Mozambique Travel Information
Background and History of Mocambique
The country of Mocambique was named after Muca Alebique - a sultan! Colonised by Portugal through the explorations from early adventurers such as Vasco da Gama in 1505. In 1498 Arab commercial and slave trading settlements existed for several centuries. The portuguese trading posts and forts established in the former Arab sultanates on the East African coast had become a regular port of call on the new route to the east. The portuguese gained control of the port city Sofala in the 16th century, setting up further posts at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi River. Mocambique was once a Portuguese colony, achieving independence in 1975.
The FRELIMO - Front for Liberation of Mozambique and a military coup was initiated against Portuguese rule in 1964. Mocambique was engaged in a 16 year civil war with the opposition party RENAMO and after an estimated 1 million natives perished and 1.7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, several million more were internally displaced. Finally a peace deal was signed between the two parties in 1992 and multi-party elections held in 1994.
In the capital city of Maputo, formerly known as Lourenco Marques, you are never far from the coast when coasting this idealic country. Visitors to the city can enjoy the refreshing sea breeze at the many restaurants where serving locally caught seafood is a daily occurance. Mocambique offers secluded beaches, some of which are only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles, adding to the adventurous journeys this country offers. With the wealth of marine life and its peaceful way of life, creating an atmosphere of calm relaxation for the weary traveler.
People and Cultures
Mocambique`s major ethnic groups encompass numerous sub-groups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and histories. Many are linked to similar ethnic groups living in inland countries.
Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mocambique have largely retained an indigenous culture, predominantly based on small-scale agriculture. Mocambique`s most highly developed art forms have been wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mocambique are particularly renowned, with particular focus on the art of dance also indicated. The middle and upper classes continue to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage, and this is apparent through many forms.
Many of the cultural traditions of the Mocambican people survived centuries of colonialism. The Makonde in the north are renowned for their ebony sculptures and african carved masks. The Chopi of the south central coast are famous for their complex musical arrangements and dance. Mocambique`s tradition of visual art has produced several modern artists who have achieved international renown. One of the most famous Mocambican artists is Malangatana, whose paintings portray the sufferings of the colonial period and the civil war.
Mocambique enjoys a great range of cultural and linguistic diversity due to the various influences which have arrived at their origins. Amid the variety of languages, social relationships, artistic traditions, clothing, and ornamentation patterns is a common theme of dynamic and creative cultural expression in song, oral poetry, dance, and various performance.
The official language is Portuguese with many of the African languages spoken across the country, where the main languages are Shangaan, Manyika and Ronga to name a few. Due to the movements which have occured through Africa.
The 35th largest country in the world and compared to the size of Turkey, Mocambique differs from being in Southern Africa and bordering the Mocambique Channel. The coastal country is situated between Swaziland, South Africa and Tanzania, while Zambia and Zimbabwe on either side it is thus understood that the country is divided into two topographical regions seperated by the mighty Zambezi.
The narrow coastline moving inland gives way to the hills and low plateaux where further west the landscape breaks into rugged highlands including the regions of Niassa, Namuli or Shire, Angonia, Tete and the Mukonde plateau. The country offers 5 principal rivers draining the country and provides access to the 3 lakes all in the North!
Comprising of tropical to subtropical climates, this is an ideal location for plenty of sun and lots of sea. Approximately 800,00 sq km’s of land mass and a coastline of 2500 km edging into the Indian ocean, the country features gorgeous white sands and azure blue seas. While the marine life is featured with amazing coral. The magnificent palm trees lining the dunes are a sight to behold during the glorious times of the year.
The wet season is mainly through the months of October to March and rainfall is heavy along the coast and decreases as you move North and South with the occurance of cyclones common the average temperature ranges between 13 - 24 C (55-75 F). With the dry season from April to September, these conditions are controlled by varying altitudes and temperatures range between 22 - 31 C (72-88 F).
At the end of the civil war in 1992, Mocambique ranked among the poorest countries in the world. Currently still ranking among the least developed nations, contributing very low socio economic indicators are a platform from which this country will astound.
