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Situated along Africa's southeastern coast, opposite Madagascar, Mozambique's prominence along the coast makes it an ideal tourist destination. Dozens of beaches are the country's best attractions, not only because of the excellent coral reefs that mark the coast, but also because many of the other attractions the country could offer are off-limits, due to the presence of landmines.
Indeed, the civil war which tore the nation to shreds has left a dirty stain on Mozambique's canvas, one the reformed government is finding very hard to remove. Maputo was once Mozambique's beautiful capital. Now, many buildings are collapsing or collapsed, with the city's former glory a mere shimmer.
Safaris are possible but don't count on seeing as much as in neighbouring Tanzania or South Africa for example. Thankfully, local culture compensates somewhat: the art produced by Mozambicans is some of the finest and most refined in Africa. And the indelible mark of Portuguese colonialism has its bright sides, with crumbling forts turning into crowd-drawers by the day.
Between the first and fifth centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the west and north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. When Portuguese explorers reached East Africa in 1498, Swahili and Arabic commercial settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts displaced the Arabic commercial and military hegemony becaming regular ports of call on the new European sea route to the east. The Portuguese gained control of the Island of Mozambique and the port city of Sofala in the early 16th century, and by the 1530s small groups of Portuguese traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions seeking gold, where they set up garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi River and tried to gain exclusive control over the gold trade. During the 18th and 19th centuries the Mazrui and Omani Arabs reclaimed much of the Indian Ocean trade, forcing the Portuguese to retreat south. Many prazos had declined by the mid-19th century, but several of them survived. During the 19th century other European powers, particularly the British (British South Africa Company) and the French (Madagascar), became increasingly involved in the trade and politics of the region around the Portuguese East African territories.
As communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread out across Africa, many clandestine political movements were established in support of Mozambican independence. The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. This conflict, along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Portuguese Guinea, became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974). Mozambique became independent from Portugal on June 25, 1975. Within a few years, almost the entire ethnic Portuguese population which had remained at independence had also departed. Starting shortly after the independence, the country was plagued from 1977 to 1992 by a long and violent civil war between the opposition forces of anti-Communist RENAMO rebel militias and the Marxist FRELIMO regime - the Mozambican Civil War. By mid-1995 more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa.
At 801,537 km2, Mozambique is the world's 35th-largest country. Mozambique is located on the southeast coast of Africa. It is bordered by Swaziland to the south, South Africa to the southwest, Zimbabwe to the west, Zambia and Malawi to the northwest, Tanzania to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east. Mozambique lies between latitudes 10° and 27°S, and longitudes 30° and 41°E. The country is divided into two topographical regions by the Zambezi River. To the north of the Zambezi River, the narrow coastline moves inland to hills and low plateaus, and further west to rugged highlands, which include the Niassa highlands, Namuli or Shire highlands, Angonia highlands, Tete highlands and the Makonde plateau, covered with miombo woodlands. To the south of the Zambezi River, the lowlands are broader with the Mashonaland plateau and Lebombo Mountains located in the deep south. The country is drained by five principal rivers and several smaller ones with the largest and most important the Zambezi. The country has four notable lakes: Lake Niassa (or Malawi), Lake Chiuta, Lake Cahora Bassa and Lake Shirwa, all in the north. The major cities are Maputo, Beira, Nampula, Tete, Quelimane, Chimoio, Pemba, Inhambane, Xai-Xai and Lichinga.
Mozambique is made up of 10 provinces. The capital city Maputo also has provincial status.
The Limpopo National Park is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also contains the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. Since many of the animals here were killed during the civilian war in Mozambique, there has been a huge translocation of animals from the adjacent Kruger National Park and a border between the two countries has been opened up recently as well. This way, it is possible to visit some more remote parts of the Transfrontier Park, but you will need the proper visa and vehicle (4wd) to get to the Mozambique parts, as infrastructure as well as accommodation is still basic. That said, there is no doubt about it that this national park is a good opportunity to see the wildlife (including the big five) in its natural setting, still without too much visitors and vehicles.
The Bazaruto Archipelago is located along the central coastal part of the country near the city of Vilanculos and consists of five islands: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaraque, Banque and Santa Carolina. There are great beaches to explore and the forest and wetland habitat houses a surprisingly high number of birds and many species of flora and fauna. The diving and snorkelling here is fantastic and you will definitely see numerous colourful fish, turtles. One of the best ways to explore the islands is to book a three day dhow trip. The trip will include a visit to Margaraque and Bazaruto, with snorkelling at 2 Mile Reef. You will see more see life there than at the Red Sea. This is one of the best places on the archipelago.
