Best known for its beaches, Mozambique’s wild and beautiful game reserves such as Gorongosa National Park are home to some of the Africa’s signature wild animals. Mozambique’s two Indian Ocean archipelagos are its undisputed draw cards. Exclusive, unspoilt and offering superb diving, these islands are ideal for honeymoons and post-safari escapes.
Mozambique is a unique tourist destination, largely undiscovered by the masses. With 3000 kilometres of pristine beach, 12 national parks and very friendly people (Vasco Da Gama referred to Mozambique as ‘terra da boa gente’ – the land of the gentle people), Mozambique is the place to relax and unwind.
Mozambique beach holidays have long been associated with the concept ‘barefoot luxury’, due in part to the intimate and exclusive accommodation available. Casually luxurious beach lodges and boutique hotels set on the mainland coast as well as on islands in the Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos make up some of our most sought after accommodation in Mozambique.
Best known for its beaches, Mozambique’s wild and beautiful game reserves such as Gorongosa National Park are home to some of Africa’s signature game. Alternatively, regular flights between South Africa’s Kruger Park and Vilanculos – gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago – ensure safari and beach holiday combinations are simple to arrange. Simply contact us for advice on choosing the right Mozambique accommodation for your holiday.
History & Economy
Mozambique’s indigenous Khoisan hunter-gatherers were displaced two thousand years ago by West African migrants, bringing with them Iron Age technology, cattle and crops. The result was a collection of powerful tribal kingdoms scattered between the Zambezi and the Limpopo Rivers, trading with Swahili and Arab coastal settlements. Plagued by slavers, the country fell under control of the Portuguese in the early 16th century but freedom came late. Only after a bitter struggle was independence achieved in 1975, and that was followed by a devastating 17-year civil war.
Coming off virtually a zero base, the Mozambican economy has been among the fastest growing in the world. Agriculture, which employs 80% of the country’s workforce and makes up around 30% of GDP, has traditionally dominated but Mozambique’s economic future lies in its extensive natural resources which include huge coal reserves and the world’s fourth biggest natural gas fields. The country’s tourism sector is growing but still performing well below its potential.
People & Culture
Since the post-independence departure of some 360 000 Portuguese, Mozambique’s 24 million people are overwhelmingly drawn from its black ethnic groups, the largest being the Macau and Shangaan. Nevertheless, it is the Portuguese language that dominates and around 50% of Mozambicans speak it as a first or second language, despite the 60 or so regional languages.
Traditional African religious beliefs are still strongly held in Mozambique though some 56% of Mozambicans regarding themselves as Christian (especially in the south and in cities) with a further 18% adhering to Islam, particularly in the Arabian-influenced north. Music and dance feature prominently in Mozambican culture – the famous marimba is a local instrument – while the Portuguese influence on Mozambique’s spicy, Mediterranean-style cuisine will be obvious to visitors.
Landscape & Wildlife
About three times the size of Great Britain, Mozambique is divided into two topographical regions by the Zambezi River. Northern Mozambique is a landscape of hills and low plateaus with rugged highlands in the west. Southern Mozambique is flatter due to the coastal plain which widens from north to south and accounts for almost half of the country’s surface area. Away from the coast, Mozambique is very under populated and its vast open woodlands remain virtually untouched.
Most visitors to Mozambique head for the country’s Indian Ocean coast. The mainland offers long stretches of palm-fringed beaches but it’s the Bazaruto and Quirimbas Archipelagos that are home to classic ‘desert islands’ and pristine coral reefs. Several of the best dive sites in the Indian Ocean can be found here and the marine life is exceptional. Highlights include year-round diving with whale sharks and manta rays, concentrations of which peak from October to April.
Once world-renowned, Mozambique’s wildlife is still recovering from decades of war but one or two big game destinations are emerging as the herds return and conservation efforts pay off. Head for the Gorongosa National Park and the Niassa Reserve for some of Southern Africa’s most remote, exclusive and crowd-free game viewing.
More affordable than the Seychelles and less built-up than Mauritius, Mozambique is fast becoming the place to go for classic tropical island holidays. Its wide mainland beaches are lapped by the warm Indian Ocean but the most appealing destinations lie just offshore: two clusters of postcard-perfect islands dot the blue horizon – the Bazaruto Archipelago in the south and the exclusive private islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago near the Tanzanian border in the far north.
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, and 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.
All our favourite beach lodges sit right at the ocean’s edge yet each has a unique character and appeal. For a Mozambique honeymoon we’d highly recommend our Quirimbas accommodation – choose between luxurious villas or romantic, thatched chalets with virtually a whole island to yourselves – while our Bazaruto lodges combine easily with the Kruger National Park, making them ideal for a safari and beach holiday.
