- Eat traditional piri piri prawns with your fingers
- Spend at least a morning snorkelling or diving in the Bazaruto Archipelago
- Charter a boat and try to snag a big game fish
- Take a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot
- Learn about local culture and the country’s fascinating history at Ibo Island
The highlight of Mozambique has to be its beaches – 2500 km of soft sand lapped by the warm seas of the Indian Ocean. But there is much more than this: a friendly, resilient and relaxed population; a distinctive and vibrant culture expressed through art, music and dance; and a unique blend of African, Arabic, Portuguese and Indian influences. Mozambique is also one of the few places in Africa, where true wilderness areas are relatively accessible and not yet taken over by mass commercialism.
Mozambique was an important centre for trade between southern Africa and the East from about 900AD. Vasco de Gama landed in Mozambique en route to India in 1498 and the Portuguese set up a trading post in 1505. The country soon fell under Portuguese control and it was administered from Portuguese India until 1752, when Lisbon took over. The main exports were gold, then ivory and slaves. In the twentieth century, agriculture was the main activity: vast tracts of land were administered by private companies, with impoverished black labourers producing cash crops of cotton, cashews and coffee.
In the early 1960s, FRELIMO was formed to fight for independence and an armed struggle began. The Portuguese pulled out in 1975, but their departure was followed by a long civil war, which could not be resolved until apartheid was finally abandoned in South Africa. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994 and the country has remained peaceful and stable ever since. Mozambique joined the Commonwealth in 1975 and enjoys the fastest growing economy in Africa.??Although the civil war has been over for many years, there was an aftermath of poor infrastructure and dilapidation that kept European tourists at bay until relatively recently.
Now that Mozambique has been ‘re-discovered’ as a destination, the shortage of high quality tourist beds in the country means that even a small increase in demand is hard to accommodate.
For some years, the Bazaruto Archipelago has been the main centre for European tourism. The larger islands, Benguerra and Bazaruto, both have lodges. Vilanculos is the point of entry, and there are some reasonably good lodges on the mainland itself.
Recently, the isolated far north has been opening up to tourism, and a number of excellent lodges have opened in the last few years. This area offers a very special experience, and tourism to the Quirimbas will continue to increase as air access becomes easier.
Most of the development has been on the coast, but Mozambique’s national parks are slowly being restocked and rehabilitated. Gorongosa National Park is one of Mozambique’s flagship conservation areas with a remarkable history; before the onset of civil war in the 1970’s, the Park was considered one of Africa’s finest with large populations of herbivores and predators alike.
Now the Park is one of the most exciting travel destinations with a visionary restoration project in place to re-establish the park back to its former glory. This project has been initiated by the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation. The rehabilitation of Gorongosa National Park represents one of the great conservation opportunities in the world today