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Ilha de Moçambique (Island of Mozambique) is located in the north of the country along the coast near Nampula. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and not without reason. The Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, built in 1522, is considered to be the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere and this places has been a port since the 15th century. The Fort of Sao Sebastiao (now called Stone Town) became the capital of Portuguese East Africa until 1898, when present day Maputo became the capital. Also the port function has been taken over by Nacala, but history remains in this fantastic place. In the later part of the Portuguese era, Ilha de Mocambique was a popular tourism destination for the rich and famous. Cruise ships regularly visited the port, sea planes and water taxis ferried people back and forth and the town enjoyed theatre, cinema and lots of cafe's and bars. Echos of this time linger still and visiting Mozambicans and foreigners come to Ilha in search of lazy days followed by lively nights.
The capital Maputo is vibrant and colourful place with many historical and cultural significant buildings, many of them dating back to the Portuguese colonial period.
Covering over 42,000 square kilometres, the Niassa nature reserve is the biggest protected area in Mozambique. It is located in the north west of the country in the Niassa province, the most sparsely populated area of the country. The park's remoteness has been a hindrance to it's development for tourism, but also largely protected it from being spoiled, and if you do make the journey it is a spectacular and truly wild nature reserve.
Mozambique enjoys a tropical climate with generally warm to hot and humid weather. There are two seasons, a dry and cool season from April to October and a warm and wet season from November to March. Temperatures usually vary from around 25 °C during the day from June to September and around 30 °C from December to March, at night dropping to around 23 °C and 17 °C respectively. Highest rainfalls are recorded from January to March and these are probably the months to avoid if you can, because hurricanes can strike the country, especially coastline.
LAM Mozambique Airways is the national airline of Mozambique and has its base at Maputo International Airport (MPM) near the capital. International destinations include flights to and from Durban, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Other airlines serving the country are South African Airways (Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town), TAP Portugal (Lisbon, Johannesburg), Air Zimbabwe (Harare) and Kenya Airways (Nairobi). Swaziland is served as well.
There are trains between South Africa and Mozambique though it's much faster by buses or minivans.
The Komati Line serves Johannesburg and the Komatipoort border post daily (13 hours), from where you can continue to Maputo by rail.
The train journey from Malawi to Nampula is one of the few remaining great train journeys in Africa. The scenery is stunning, the track passes between towering inselbergs and in 2nd class its comfortable enough with waiter service, reserved seating and the option to reach out the window to buy from people with baskets of food at the many stations. It runs in each direction on alternate days except Monday: Nampula to Cuamba on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and Cuamba to Nampula on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. 3rd class costs M175, second class M331, and there's no first class. The train departs at 05:00 every day (except Monday) and takes 10-12 hours. You need to book the day before. The journey is from Cuamba to Nampula (all within Mozambique) meaning that you have to make the border crossing to/from Malawi by local chappa and bicycle and thats lengthy.
There is a well maintained road between Johannesburg and Maputo and it takes around 7 to 8 hours including border formalities. Other borders with Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania are open and possible to cross with your own vehicle.
Note that you are mostly not allowed to cross borders with Mozambique with your South African rental car!
The capital Maputo is easily reached by frequent daily buses to and from Johannesburg in South Africa, taking about 8 to 9 hours via the busy Komatipoort/Ressano Garcia border crossing. Pretoria and Nelspruit (the latter is close to Kruger National Park) can be reached as well from Maputo. Check Greyhound, InterCape Mainliner, Panthera Azul and Translux to check and compare schedules and prices. Panthera has buses to Durban via Swaziland, originating in Maputo.
There are many border crossings with Malawi. To and from Blantyre use the Zóbuè crossing between Blantyre and Harare (Zimbabwe), where vehicles depart Blantyre for the border via Mwanza connecting in Mozambique with minibuses to Tete. The Milange border crossing is convenient for Quelimane and Island of Mozambique, with regular buses from Blantyre via Mulanje to the border. In Mozambique, there are daily services to Mocuba, Quelimane and Nampula. The service to Mocuba from Milange leaves at 4:00am and costs M200 (Aug 2009) so, to avoid spending a night in Milange, you will need to hitch. It should take 4-5 hours.
The crossing at Mandimba is convenient for Cuamba and northern Mozambique, though note that you can not get a visa on arrival here (Aug 2009). There’s frequent transport on the Malawi side to Mangochi, where you can get minibuses to Namwera and Chiponde. Once in Mozambique, vehicles go daily from Mandimba to Cuamba and Lichinga.
To and from Lilongwe, you can use the Dedza border post, 85 kilometres southeast of Lilongwe, where minibuses run along the sealed route to Tete via Ulongwé. Otherwise, you can travel in stages via Moatize.
From Tanzania, pickups depart Mtwara daily at 6:30am to the Kilambo border post, and on to the Rovuma River, crossed via dugout canoe. Once across, two pick-ups daily go to the Mozambique border post (4 kilometres further away) and on to Moçimboa da Praia (four hours).
For Zambia, the main crossing is at Cassacatiza, northwest of Tete. Chapas go daily from Tete to Matema, from where there’s onward transport to the border, and vehicles to Katete (Zambia), and on to Lusaka or Chipata.
To Zimbabwe, the main crossings are at Nyamapanda (which lies on the route linking Harare with Blantyre via Tete), and at Machipanda on the Harare to Beira route. Minibuses go from Tete to Changara and on to Nyamapanda, where there are vehicles to Harare. You can also travel directly via Blantyre and on by bus to Harare, again crossing the border with Mozambique through Tete. From Chimoio minibuses go to Manica and the border. From here, onward transport is available to Mutare and here you can take a night train to Harare.
There are ferries between southwestern Tanzania and Mozambique via Malawi on the MV Songea between Mbamba Bay and Nkhata Bay. From here it goes on to Likoma Island (Malawi), Cóbuè and Metangula (both in Mozambique) on the MV Ilala. The MV Ilala departs from Monkey Bay (Malawi) at 10:00am Friday, arriving in Metangula (via Chipoka and Nkhotakota in Malawi) at 6:00am Saturday, reaching Cóbuè (Mozambique) around midday, Likoma Island at 1:30pm and Nkhata Bay at 1:00am Sunday morning. In southern direction departures are at 8:00pm Monday from Nkhata Bay and at 6:30am Tuesday from Likoma Island, reaching Cóbuè at 7:00am and Metangula at midday.
LAM Mozambique Airways flies between Beira, Chimoio, Inhambane, Nampula, Pemba, Quelimane, Tete and Vilanculos. Air Corridor has flights between Beira, Nampula, Quelimane and Tete, but these tend to be very expensive.
The Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro da Beira has more information about train travel in the country. Trains run from the towns of Moçambique and Nacala, via the junction at Monapo, to Nampula and Lichinga. Trains also run from Maputo to Goba and Ressano Garcia, and northwards on the line to Zimbabwe. A rail connection between Maputo and Beira is closed since 2005 but is expected to reopen in the near future.
The road network in Mozambique is far from complete and many roads are in a bad condition. Inland roads are mostly gravel roads. Tarred roads connect Maputo with Beira and Beira with Tete and are usually in a good condition, safe the few potholes. Many roads can be impassable after heavy rains and a 4wd vehicle is recommended. You can rent cars in Maputo, Beira and Nampula and a few other places, including the international airports. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit to rent a car. Also note that the people in Mozambique tend to drive fast and ignore any road rules; pay attention when driving.
Buses connect all major cities and towns at least daily. To more remote places, you can also use the so-called chapas, which basically are converted trucks. Buses are relatively affordable, comfortable and reliable and there are many bus companies to choose from. Getting around can be painful as the roads are in bad condition, and buses break down frequently. Even short distances can take the whole day, and travelling the lenght of the country can easily take a week. Also note that unlike most of Africa, buses actually leave on time, and the long-distance ones usually depart in the early hours of the morning.
There are no regular passenger services within the country, but you can go on organised trips or charter a local fisherboat to go out on the Indian Ocean for fishing, diving and snorkelling. The exception would be the ferry across from Inhambane to Maxixe, which departs whenever full.
All visitors (except citizens of Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, & Zambia) need a visa. Most nationals (except people from Taiwan) can get a visa upon arrival on one of the airports or most border posts. Note that this might not apply to all border posts and getting a visa beforehand is advised. Your passport needs to be valid for 6 months from the date of issue of the visa and you need one blank page as well.
Visas are usually valid for 90 days and costs around $20 for single-entry and $40 for double/multiple-entry visas.
See also Money Matters
Note that the metical (plural meticais) is a restricted currency, so try to use up your meticais before you leave the country.
See also: Portuguese phrasebook
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Mozambique. There are two exceptions though: you need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Mozambique) where that disease is widely prevalent. Also, a cholera stamp is required when entering the country overland.
Still, it's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Mozambique. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.
Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS. Also note that Southern Africa and thus Mozambique as well has a high percentage of people with AIDS.
See also Travel Safety
See also International Telephone Calls
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I'm living and working in Ilha de Mozambique, travelling around and taking an interest in whats out there to do. I'm a keen traveller, been to about 20 other african countries over many years so got a good idea of what other travellers are looking for and the kind of info they need
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Originally from The Netherlands, and having travelled extensively, I now call South Africa my home. I have always worked in the travel industry and enjoy helping you with your travel queries, especially about South Africa and Mozambique.
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I frequently travel and organise Guided Safaris to: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique from South Africa.
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I travel to Mozambique every month. Ask me for up to date info, and I'll reply as soon as possible.
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I lived for 3 months in a small village called Boane, about 45mins southwest from the Capital Maputo. I know the area well (the capital area) especially Maputo. General info and tips as well as contacts.
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