But our Mozambique tours & holidays are about more than just lazing on soft sandy beaches. Once one of Africa’s top big game destinations, the country’s wild reserves are recovering rapidly and are becoming a top choice for off-the-beaten-track safaris. In fact, Mozambique’s flagship park – the beautiful and diverse Gorongosa National Park – was recently the subject of an award-winning National Geographic documentary “Africa’s Lost Eden” and it won’t be long before Mozambique regains its reputation as both a game viewing and beach holiday destination.
Our top places to visit in Mozambique:
- Bazaruto Archipelago – tropical islands & luxurious lodges
- Quirimbas Archipelago – private island escape
- Niassa National Reserve – vast expanses of pristine wilderness untouched by Man, teeming with a rich diversity of rare species of birds and game.
- Maputo City – From the Pearl of the Indian Ocean to a Unique African Capital
- Inhaca Island – Go for a sail, snorkel, dive, watch the whales or simply lay back & listen to the water birds chirp.
With a 2 500km coastline and two sun-drenched archipelagos, the question of where to go in Mozambique often comes down to which beach or island best suits your sandy-toed dream destination. And while it’s obvious that Mozambique is perfect for “laze and gaze” beach holidays, away from the coastline you’ll also find wild reserves offering game viewing, bird watching and guided walking safaris in magnificent wilderness areas.
Here’s our choice of Mozambique’s top places of interest:
Gorongosa National Park: magnificent, wild & diverse Gorongosa is a wild tapestry of grassy floodplains, fever tree forests, palm thickets, wide rivers and the country’s last rainforest. Having recently undergone a hugely ambitious and successful rehabilitation programme, the rejuvenation of this remote reserve is one of Africa’s true good-news stories and while it’s not yet the best option for a Big 5 safari, if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track escape with diverse game, rich birdlife and a real sense of untamed Africa then you’re sure to love Gorongosa!
Bazaruto Archipelago: tropical islands & luxurious lodges Five glittering islands set in Africa’s biggest marine reserve, the Bazaruto Archipelago is a fantastic choice for a relaxing break with an exotic African twist. There’s no fighting for towel space on these largely empty beaches, the pace of life is wonderfully slow and the game fishing, snorkelling and diving are all world-renowned. Both Benguerra and Bazaruto islands are a short hassle-free flight from South Africa’s Kruger National Park – start your day with an early morning game drive and end it with a sunset dhow cruise.
Quirimbas Archipelago: private island escape Scattered on a sea of brilliant blue, the Quirimbas Archipelago is where to go in Mozambique for a private island escape. Of the 30 or so islands, only a handful have accommodation or indeed development of any kind: the tiny thatched chalets on Medjumbe Private Island are perfect for honeymooners, while recently reopened Quilalea has coral reefs just a fin’s flick from shore.
Niassa Reserve: a vast, raw, beautiful wilderness More than twice the size of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Niassa is one of Africa’s largest conservation areas but this remote and little visited reserve has only recently opened up to tourism. Consequently the wildlife is still skittish but you’re sure to have some good sightings including – if you’re lucky – lion, leopard or even wild dog, plus the bird watching is exceptional. Niassa’s biggest draw card is however the chance to experience guided walks and game drives in a truly wild, secluded and beautiful expanse of African wilderness.
Maputo: seafood & spices, Mozambique’s bustling capital Mozambique’s rejuvenated capital city Maputo is set in the far south of the country and is best known for its colourful markets and thriving nightlife. It’s also the best place to enjoy the country’s signature dish: a plate of sizzling peri-peri prawns washed down with ice-cold Laurentina beer.
That said, if it’s a beach holiday you’re after then we recommend that you don’t linger long in this bustling city but head further north to the long mainland beaches or the islands of the dazzling Bazaruto or Quirimbas Archipelagos.
Inhaca Island: Warm Coral gardens, Snorkelling& Whale watching Located 30 kilometres East of Maputo City. Pack in your sandals, sun screen and a hat! Inhaca Island is perfect for Snorkelling, sailing, diving and sheer relaxation. You’ll also have a chance to explore the local curio market There is more to see on Inhaca. A marine reserve protects much of the Island’s 160 coral species, and up to 300 species of resident and migratory birds inhabit Inhaca´s mudflats, mangrove forests, grasslands and sub-tropical evergreen forest.
