A Mozambique holiday is the perfect excuse to kick off your shoes, take off your watch and gear down to the slow pace of island life: swim, snorkel, laze in the sunshine or set sail on a sunset dhow cruise. When the mood takes you there are richly coloured coral reefs waiting to be explored on scuba diving trips, and the clear waters are world-renowned for big game fishing.
Destinations within Mozambique
Soon to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Quirimbas Archipelago is fast becoming Mozambique’s new tourist hotspot. This island chain – 31 in total, stretching south from Cape Delgado for 200 miles (320km) – is not only home to some fantastic sun-soaked beaches, incredible fishing opportunities, and world-class snorkelling and diving sites, but some truly fascinating cultural sites as well.
Easily accessed from Pemba, the Quirimbas Islands should be one of the first destinations on any tourist’s Mozambique travel itinerary. The fishing and scuba diving are extremely rewarding, and the islands make a wonderful honeymoon destination. Whether you choose to hide away from the world in a wooden chalet on the resort-island of Medjumbe, or rent a villa on the ultra-exclusive Vamizi Island, you are sure to leave this little corner of paradise vowing to return. Beautiful, exotic and full of exciting things to do, Mozambique’s Quirimbas Islands are a sure bet for an unforgettable beach holiday to rival any in the world.
The largest island in the archipelago, Bazaruto Island is about 23 miles (37km) long and four miles (7km) wide, surrounded by magnificent stretches of white sand. Enormous sand dunes comprise the eastern strip, while the interior contains large freshwater lakes inhabited by crocodiles and frequented by a wide variety of water birds, including flamingos. On the northern tip of the island is a lighthouse built by the Portuguese over 100 years ago, which signals to the large number of ships travelling the historic Mozambique Channel and affords spectacular views from its tower.
World famous for its large game fishing, Bazaruto is also well known as a popular diving destination, with a rich variety of marine life surrounding the island. The Bazaruto Marine National Park offers coral reefs, crystal-clear waters and diverse underwater life. Reef sharks, dolphins, manta rays and even turtles are regular visitors to these waters, and the turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of the island. Humpback whales can be found between August and October, and whale sharks between April and July. Bazaruto is accessible by boat or plane from Vilanculos.
Benguerra is the second largest island of the Bazaruto Archipelago, less than half a mile (1km) south of Bazaruto, and like its neighbour, boasts stunning beaches, large sand dunes and freshwater lakes. Its forest and wetland areas attract a huge variety of birds and animals, while its surrounding reefs offer some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities on the African continent. Two-Mile Reef is to the east of Benguerra, and its protected lagoon, known aptly as the Aquarium, is an underwater paradise with beautiful corals and a wealth of tropical fish, popular with both divers and snorkellers. On the sandbanks to the north of the island the famous Pansy shells can be found. Most visitors come to Benguerra for the big game fishing though, as its deep waters teem with the likes of marlin and barracuda, and the area is world-renowned as a sport fishing destination.
Accessible by boat or plane from Vilanculos, there is plenty of accommodation on the island and tourist facilities are good, with a number of upmarket lodges and exclusive resorts geared towards luxury tourism.
Cahora Bassa Lake
Situated in the Tete Province of Mozambique, Cahora Bassa is one of Africa’s largest artificial lakes. One of three major dams on the Zambezi river system, along with Kariba and Itezhi-Tezhi, the Cahora Bassa Dam powers the largest hydroelectric scheme in southern Africa. The nearest town is called Songo, established in 1969 to house workers for the construction of the dam.
Great fishing is the dam’s biggest drawcard and fishing trips are very popular, as the vast stretch of water contains a huge variety of fish, including tigerfish, sharptooth catfish, vundu, bream, longfin eels, and Zambezi parrotfish. Other attractions in the area include boat cruises and waterskiing. The lake and surrounding landscapes are very picturesque, with lush vegetation and dramatic mountainous scenery.
Gorongosa National Park
Often referred to as ‘the place where Noah parked his Ark’, Gorongosa National Park was a popular tourist destination for the rich and famous back in the 1960s, when the area’s abundant wildlife attracted stars like John Wayne, Joan Crawford, and Gregory Peck. The subsequent years of war and poaching decimated the wildlife count, but programmes have since been implemented to restore the park to its previous status as one of the richest wildlife refuges in the world.
Opening times: Park is closed between mid-December and mid-April.
Ilha de Mozambique
Ilha de Mozambique, (Mozambique Island), is an island in the Nampula Province of northern Mozambique, up the coast from Beira, with a fascinating historical heritage. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly four centuries under Portuguese rule before the move to Lourenco Marques, (now Maputo), and was used as a base for Arab traders long before that. It is not only a wonderful tourist destination in Mozambique, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ilha de Mozambique is an exquisite mix of old Portuguese and Muslim architecture, dividing old Stone Town in the north and Reed Town in the south.
The tiny island is accessible via a bridge from the mainland. Because of its size, visitors won’t have any trouble walking around the island; it’s a 20-minute walk from end to end, and Gabriel’s has bicycles for hire.
Niassa Game Reserve
Spanning an area of 42,000 square kilometres (10 million acres), the Niassa Game Reserve is the largest protected area in Mozambique, and one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the whole of Africa. Twice the size of South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park, making it roughly the size of Denmark, the Niassa Reserve boasts an abundance of wildlife, incredibly varied bird life, and absolutely stunning natural scenery. The park is special because it is essentially a wilderness area and is relatively unexplored.
Visitors to the Niassa Game Reserve will be spellbound by the changing landscape, ranging from mountain forests to miombo forests and savanna grasslands, not to mention the high concentration of wild animals, including something like 13,000 elephants, 200 endangered wild dogs, lions, leopards and a huge assortment of birds.
‘Surf’s up’ in Ponta d’Ouro, located along a sandy road just south of Maputo, which is home to some of the most perfect waves in Africa. Offering spectacular dive sites and a wealth of exciting sea creatures to encounter underwater, Ponta d’Ouro is a popular destination for divers as well as surfers, and swimming with dolphins is not to be missed, either – it can be a deeply rewarding, even life-changing experience. Stroll along white beaches stretching far into the distance, and explore the rock pools full of colourful shells and corals.
Ponto da Ouro is only 10kms from the South African border and is highly accessible, making it a wonderful addition to any tourist tour of southern Africa.
Described as ‘the next Goa’, Tofo Beach is situated in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique. It has definitely become a hotspot for young travellers, with beautiful stretches of beach, a friendly laid-back atmosphere, good restaurants, an entertaining nightlife and some great diving and snorkelling sites.
The main draw of Tofo is the natural beauty, with pristine beaches perfect for swimming, diving, and watersports like surfing, kitesurfing and bodyboarding. The area offers amazing scuba diving at popular sites like Manta Reef, and the chance to spot humpback whales, reef sharks, and whale sharks. Beware of jellyfish though, as the giant Portuguese man-of-war float through in swarms.
Vilanculos is a popular tourist destination and the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of islands incorporated into Mozambique’s stunning underwater national park. On day trips from Vilanculos, visitors can go scuba diving and snorkelling in the clear waters, or enjoy the wonderful views on horse safaris and day rides along the long unspoiled beaches of the Vilanculos coast. Sailing around the archipelago in a traditional dhow is a great way to enjoy the azure waters, sandy beaches, palm trees and coral reefs of the islands. Vilanculos is also a great fishing area, ranked as the best black marlin destination in the eastern Indian Ocean. There is even a new international airport on the outskirts of town, with flights to both Johannesburg and Maputo.