MOZAMBIQUE – a land of white coral sands, clear water
and palm trees
As a young girl I lived on a farm on the Pungwe River flats, some 60 kms from Beira, Mocambique’s second city and port. For political reasons, my father had lost his farms in Zambia and the family moved to Mozambique for the opportunity to start again on an abandoned rice plantation. Growing sugar cane instead, and redesigning the irrigation systems, my father in time became the largest independent sugar cane farmer in the southern hemisphere. And then the terrorist attacks began and the Portuguese lost control of their colony ... but that is another story.
My parents had always had a love affair with the beautiful Mozambique coast. Living in landlocked Zambia as they had done earlier, we frequently flew in my father’s small plane to the Mozambique coast for a beach and boating/fishing holiday, usually at Inhassoro or Vilankulos, someway south of Beira. My father enjoyed deep-sea fishing and the channel between the coast and the nearby Bazaruto Islands was a great fishing spot. It was also a great area for snorkelling and diving.
My memories are of beautiful white sandy beaches, Portuguese seafood in ocean-side tavernas and great family holidays with my parents and three siblings. Happy days! Australians are justifiably proud of their beaches but those in Mozambique are as good, if not better. Squeaky white coral sand between your toes, and palm trees and seashells are everywhere.
Later, when we moved to Mozambique to settle, my memories of the land and its friendly people broaden. The little country towns of Dondo and Mufumbiasse, with their Portuguese bakeries for fresh bread, come to mind. On several occasions I visited the Gorongoza National Park for its spectacular animal viewing, often seeing hippo grazing, elephants browsing and a pride of lion which lived in the derelict ruins of an old camp. With this Park relatively close to our farm we often had wandering animals come through our property – and unfortunately damage our sugar cane fields, to the annoyance of my father. It was not uncommon for lion to try to take some of our beef cattle. I also remember a visit to the old Portuguese settlement of Sofala, one of the first places that Europeans settled on the east African coast; a fascinating old port and fortress with its crumbling walls tumbling into the sea.
All my secondary and tertiary education occurred in Zimbabwe but I did take the opportunity, with my husband, to travel southwards on a camping trip down the Mozambique coast, visiting all the little settlements and stopping for days at some of the magnificent beaches. After crossing the huge Save River I revisited the childhood memories of Inhassoro but pushed southwards to the interesting and beautiful, fishing port of Inhambane. From there we continued south, stopping at beaches on the way such as Massinga and Xix-Xia, and eventually arrived in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique (originally called Lourenco Marques). After exploring Maputo we took the opportunity to visit nearby Swaziland with its quaint little capital of Mbabane (and casino), before heading northwards to South Africa’s Kruger National Park and more game-viewing.
These days things have changed and I would love to re-visit those places again. Tourism has opened up in Mozambique and the government is now democratic and stable. There are now 5-star hotels in Maputo, Beira and Pemba and plenty of quaint hostels and guest houses along the coast. Game-viewing in the National Parks is now available to any discerning traveller as the park facilities have been refurbished and upgraded. International Tour Companies are operating regularly along the coastal highway.
If I was planning my trip to Mozambique today I would consider the following. Flying from Australia to Africa I would have to land in Johannesburg. Whether I wanted to combine some of South Africa’s famous spots (Cape Town? Durban? the Garden Route?) would depend on time available, but I would then plan to visit the Kruger National Park for my first views of wild-life. From there I would seek out the Mozambique coast, staying in Maputo and visiting nearby Inhaca Island, a World Biological Heritage, with its colourful coral reefs and rare fish species. The island has good tourist accommodation and an excellent range of beaches, wildlife, lush vegetation and mangroves.
Heading northwards, my priorities would be a beach stopover and then Bazaruto Island, which is the centre for marine species such as dolphins, turtles and dugong, as well as snorkelling, diving and fishing. If I could I would visit Gorongoza National Park because I know that the range of animals there is immense. I would consider Pemba and Ilha de Mozambique in the north and possibly the Niassa National Park. The whole experience would be a fantastic trip and one I would recommend to anyone who would like to explore a different part of Africa. Perhaps I will put a tour together and you may like to join me?
Viv Craig, of Viv’s Travel Bug (4455 5047), has lived and visited most countries in Southern and East Africa. As the Southern Highland’s ‘African Queen’ she would be delighted to assist you in planning your next holiday to this exciting continent.