooms on stilts that overlook the water. (For a much cheaper, authentic camping experience, ask in the village for a man named France, who runs a rustic campsite; the site is set on the beach right next to the point).
While the city of Vilanculos is nothing special, it’s a fantastic kitesurfing destination. The Bazaruto Archipelago is off the coast of Vilanculos and offers great diving as well as dhow safaris. The area has lodges, backpackers and campsites. Vilanculos is accessible by 2WD car, and there is also an airport.
Image source: author's own & pixabay.com
If you want to explore a relatively undiscovered country, Mozambique is an excellent choice. While traveling there requires research and preparation, the beaches, the people and the adventure make it a magical experience.
Have you been to Mozambique? Or is it now on your list? Tell me in the comments below.