Things to see and do in Mozambique

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Mozambique’s messy post-colonial history and poor infrastructure mean that most visitors are cut from fairly intrepid cloth. But travelling this enigmatic and underexplored country is well worth the occasional bump in the road, both literal and metaphorical.

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First and foremost amongst the country’s many attractions is its pristine Indian Ocean coastline – all 2,414km (1,500 miles) of it – which offers palm-fringed beaches, warm tropical waters, abundant marine life, great fishing, excellent diving, fantastic snorkeling and a number of idyllic islands from which you can enjoy all of the above in sweet isolation.

And then there are the parks. Though much of the country’s big game was wiped out during the desperate days of the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992), sterling conservation efforts have seen several national parks restored to something like their former glory. Their remoteness and relative inaccessibility, compared to the parks in neighbouring South Africa, mean you’ll never be jostling for space with the masses.

Mozambique’s Portuguese heritage and faded art deco charm characterises much of the capital, Maputo, in the form of colourful, crumbling and sometimes bullet-ridden colonial buildings, which stand in stark contrast to the more modern parts of this vibrant port city. The music, the nightlife and the food are equally interesting and eclectic; head to the bustling fish market to enjoy what many locals will tell you is the best seafood in East Africa.

There is also good hiking with little-visited mountains dotted throughout the Mozambican hinterland, but extreme caution should be taken due to the large amount of leftover landmines.

Since peace returned to the country in 1992, Mozambique has been trying to piece itself back together and realise its substantial tourism potential. But for now, a large part the country’s appeal lies in its relative obscurity from the more beaten paths of Southern Africa.

Things to see and do

Bazaruto Archipelago

Don't miss the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, which comprises five tropical islands plus surrounding islets and coral reefs, 20km (12 miles) from coast of Vilanculos and Inhassoro. This beautiful area features white sandy beaches, clear waters and rich marine life including the dugong (manatee).

Beaches

Popular beaches include Ponta do Ouro, Malugane (in the south), Inhambane with its beach resort of Tofo (400km/250 miles north of Maputo), Xai-Xai, Vilankulo and Chonguene.

Birdwatching

Come equipped for some excellent birdwatching; there are many brightly coloured species along the coastline and the national parks of Gorongosa National Park and Marromeu National Park attract twitchers from the world over.

Game fishing

Enjoy good fishing for marlin, barracuda, sailfish and swordfish. The Bazaruto Archipelago is one of several popular spots for game fishing.

Go diving and snorkelling

Go diving and snorkelling with dolphins, rays and dugong (manatee) in the country's crystal-clear Indian Ocean waters. Mozambique has a growing number of resorts well-equipped for subaquatic activities, and several excellent locations. Try the reefs of Inhambane, the Bazaruto Archipelago or Quirimbas National Park.

Go on safari

Take a safari through some of the country's 12 different national parks and reserves. The big five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino) can all be found here, and plenty more besides.

Gorongosa National Park

Explore the jewel in Mozambique's protected parks, the Gorongosa National Park (www.gorongosa.net), 80km (50 miles) northwest of Beira and open from April to October. Access is provided by an airstrip at Chitengo. Expect superb birdwatching, and glimpses of buffalo, elephant, hippos, zebra and more.

Hike national parks

Bring your walking boots. The cool mountains of the north and several national parks offer good hiking but advice and extreme caution should be taken due to the large amount of leftover landmines in the country.

Ilha de Moçambique

Hop across to tiny Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island), near Nampula in the north. It is a fascinating place, dotted with 17th- and 18th-century buildings and mosques, many of them from the colonial Portuguese period. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inhaca Island

Hop on a boat over to Inhaca Island (near Maputo), which has 40km (25 miles) of beaches and reefs, a historic lighthouse and a museum of marine biology.

Maputo

Don't head straight out of Maputo: it's one of Africa's more appealing capitals, with wide avenues, relaxed street cafes and a lively cultural scene. The city museum and market are worth a look, as are the Central Railway Station and curious 'Iron House', both designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Maputo National Reserve

Take a trip to the Maputo National Reserve, also known as Maputo Elephant Park, which is on the Maputo River, 79km (49 miles) south of the city. It's also home to leopard, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, flamingoes and jackals.

Marromeu National Park

Venture out to the little-visited Marromeu National Park, at the mouth of the Zambesi River in Sofala Province to see buffalo and birds galore.

Mozambique's beaches

Laze on white-sand beaches and swim in warm waters and lagoons on Mozambique's long coastline.

Pemba

Visit Pemba, a vibrant coastal town in a huge bay. It has some wonderful beaches and coral reefs. The most popular beach is Wimbe, just outside town. The town also claims an interesting old town, some lively bars and good restaurants.

Quirimbas National Park

Bask in the sun and balmy sea waters of Quirimbas National Park (www.wwf.org.mz). Dive and snorkel off its shores to appreciate the park's abundant marine life and coral reefs. Quirimbas is also home to a variety of land-bound wildlife.