Our favourite African explorer writes:
We were sitting in a bar in Maputo when the talk turned (as it will) to what people imagine when they hear the name Mozambique. A Marxist state, someone suggested. And that certainly was true once, but not for a couple of decades. A former Portuguese colony? Also true, though it’s not as if people go around rhyming them off (“Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau…”). Our music critic removed his earphones long enough to note that many ’60s luminaries made pilgrimages here; Dylan even recorded a song called "Mozambique." But how intact are those memories among travellers whose Woodstock Nation visas have long since expired?
In the end our panel decided what Mozambique conjures up most are images of spectacular beauty: the pristine coast, with its turquoise waters, remote archipelagos and immaculate white-sand beaches; and inland, an untouched wilderness strewn with ancient towns blending African, Portuguese and Arab influences. Plus, here and there, a hotel gem that combines elegant design with a commitment to sustainable community – one echo of Marxist times that’s well worth keeping.
The island of Bazaruto, set in a national park, boasts some of the best beaches on the continent. It’s also one of the last places you can see the dugong or sea cow. Our guides will take you to find these rare creatures, as well as stunning reefs teeming with turtles, nudibranches, giant clams and crabs whose vibrant colours probably had ’60s visitors double-checking the vitamins they took at breakfast. And for those seeking even bigger thrills, there are humpback whales and giant Zambezi sharks.
Ilha de Moçambique, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was once an important port for Persian and Arab traders. With its fortresses, palaces and churches, it’s part ghost town, part lively community with an eclectic mix of Christian, Muslim and Hindu cultures. Inland, the waters of rarely visited Lake Niassa teem with more fish species than any other lake on Earth. Ever dreamed of being that little diver in a tropical aquarium? We’ll point your snorkel in the right direction.
As for Maputo, it’s one of Africa’s most attractive capitals, a city of grand buildings and wide avenues lined with Jacaranda and flame trees. Soak in the atmosphere at a sidewalk café or dive into the vibrant nightlife, enjoying fascinating cuisine and exotic afro-latin music – and maybe a snippet of Dylan singing of "magic in a magical land."