Mozambique is a paradise beach destination. Imagine softly rolling crystal waves lapping against white sand while you stretch out on an empty island, the fringes of a line of palm trees in the distance behind you. You spend the morning languid under the sun and staring beyond the horizon, hypnotised by the sparkling aquamarine sea until you wade out into the warm water at noon. You glide above coral reefs and swim with dolphins for the first time. As the sun sets, you meander to the bar at your luxury lodge to sip a cocktail. This is Mozambique.
Mozambique lies in the southeast of Africa, bordered by the Indian Ocean, with remote beaches stretching out for hundreds of miles. Tropical islands – notably in the Bazaruto Archipelago and the Quirimbas Archipelago – dot the coast. Mozambique’s almost 3 000km2 of total marine protected area encompasses the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP), which includes about 1 430km2 of land and sea area, Inhaca and Portuguese Islands (10km2) and Quirimbas National Park (1 500km2).
While Mozambique has a reputation as a dazzling island-beach getaway (which it is!), the country has plenty to offer. In the south, Maputo, the capital city, is a busy social and commercial hub, with many hotels, restaurants, museums, markets, and historical buildings. North of the Zambezi River are the rugged highland hills, and south of the river are the Lebombo Mountains. There are four main lakes in the north – Lake Niassa, one of the African Great Lakes and shared with Malawi and Tanzania; Lake Chiuta; Lake Cahora Bassa; and Lake Shirwa.
The past civil strife of Mozambique damaged the wildlife of this once world-renowned safari destination, but with intense care and conservation projects, the country is slowly recovering its wildlife reserves. Gorongosa National Park is a landscape of grassy floodplains, fever-tree forests, palm thickets and wide rivers. The lush Mount Gorongosa rainforest is a tower of dense trees, reached by hiking up the mountain slope; wanderers who look carefully may see the pygmy chameleon – found nowhere else in the world – hidden among the leaves. The Niassa Reserve in the north is one of Africa’s largest conservation areas, and is home to lion, leopard and African wild dog, although they are not yet used to tourists and it may take a practised guide to uncover sightings. While under rehabilitation, the country’s safari expeditions are preferable for explorers who want a quieter (but still phenomenally beautiful and diverse) safari experience.
The marine world of Mozambique is truly remarkable, and its coastline and islands offer an unspoilt alternative to well-established beach destinations like the Seychelles and Mauritius. In the far north, the Quirimbas Archipelago has about 30 islands – only a few of which have lodging options including luxurious Vamizi Lodge, making this a deeply private and romantic island escape. Further south, the Bazaruto Archipelago includes several islands, the two largest being Bazaruto and Benguerra. The beaches offer the best of water sports and diving, in particular. Snorkelling, scuba diving, whale watching, swimming with dolphins and historical excursions are but a few favourite activities.
The climate is tropical, with a hot, wet season from October to March and a warm, dry season from April to September. Travellers are advised to avoid the islands when southern Mozambique has its cyclone season during January and February. The average temperature in the dry season is 27˚C (80˚F) from April to September. During the hot rainy season from October to March, the temperature increases about 3˚ on the coast, with cooler temperatures and humidity inland.