In the last decade however, the country has experienced a notable economic recovery. Mocambique was the first African country to receive debt relief under the initial HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Country) Initiative. With the resettlement of the war refugees, successful economic reform have led to high growth rates and averaged more than 10% per year.
More than 75% of the population engages in small scale agriculture, with the country still suffers from inadequate infrastructure, commercial networks, and investment. 88% of Mocambique`s arable land is still currently uncultivated. Devastating floods again slow the progress but the ambition is apparent through the rapid expansion expected in the future.
Additionally the titanium reserves have also increased the potential to uplift the community of this poverty stricken region of Africa, the natural resource could play a significant role in solving unemployment across the country.
Mocambique`s local currency is the Metical (MSM). US dollars and SA Rand are also widely accepted. It is advisable to carry cash or travelers cheques as credit cards are not widely accepted due to the lack of infrastructure within the country.
Mocambique`s commercial banks offer exchange services in their main Maputo branches however other countries are . Banks are open to the public:
- Monday - Friday mornings from 8:00 - 11:00.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required if arriving from an infected area, you will need to present this when going though customs .
Malaria exists throughout the year in all areas including urban areas. Resistance to Chloroquine is confirmed and so appropriate anti-malaria precautions as advised by your private doctor or pharmacist should be taken whilst treatment should be commenced prior to departure. In addition, please bring personal insect repellant along.
Medical facilities are rudimentary, and medicines are not always consistently available. Maputo`s Sommerschield Clinic can provide general and basic emergency services and accepts major credit cards. Doctors and hospitals outside Maputo generally expect immediate cash payment for health services.
South African passport holders do not need a visa when entering Mozambique if the stay is less than 30 days in duration, other passport holders do need visas . Please ensure that your passports are valid for 6 months after your return in order to obtain your Visa. The visa for mocambique can be purchased in either, South Africa prior to departure, OR when entering Mocambique at the border or airports. (Please ensure that there is sufficient space in passports for the inclusion of the Visa)
If entering the country with more than $US5000 (or the equivalent), a “Declaration of entry of foreign currency” must be completed at the customs desk.
Airports and Transport
The main international Airport is MAPUTO. This airport links Johannesburg, Kruger Mpumalanga International and Durban in South Africa. Although Airstrips and small domestic airports serve many of the island destinations. There are scheduled flights into Inhambane, Vilancuous, Quelmane, Pemba, Tete and Beira .
If you are self driving it is important to take note the Speed Limit is 100km/h on major roads. There are speed control officers along the EN1 and EN6. It is important to reduce at the 80km/h and 60km/h signs. Villages are very crowded and fines for speeding are steep! The transit laws in Mocambique require that seat belts are worn at all the times .Traffic laws should be followed at all times and please request a receipt if a fine is levied for any transgression to reduce the corruption currently prolific in the country. Banditry along major highways can be a threat and therefore advisable to remain vigilant whilst driving, also due to poor road conditions in some areas, the poor maintenance of many vehicles in the country an the threat imposed by livestock that graze on roadsides.
Overland travel after dark is extremely dangerous due to poor road conditions, lack of emergency services, and the increased potential for vehicle hijacking. Visitors should be particularly vigilant when driving near the Mozambique-South Africa border. Police checkpoints are common and police officers frequently harass foreigners. Due to residual landmines, overland travelers are advised to remain on well-traveled roads or seek local information before going off-road outside of Maputo and other provincial capitals.
The biggest threat facing citizens visiting Mozambique is violent crime. Street crimes, including muggings, purse snatching, and pick-pocketing, are common, both in Maputo and secondary cities. While violent crimes against foreigners remain relatively infrequent, visitors must be vigilant when out in public areas and should not display jewellery or other expensive items. Isolated areas should be avoided, even during daylight hours. Visitors are advised not to walk at night, even in well-known tourist areas. Mozambican law requires that all persons carry an identity document, such as a passport, when out in public and produce it if requested by police.
