• Mozambique,
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  • Mozambique
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Mozambique

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Having emerged from the turmoil of a 16-year civil war, Mozambique is still in the healing process. But this spectacular south-east African country has glorious beaches, big waves and extraordinary wildlife by the bucket load.

Travel guide

A slow bloom

Independence from Portugal in 1975 brought a long and difficult period of civil war, economic collapse and famine to Mozambique. But since the 16-year-long civil war came to an end in 1992, it has hauled itself to its feet and begun to make serious progress both economically and politically. With stability have come a slowly incremental number of tourists, all with insider knowledge on the wonders within Mozambican borders.

What a welcome

Poverty across the country can be devastating, especially when you know that over half of the population is living on less than a dollar a day. Confronting it as a traveller will show you an entirely different side to life, as well as one of the warmest welcomes you're likely to receive anywhere in the world. Don't be shy and dive in with two feet because both locals and landscape offer up amazing experiences to all who try.

Off the map

It may not be a top tourist destination but Mozambique is relentless in its provision for adventurous travellers. Dream beaches for surfing enthusiasts populate the south coast and swimmers will find calmer waters in the north. Nature is well and truly at your fingertips here, from the stunning shores of Lake Malawi and rolling acres of tea plantations to elephants and lions, whale sharks and flamingos.

Intriguing islands

Travel on the mainland is known to be tough at times so many opt for a holiday of island hopping. Two archipelagos beckon from the Indian Ocean, the Quirimbas Islands to the North and the Bazaruto Archipelago further to the south. Grouping together 12 major islands, the Quirimbas are a haven for marine life and diving opportunities, offering reams of largely unexplored territory. The southern Bazaruto Islands are also protected by a marine park, as well as offering peaceful beaches and deserted landscapes to explore.

North-south divide

Back on the mainland, the North feels somewhat separated from the rest of the country. Here you will find a curious mix of matrilineal tribes and Islamic influences, rarely graced with visitors despite their warm welcome. Its rural situation has preserved a reliance on old Swahili trading networks, as well as an unspoilt wilderness home to lions, elephants and a portion of Lake Malawi in the north-western corner. In comparison, the south is reputed for its lively coastlines, jamming nightlife and delicious seafood. You'll be in for cool ocean breezes, great surf and good transport links to South Africa.

Our Editorial team's advice

Decide what exactly you're looking for from your trip to Mozambique and plan accordingly. If you're looking for great waves, awesome beaches and a rocking nightlife, the south coast is most certainly your answer. If you want great diving spots, take a look at the archipelagos with their peaceful beaches and marine parks. Adventurers and explorers would be advised to head into the North with its incredible landscapes, wildlife and mish-mash of cultures.

If you're looking for the perfect time to plan your trip, keep in mind that the rainy season runs from November to April. It can bring with it widespread flooding in the country's river basins, especially in the Zambezi, which can make travel difficult. There are also risks of hurricanes and tropical storms along the coasts over the same period.

With political stability now returning for real, Mozambique is set to open up to tourists in a major way over the coming years, especially those interested in safari holidays. However, you will see signs of the recent conflict everywhere, particularly in warnings for landmines. The Northern provinces have been cleared of all known fields but remote regions in the central and southern provinces are still at risk. If you are venturing away from main roads in this part of the country, seek advice from local authorities beforehand.

Remember that you'll need to secure an entry visa for Mozambique before leaving the UK, whether as a tourist or on business. On arrival, you will also be required to present a return air ticket and either an official invitation to stay with friends or family, or a hotel reservation. You may be subject to police checks at patrols or checkpoints, for which you will be required to present an original identification document.

pros

  • +A beautiful beach destination, especially in the south.
  • +There are still very few tourists.
  • +Culturally rich landscapes and generous inhabitants.

cons

  • -Public transport is unreliable.
  • -The civil war caused much damage.
  • -The poverty can be confronting in places.

Traditions

The borders of Mozambique encase a large number of different groups, including the Maku, Sena, Thonga, Nyuungwe and Yao. Their people speak around 40 distinct languages or dialects, all belonging to the Bantu family, and whilst many tribes in the south are traditionally patrilineal, most in the north trace their descent through the female line.

Portuguese may be the official language of government and business here, but don't expect every Mozambican you come across to speak it fluently. Growing up, most children will learn to speak the local dialect as their mother tongue. Only when they go to school are they required to learn Portuguese and as attendance is low, many never achieve fluency in speaking or writing.

Dance is an extremely important part of the cultures which make up Mozambique. Ceremonies are often based around dance, including the famous Mapiko. Belonging to the matrilineal Makonde people in northern Mozambique, this dance sees the tribe's men dress in cloth and wooden masks to represent spirits who come to frighten the women - possibly as a way for men to challenge their society's powerful females.

Religion here is a mixed bag and extremely interesting to track as you make your way through the country. You'll find that around a quarter of Mozambicans identify themselves as Muslims, mostly in the north, whilst around a third practices Christianity. On top of that, half the population claims to hold traditional animist beliefs which dictate that the spirits of ancestors often affect the living. You'll often find that people have combined these beliefs with Christian beliefs, as both are based on a monotheistic god.

Food

Mozambican cuisine is a blend of traditional Portuguese and East African food. Chicken, fish and seafood, as well as rice and corn make up the base of meals here. Try the delicate flavours of chicken fried in palm oil and the excellent king prawns and grilled fish (especially when served with matapa sauce, made with pistachio nuts) in coastal regions.

Souvenirs

Most of the local handicraft can be found at the markets: you will find carved wood, pottery, ceramics, percussion instruments such as the timbila, and paintings. On weekdays shops are open from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. On Saturdays, they are open from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm.