As things stand, it is not the least of Mozambique’s attractions that it still offers ample scope for genuinely exploratory travel, offering adventurous travellers the opportunity to experience it entirely for themselves.Philip Briggs, author of Mozambique: the Bradt Guide
Visit Mozambique today, and you’ll find it difficult to imagine that it once attracted a larger number of tourists than South Africa and Rhodesia (covered by present-day Zimbabwe). Equally incredible, for that matter, is the realisation that, over the 15 years prior to 1992, this beguiling country was embroiled in an all-consuming civil war that claimed the lives of almost a million people, and caused the displacement of five times more.
Fortunately, the civil war is long over, and Mozambique is celebrating over 25 years of relative political stability, economic growth and progressive governance. The simmering conflict with Islamist insurgents in the northeast notwithstanding, one of the most notable things when talking to Mozambicans about their recent history is how much more interested they are in making the most of the future rather than sliding back into the arguments of the past.
Over the last couple of decades, Mozambique has been one of Africa’s rising stars as far as developing tourism is concerned. True, this trend is to some extent reflective of the tiny base from which tourism has grown since the early 1990s. Equally, during South African and Zimbabwean school vacations, the resorts that line the coast between Maputo and Beira are bursting with cross-border holidaymakers, to the extent that in some resorts you’ll hear more English and Afrikaans spoken than Portuguese or any indigenous language.
So far as tourists are concerned, Mozambique might just as well be two countries. Linked only by a solitary bridge that spans the mighty Zambezi River at Caia, and divided by the more than 1,000km of road connecting Beira and Nampula, southern Mozambique and northern Mozambique offer entirely different experiences to visitors. The two parts of the country have in common the widespread use of Portuguese and a quite startlingly beautiful coastline.
The difference is that the south coast of Mozambique is already established as a tourist destination, with rapidly improving facilities and a ready-made market in the form of its eastern neighbours. The north, by contrast, has fewer facilities for tourists, and getting to those that do exist takes determination and either time or money – although once you reach them they are the equal of anything in the region, and in some cases the world.
Mozambique may not be the easiest country in which to travel; in more remote regions it can be downright frustrating. But this is changing and for the better. As things stand, it is not the least of Mozambique’s attractions that it still offers ample scope for genuinely exploratory travel, offering adventurous travellers the opportunity to experience it entirely for themselves, without the distorting medium of a developed tourist industry.
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