Mozambique offers a variety of accommodation ranging from rustic thatch chalets and camping sites to stunning 3, 4 and opulent 5 Star lodges and resorts. Hotels and Resorts belonging to international hotel groups and brands are graded accordingly, against the qualifying criteria of the specific Group. It is important to mention that due to the popularity of this destination it is imperitivie to book early!
Major Cities and Attractions
Maputo – This city has undergone dramatic changes and developments over the past decade. The rusty wrecks are gone, tarmac repaired, newly installed traffic lights and luxury vehicles parading the town. Maputo and most of the Southern Mozambique experienced an “African renaissance”, with new hotels, restaurants popping up all over for both business and leisure visitors to enjoy,not to forget the locals either! The almost fallen into the sea Beach Promenade road has under gone major re-development, the focal point being uncharacteristically stylish Maputo Holiday Inn, real proof perhaps that Maputo deserves now to be regarded as a conventional tourist destination!
This city incorporates old and modern cultures. Sit at one of the many street cafes and enjoy a cup of coffee, opportunity to visit National Art museum, the colourful artisans market and good old cold local beer and a plate of peri-peri prawns whilst watching a true African sunset.
Catembe Peninsula is just six minutes by ferry from Maputo and the Catembe Gallery Hotel offers upmarket hotel accommodation and excellent dining and conference and banqueting facilities, offering sophistication and comforts with fantastic views onto Maputo.
Ponta De Ouro - Tourism was the reason this little town came into being, supported by visitors from mainly Maputo and South Africa making a superb family-friendly spot. Combined with the facilities at Ponta Malongane just 10km further north, this southern-most section of Mocambique offers some of the country`s best dive opportunities and most family orientated facilities.
Bazaruto Archipelago – made up of (in order of size) Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue, only Bazaruto and surrounding reefs is officially included within the boundaries of the Parque Nacional de Bazaruto (Bazaruto National Park). The waters surrounding the islands are home to more than 80 percent of all marine fish families of the Indo-Pacific.
The surrounding seas are home to the resident minke and right whales as well as common, spinner and bottlenose dolphins, and the highly threatened dugong. Referred to as the `Galapagos of Africa` by famed ecologist Paul Dutton who lived on Bazaruto Island for many years during the civil war period and studied the unique habitats and training the community to protect the various species of marine turtle through sustainable utilisation.
The islands offer a variety of lodges, hotels and campsites and some catering to those seeking deserted, endless beaches and many satisfying the needs of serious big-game fishermen from all over the world. Scuba divers are never disappointed with the life and forms on famed 3-mile reef, while snorkellers can spend hours mesmerized by the colourful corals and tropical fish in the shallow and protected natural `aquarium` that lies between Bazaruto and Benguerra.
The area also caters for budget and eco-friendly travelers providing basic and rustic but charming facilities run by friendly local islanders. A large sea worthy dhow based in Vilanculous, provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the islands on a locally built vessel adding a true authentic experience.
Inhambane and Peninsula - Inhambane the capital city of the province, still holds the original nostalgic atmosphere and old buildings and dhows are still the main form of transport to busy Maxixe across the bay. Inhambane has no beach but has a beautiful bay, wonderful restaurants and nightlife and friendly locals make it unique. On the peninsula and only a short drive away within a radius of 30km from Inhambane, you will find Barra, Tofo and Guinjata which are very popular tourist destination for beach and sun seeking tourists!
Praia de Barra is 25 km from Inhambane town, where you will find unspoiled beaches bordered by the Inhambane estuary on one side and the sea on the other, nestling amongst groves and coconut trees.
Vilankulo - (formerly Vilanculos) a prosperous fishing village which thanks to its small international airport and relatively good infrastructure, has become the gateway to the well known Bazaruto Archipelago. During the fifties and sixties Portuguese entrepreneur Joaquim Alves built himself an empire of hotels, stores, and transport businesses and then lost it all. His flagship hotel, the Dona Anna, was not named after his wife, daughter or even his mother-in-law — no it was a local woman of apparently some notoriety who was honoured. From the roof of this ‘Art Deco’ styled structure you can see both the sun rise and set. Developers have come and gone over the years, but nothing much had changed, although across the bay there is now the luxurious Vilanculos Beach Lodge and the homely Black Eagle Lodge.
