Mozambique is throwing off the shackles of war, natural disaster and disease. Families in search of a vacation destination that is truly off-the-beaten-path may want to do the same. Rolling sand dunes and sparkling azure waters await the adventuresome. But as seasoned travelers will note, there is more to this hard to reach southeast African nation than 2500 km of pristine beaches and unspoiled coral reefs. Mozambique's unique cultural heritage, architectural treasures and World Heritage Sites make it a great vacation destination for families in search of culture as well as sun.
So where to start?
Mozambique Island, Ilha de Moçambique in Portuguese, is an architectural treasure and World Heritage Site. This a fortified city in the northern Nampula province has over 800 historical buildings and it is a great place to shop for crafts made by local artisans. Maputo, in contrast, is heart and soul of modern Mozambique. It is a great place to experience the country's beat. Shop at colorful markets. Discover colonial architecture. Visit the Museu Nacional de Arte. Marvel at the murals that adorn Maputo's walls. But take care when traveling about this large urban center. Crime and petty theft are nuisances in Maputo.
Mozambique may not be a top wildlife safari destination but it is a great place for birding and whale watching. The Bazaruto Archipelago with its extensive intertidal flats is a great place to watch migratory shorebirds. Southern right whales frequent the southern Mozambique Channel from June to December. Humpback whales are spotted up and down the coast from October to December. What's more conservation initiatives underway offer great promise for the country's game viewing future. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, once complete, will link Maputo Elephant Reserve, South Africa's Kruger National Park and three conservation area's in Zimbabwe - Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area - for 35,000 square kilometers of uninterrupted savannah.
Idyllic beaches and tropical islands afford the perfect backdrop to the country's largest playground: the sea. Extensive and unspoiled coral reefs make Mozambique a top scuba diving destination. Ponta Malongane and Ponta Do Ouro may be the most popular dive sites but they aren't the only. Inhambane, Vilanculos and Pemba are excellent snorkeling and scuba diving destinations. And whether your preferred catch is marlin, sailfish or grander, Mozambique boasts some of the best game fishing in southern Africa.
Most families traveling to Mozambique will arrive by air. Intercontinental flights arrive/depart Maputo, Mozambique's capital. Flights from South Africa arrive/depart Maputo, Vilanculos and Beira whereas flights from Tanzania arrive/depart Maputo, Beira and Pemba. Train travel is possible from Johannesburg to Maputo only. The trip is approximately 15 hours and requires a change of trains. Road trips are best initiated from South Africa. Overland adventures are possible from Malawi. Yet caution is warranted when traveling by car. Road conditions and security in Mozambique fall far short of western and South African standards.
Air travel is by far the quickest and easiest way to get around in Mozambique. LAM offers domestic flights to/from Maputo and a variety of the tourist destinations including Vilanculos, Pemba, and Beira. International car rental companies are located in Maputo and Beira only. Local agencies operate elsewhere. Before you rent a car, take note. Driving is on the left hand side of the road. Poor road conditions, particularly north of Beira, and the risk of theft may offer more adventure than families seek on a road trip. Chapas, local buses, connect Mozambique's cities and towns and are available throughout the country. Train travel is possible between Cuamba and Nampula and from the South African border to Maputo.
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your scheduled return date. A single entry tourist visa is required for all foreign nationals and can be obtained in advance from the nearest Mozambique Embassy or Consulate or at major border crossings and international airports, such as Vilanculos, Maputo and Pemba, upon arrival in Mozambique.
Portuguese is the official language in Mozambique but it is not the only language spoken in this east African country. More than 40 languages, many of them African, can be heard here. Most local tour operators speak English.
The climate in Mozambique is subtropical and the weather is characterized by a wet and dry season. The best time to visit Mozambique is in winter, June - August, when the average daytime temperature is between 22-30° C (71-86° F) and the chance of rain is minimal. The weather is hot and humid throughout the summer cyclone season, November - April. The heaviest rains fall in January and February.
Malaria is prevalent throughout the country and is a risk year-round. While travel to Mozambique is considered safe, caution is warranted on isolated beaches and when traveling by car. Inquire with the concierge at your hotel before exploring deserted stretches of coast on your own. Stick to the main roads and well-worn tracks, an estimated one million landmines are believed to lie unexploded in the countryside. Armed robbery and drive by theft can happen in Maputo and carjacking is not uncommon on the road from South Africa to Maputo. Be sure to check your local government website for updated travel advice and advisories before you book travel to Mozambique.
The currency in Mozambique is the metical. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels but are rarely accepted elsewhere. ATM cash machines are readily available in large urban areas. Usage of cash cards abroad is governed by your local bank; inquire before you depart.