Vilanculos: gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago & great diving This coastal town is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago and a great destination in its own right: there are some lovely Vilanculos lodges set right on the beach, the town has a scattering of good local restaurants and the marine life in the nearby Bazaruto Marine Park is phenomenal. Our top things to do in Vilanculos include horse rides along the beach as well as snorkelling and diving trips to the nearby islands.
Inhambane: long beaches, whale sharks & manta rays If you’re looking for miles of palm-lined beaches and a lively atmosphere then set your sights on Inhambane and the nearby holiday villages of Tofo and Barra. The Barra Peninsula in particular has wonderful wide beaches and its clear waters are home to Manta Reef – known the world over as a top destination for excellent manta ray sightings. To top it all off, this region is one of your best bets for swimming with whale sharks.
Pemba: gateway to the Quirimbas Archipelago, crafts & culture The port town of Pemba is built around a large natural bay and, although somewhat run down, has some beautiful examples of colonial Portuguese architecture shaded by large baobab trees. There are colourful reefs lying close to shore but most visitors focus on exploring this city’s markets and craft shops for a day or two before setting off for nearby beach lodges or the islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago.
The May to November winter season is when to go to Mozambique for cooler temperatures and the least chance of rain; December to April is the wet summer season although it generally rains in brief but vigorous downpours after which the sun comes out again. Note that January and February is a cyclone season in southern Mozambique and there’s every chance of a great deal of torrential rain – we’d advise avoiding the Bazaruto Archipelago at this time.
If the main focus of your Mozambique holiday is game viewing then the best time to visit Mozambique is during the dry months of August and September when the bush has thinned out and wildlife is concentrated around rivers and waterholes. Planning on combining a visit to Mozambique with other Southern Africa destinations? Read our advice on the:
- Best time to visit Zambia
- Best time to visit the Zimbabwe
- Best time to visit South Africa
- Best time to visit Botswana
For more information on when to go to Mozambique, simply enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts.
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Sun Africa Expeditions’ essential Mozambique travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
Mozambique’s official currency is the Metical (plural Meticais) but if you’re travelling in southern Mozambique both the South African Rand and US Dollar are widely accepted. In the north it’s best to carry dollars. If you want to use a foreign currency instead of Meticais when souvenir shopping at markets and craft shops then we’d recommend that you bring small denomination notes.
Most hotels and lodges have credit card facilities but there are a couple of exceptions so be on the safe side and check with your Africa Safari Expert before you travel.
At our recommended beach and island lodges all non-motorized water sports are usually free though you might be charged for snorkelling trips if a boat is needed to take you out to the reefs. We’d advise that you find out which activities are included beforehand to avoid any unexpected extras when it’s time to check out.
A 10% tip for service in most Mozambique restaurants is standard. Tipping tour guides is at your discretion and depends on the size of your group and the level of service you feel you’ve received.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 21°C to 31°C
Average winter temperatures: 15°C to 26°C
Rainy season: mid-November to April
What to Pack
Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year for a Mozambique holiday. If you are visiting Mozambique for a beach holiday, pack plenty of light cotton tops and shorts, as well as a hat, sunglasses, beach sandals and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
If you are planning on taking lots of photographs, be sure to pack extra memory cards and batteries for your camera as these are difficult to find in Mozambique and very expensive if you do manage to get hold of them.
For the evenings – or if you are going on safari in combination with Mozambique – pack long-sleeved clothing to protect against mosquitoes and a fleece or jacket for winter game drives.
Flights & Getting Around
Maputo International Airport: the main gateway into Mozambique with direct flights from Portugal, Johannesburg or Cape Town, holiday-makers are usually on their way to one of the country’s smaller airports to access the Indian Ocean coast.
Vilanculos International Airport: fly from Maputo, Johannesburg, Cape Town or Kruger International for the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago. The Kruger connection means a great logistics solution for a Big 5 safari and beach holiday.
Pemba International Airport: gateway to the Quirimbas Archipelago, Pemba is accessed via Maputo, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam – the latter two making for a great East Africa safari and beach holiday combination.
Once you’ve arrived on the coast, travelling onwards to the islands themselves means a boat, light aircraft or helicopter transfer. The islands are small enough to get around on foot though there will be plenty of opportunities for sailing and boating trips.
Mozambique is not a self-drive destination and travellers who want to explore its inland regions should arrange a guided safari.
Visa & Passport Requirements
All visitors to Mozambique must possess a passport valid for at least six months after their departure from the country. Visas are required by everyone except citizens of South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland and can be bought at most borders for between US $35 and US $80 depending on your nationality. However, due to recent reports of visitors being refused this service, we strongly advise you obtain your visas in advance from your nearest Mozambican Embassy.