Bilene (São Martino) – A Breathtaking Blue Lagoon fringed by white beaches, Bilene is the closest thing to a resort village that Mozambique has to offer. It is a qiuiet town but come weekends and holidays it comes alive with visitors and there are a few hotels, lodges, guesthouses and BB;s in the area for holiday makers.
Pemba - Pemba is the main city of Cabo Delgado, a traditional old Mozambique fishing port offering pristine island scenery, scuba diving and world-class blue water fishing. With its deepwater port and strategic location along the east African coastline, Pemba was destined to become Mozambique`s capital during colonial times. But in the scramble to secure the south from competing colonial powers, the Portuguese selected Delagoa Bay (Lourenco Marques, now Maputo) as their capital instead. Today a beautiful, crumbling town of 200 000 residents, Pemba has developed its tourism potential, forming a natural gateway to the wildlife-rich interior and the jewel-like Quirimbas Archipelago offshore.
Inhaca Island - With its reefs, nature reserve, marine biology museum, excellent birding opportunities with comfortable resort hotel and rustic camping sites available, Inhaca has become an accessible yet refreshingly remote and unsophisticated destination. Originally a refuge from the ravages of malaria and unfriendly locals on the mainland for Portuguese and Dutch traders it is just 35km from Maputo across a bay.
The Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary the first privately managed National Park in Mocambique. The sanctuary covers 30 000 hectares of pristine marine and wildlife territory, a unique `beach and bush` experience in a hidden corner of sub tropical Africa. This diverse eco-system of bush and wetland, with its powder white beaches and crystal clear water is host to a magnificent array of fish, dolphin and very importantly, the nearly extinct Dugong. Shallow and deepwater reefs reveal beautiful creatures such as the green and leatherback turtles, sailfish, manta ray, to name a few.
Rio Azul - 130 kilometes north of Vilanculos; unspoilt beaches, great birdlife and great fishing.
Gorongosa National Park (3770km2) in the Province of Sofala is in the lower Pungwe River catchment area. Habitats include lowland Miombo woodlands, extensive palm savannahs, thickets and swamps. Wildlife is still thin on the ground but it is a good birders destination, especially in conjunction with Gorongosa Mountain.
Short List Preparation
- You will need your passport and visa if applicable. Passports must be valid for 6 months after return.
- Valid international drivers license if self drive applies and vehicle registration papers, 2 red triangles and registration papers for trailer if you have one. Police are renowned for their roadblocks and pulling cars over to solicit bribes. Stay calm and polite and carry international drivers license at all times.
- Pack light weight clothing, the dress code in Mocambique is very casual. Long sleeve light weight clothing ideal for evening to cover your body for protection against mosquitoes including socks and shoes. Take a light jacket or sweatshirt as evening can occasionally cool.
- Remember to take malaria prophylaxis recommended by your local travel clinic as well as mosquito repellent.
- Water from taps is not safe to drink, purchased bottled water
- Citronella candles, torch small medical kit are all good items to carry!
- Taking photographs of government or public buildings, soldiers, airports and bridges is prohibited by law and only photos of beaches and other tourist sites may be taken.
- Visitors should be aware of the risks of crime, poor road safety standards and minimal health facilities.
- Tipping is not expected however in tourist areas a 10 to 15% tip is always appreciated.
- Local money Metical notes can only be exchanged in Mocambique should you have any left over before you depart.
- Visitors should avoid unfrequented areas or demarcated as mined due to previous war torn areas.
- Do not buy plain or uncured cashew nuts from street vendors.
Welcome to the idealic location we know as paradise, Mocambique offers you the warmth of true African locations, with gorgeous vistas, sensational beaches and tranquil settings!
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Please don't hesitate to contact us directly, we have visited here previously and are able to provide you with up to date information at any time.