Colonised by the Portuguese, Mozambique is a country on the Indian Ocean coast of Southern Africa and it is bordered by South Africa to the south, Tanzania to the north. The country which shares inland borders with Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, has a coastline of more than 1,000 km long along the Indian Ocean.
Mozambique has vast expanses of palm-fringed beach and lagoons with safe bathing, warm waters and good fishing. The country is rich in wildlife with several excellent parks and reserves to glimpse rare birds, big game and abundant marine life. It also claims islands that are dotted with historical monuments. There is also good hiking with little-visited mountains but advice and extreme caution should be taken due to the large amount of leftover landmines in the country.
In 1500, the Portuguese established a string of forts and posts up and down the coast, starting with present day Isla de Mozambique (at that time simply known as Mozambique and where the country gets its modern name from), where the Portuguese plied the spice and slave routes from Mozambique up until 1891. In 1962, several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule, which subsequently paved way for country’s independence in 1975.
People & Culture
The main ethnic groups in Mozambique are Makhuwa, Tsonga, Makonde, Shangaan, Shona, Sena, Ndau, and other indigenous groups. There are approximately 10,000 Europeans, 35,000 Euro-Africans, and 15,000 South Asians. Mozambique’s major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures and histories. Many are linked to similar ethnic groups living in neighboring countries. The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 45% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makua are the dominant group in the northern part of the country – the Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga and Shangaan dominate in southern Mozambique.
Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based on small-scale agriculture. Mozambique’s most highly developed art forms have been wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are particularly renowned, and dance. The middle and upper classes continue to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage.
Portuguese is the official language. Many local African languages, such as Tsonga, Sena Nyanja, Makonde and Macua are also spoken.
Christian (mainly Roman Catholic), Muslim and Hindu. Many also follow traditional beliefs.
Mozambique, which is nearly twice the size of California, stretches for about 2,470 km along Africa’s southeast coast. Bordered by Tanzania to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west; and South Africa and Swaziland to the south, the country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi, which provides access to central Africa. In the interior, several chains of mountains form the backbone of the country.
Best time to visit
Mozambique’s climate varies according to area; Inland is cooler than the coast and rainfall higher as the land rises, with most rain between January and March. Mozambique has a warm, tropical climate along the coast. In summer, temperatures can soar and the humidity levels rise. Temperatures are typically higher in the north, around Pemba, and around the Zambezi. Hottest and wettest season is October to March. From April to September the coast has warm, mainly dry weather tempered by sea breezes.
Cities & Towns
Maputo, Beira, Vilanculos, Inhambane, Nampula
Following the civil war, the Mozambican economy picked up strongly in the late 1990s. Devastating floods, drought and trade-related disputes in the new millennium have intermittently undermined progress, and required aid donors to step in. Growth was at a healthy 7.9% in 2006, but inflation was also high at 13.2%. In mid 2006, the World Bank relieved Mozambique from much of its long-term foreign debt burden, and remaining debts were rescheduled under the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Forestry is increasing in importance. Fishing is both an important source of food and a vital export earner. Manufacturing industry produces one quarter of GDP: products include processed foods, textiles, drinks, cement and fertiliser. Mining operations produce coal, salt, bauxite, gemstones and marble. In addition, natural gas is extracted from onshore fields and piped to South Africa.
US$6.3 billion (2006).
Cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea and cassava (tapioca).
Machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel and chemicals.
Main trading partners:
Netherlands, South Africa, Portugal and Zimbabwe.
Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is expanding to all main cities in most provinces.
There are Internet cafes in Maputo and other cities.
Postal services are available in main centres. Airmail to Europe usually takes five to seven days, but sometimes longer.
• There are no English-language newspapers published in Mozambique.
• The daily papers include Diário de Moçambique and Notícias.
Quirimbas National Park
Bask in the sun and balmy sea waters of Quirimbas National Park (www.wwf.org.mz). Dive and snorkel off its shores to appreciate the park’s abundant marine life and coral reefs. Quirimbas is also home to a variety of land-bound wildlife.
Don’t miss the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, which comprises five tropical islands plus surrounding islets and coral reefs, 20km (12 miles) from coast of Vilanculos and Inhassoro. This beautiful area features white sandy beaches, clear waters and rich marine life including the dugong (manatee0).
Popular beaches include Ponta do Ouro, Malugane (in the south), Inhambane with its beach resort of Tofo (400km/250 miles north of Maputo), Xai-Xai, Vilankulo and Chonguene.
Come equipped for some excellent birdwatching; there are many brightly coloured species along the coastline and the national parks of Gorongosa National Park and Marromeu National Park attract twitchers from the world over.
Enjoy good fishing for marlin, barracuda, sailfish and swordfish. The Bazaruto Archipelago is one of several popular spots for game fishing.
Go diving and snorkelling
Go diving and snorkelling with dolphins, rays and dugong (manatee) in the country’s crystal-clear Indian Ocean waters. Mozambique has a growing number of resorts well-equipped for subaquatic activities, and several excellent locations. Try the reefs of Inhambane, the Bazaruto Archipelago or Quirimbas National Park.
Go on safari
Take a safari through some of the country’s 12 different national parks and reserves. The big five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino) can all be found here, and plenty more besides.
Gorongosa National Park
Explore the jewel in Mozambique’s protected parks, the Gorongosa National Park (www.gorongosa.net), 80km (50 miles) northwest of Beira and open from April to October. Access is provided by an airstrip at Chitengo. Expect superb birdwatching, and glimpses of buffalo, elephant, hippos, zebra and more.
Hike National Parks
Bring your walking boots. The cool mountains of the north and several national parks offer good hiking but advice and extreme caution should be taken due to the large amount of leftover landmines in the country.
Ilha de Moçambique
Hop across to tiny Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island), near Nampula in the north. It is a fascinating place, dotted with 17th- and 18th-century buildings and mosques, many of them from the colonial Portuguese period. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hop on a boat over to Inhaca Island (near Maputo), which has 40km (25 miles) of beaches and reefs, a historic lighthouse and a museum of marine biology.
Maputo National Reserve
Take a trip to the Maputo National Reserve, also known as Maputo Elephant Park, which is on the Maputo River, 79km (49 miles) south of the city. It’s also home to leopard, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, flamingoes and jackals.
Marromeu National Park
Venture out to the little-visited Marromeu National Park, at the mouth of the Zambesi River in Sofala Province to see buffalo and birds galore.
Laze on white-sand beaches and swim in warm waters and lagoons on Mozambique’s long coastline.
Visit Pemba, a vibrant coastal town in a huge bay. It has some wonderful beaches and coral reefs. The most popular beach is Wimbe, just outside town. The town also claims an interesting old town, some lively bars and good restaurants.