Africa’s rising star, Mozambique was once a major tourist destination, particularly in the 60s and early 70s when its spectacular beaches were the playground for the rich and famous – a kind of African St. Tropez. A long civil war, which ended in 1992, interrupted its booming tourism industry; however, the country’s fierce perseverance and determination is finally paying off, and the country is quickly being restored to its former glory. The unspoiled, sandy beaches with their pristine reefs are some of the world’s best and make the perfect place to unwind after safari.
As Mozambique was influenced not only by Portugal and its African roots, but also by Arab traders and migrants from Portugal's Asian and Latin American colonies, Mozambique's cosmopolitan cuisine is an intriguing mix of African, Portuguese, Middle Eastern, Brazilian and Asian spices, produce and cooking styles. Maputo Special Reserve (formerly known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve) is a pristine 1,040 square kilometres of protected area set aside to protect links between Maputo's marine, coastal and inland ecosystems.
Vilanculos is Mozambique’s fastest growing coastal town, with a small international airport that receives daily flights from South Africa. The gateway to the magnificent Bazaruto Archipelago, the town has a great selection of restaurants and accommodation as well as a vibrant nightlife. The waters around Bazaruto are home to dolphins, manta rays, turtles, whales, and endangered dugongs, while its unspoilt coral reefs provide underwater enthusiasts with diving and snorkelling opportunities amidst the abundant species of marine life.
Local fishing villages are still allowed to ply the waters and will often be seen as they sail majestically past in their traditional dhow sailboats. This is also home to the country’s most luxurious and exclusive accommodations. Its flagship species, the dugong, thrives here as the park is a stronghold for the last viable population in the western Indian Ocean.
Built over rolling hills in northeastern Mozambique, Pemba sprawls across a small peninsula that juts into the enormous and magnificent Pemba Bay, one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Once a small fishing village, this port town is the capital of Cabo Delgado Province, whose population is a mix of African, Portuguese, and Arabic influences. There are some beautiful coral reefs close to the town’s shore and nearby Wimbi Beach with its white sand and palm trees is a favourite for visitors and locals alike. Pemba is also the jumping-off point for the Quirimbas National Park.
North of Pemba, the enigmatic Quirimbas Archipelago offers a surprising mix of history, culture, and unparalleled natural beauty. Dotted along the coastline are 32 idyllic islands, home to a range of marine life such as turtles, dugongs, whales and dolphins, and a thriving coral reef, providing a burst of colour under the turquoise waters. The islands, however, are as much about history as they are about natural beauty, as its distinctive architectural heritage is an eclectic blend of Portuguese, Swahili, Indian and African cultures. The best-known island is Ibo, which feels as though it has remained unchanged from its heyday in the mid 1850s, making it one of the country’s most historic and fascinating destinations.
When visiting Ilha de Mozambique, it is difficult to imagine that this tiny, crescent-shaped island, just 3 kilometres long and 500 metres wide, once played such a crucial role in Africa’s colonial past, as the capital and main trading centre of Portuguese East Africa. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in its heyday it was a major port for Arabian and Portuguese traders dealing in gold, ivory and, sadly, slaves. Now, seemingly lost in time and space, the island offers a fascinating glimpse into 16th-century Africa.
Once called the Serengeti of the south, Gorongosa is one of the least visited game reserves in Africa and Mozambique’s greatest success story. After being ravished by almost two decades of civil war, this ruggedly beautiful wildlife reserve is finally rebounding. Cradled in the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, Gorongosa’s 4,000 square kilometres span mountainsides, plateau forests, escarpment canyons, palm savannahs and wetlands. Successful conservation efforts to protect the once dwindling wildlife populations have led to healthy numbers of elephants, lions, wild dogs, hippos and a great variety and number of plains game.
Bordering on South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, Limpopo is another of Mozambique’s natural jewels that is starting to shine once more. As with Gorongosa, this park suffered from years of neglect during the civil war; however, that is quickly changing with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique joining forces to protect all three adjoining reserves to create the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This means that animals will roam freely through all three countries, making the underdeveloped Limpopo the new wildlife reserve to look out for.
Niassa National Reserve is located in northern Mozambique, with the Ruvuma River bordering Tanzania at its northern boundary. It is recognised as Mozambique's largest and most important protected area, covering more than 42,000 square kilometres or twice the size of South Africa's Kruger National Park. The area plays a critical role in wildlife conservation in Africa, especially for keystone species such as lion, wild dog and elephant.
After years of being overshadowed by its more famous African neighbours, Mozambique is making a comeback and now is the time to discover this forgotten African gem before the rest of the world uncovers its secret charms. Concerted conservation efforts are well underway and safaris here are delivering authentic, 'safari in the raw' experiences. Nothing beats Mozambique for an incredible and authentic beach and bush experience.
Private Island Life
From US$ 825 per person per night
An utterly remote, hidden island tropical paradise awaits in the seldom visited Pemba archipelago.
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