Once they become aware of all of its attractive attributes, most people find it almost unbelievable that Mozambique is not overflowing with tourists. This nation, which sits along the Indian Ocean to the northeast of South Africa, has generated a fair bit of buzz as one of its continent's most promising destinations. However, modest tourism marketing efforts and lack of infrastructure have slowed the boom.
That said, all the ingredients are there. Mozambique has more than 1,500 miles of coastline. Most of its shore is fringed by warm, blue ocean waters and covered by the kind of idyllic white sand beaches that would-be tourists spend their days dreaming about. Several major offshore island chains also have Eden-like qualities. The ocean waters near these archipelagos teem with colorful marine life. Inland wildlife preserves offer safari experiences, and the cities, characterized by colonial-era buildings and a laid-back, Portuguese-influenced African vibe, are as charming as any urban areas on the continent.
Thanks to these qualities, Mozambique is no longer “undiscovered.” In 2011, more than 2 million visitors crossed into the country, a great majority from neighboring South Africa. Though entry stats have been rising for the past decade, overall arrival numbers are very modest for a country roughly twice the size of California. So although tourism is definitely on the rise here, it will be a long time before Mozambique has the high profile of its neighbors, South Africa and Tanzania.
Mozambique is relatively young; it gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The country was then embroiled in a bloody 15-year civil war that killed more than a million people and made refugees of nearly one-third of the population. After the war, millions who had fled to avoid the violence returned. The government's economy policies, though not universally popular among Mozambicans, have led to a GPD that has grown year after year. In fact, the economy is so promising that a new trend has emerged. Portuguese people, drawn by job and business prospects and by the fact that Mozambique remains a lusophone country, are coming to Mozambique en masse to escape the poor economy at home.
Here is a closer look at the headlining attractions and destinations that have earned tourism buzz for Mozambique.
Gorongosa National Park, at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, encompasses a variety of ecosystems. (Photo: F Mira/flickr)
Gorongosa National Park sits at the southernmost point of the Great Rift Valley. Because of a variety of flooding patterns and soil types, different ecosystems exist side by side here. Savannahs, forests, plateaus and limestone formations are all within a short Land Cruiser ride of one another. Larger animals are making a comeback in the park after widespread poaching during the civil war. Today, Gorongosa is teeming with lions, elephants, hippos and crocodiles. These creatures join hundreds of bird species and herds of sable antelope. Thanks to a decent infrastructure and a lack of crowds, Gorongosa is often called one of the best safari destinations in southern Africa.
Deserted beaches dot the Bazaruto Archipelago. (Photo: butforthesky.com/flickr)
Traveling up the coast will lead to wonderful beach discoveries. However, some of the best destinations are actually off the coast. The Quirimbas Archipelago, islands that stretch across the Indian Ocean for more than 200 miles, feature isolated beaches, lush island interiors and warm waters perfect for diving, dhow sailing and kiteboarding. Much of the area is protected as part of Quirimbas National Park. Another island chain, the Bazaruto Archipelago, has a similar nature-dominated dynamic and is known for its upscale boutique hotels and private island resorts.
Lake Malawi, known by locals as Lago Niassa, lies along the northwestern edge of Mozambique. This area is the perfect example of the country's undeveloped attractiveness. Unlike the Malawian side of the lake, the Mozambican section has few resorts and very little infrastructure. It is the kind of wilderness that many people come to Africa seeking.
Maputo is Mozambique's capital and largest city. (Photo: Simon_g/Shutterstock)
The cosmopolitan vibe of Maputo, which boasts a vibrant arts scene, stylish hotels, a happening nightlife and praise-worthy restaurants, makes a good initial introduction to Mozambique. Meanwhile, colonial-era towns like Pemba and Inhambane have a kind of sleepy charm that has drawn more and more tourists in the past couple of years.
Although Mozambique has all the traits of top a destination, it still receives relatively little tourist traffic. More promotion and infrastructure improvements could change that and put the country on the same level as South Africa and Tanzania in the eyes of tourists.
Related on MNN:
- 8 places that are no longer off-limits to travelers
- 'Extinct' snail found alive on remote atoll in Indian Ocean
- Is Cape Town the Hollywood of Africa?