Tour To Mozambique
For starters, I was a bit apprehensive when my wife told me our next special honeymoon tour was in Mozambique. Having read so much of it on the news and the internet about its civil war, mines and political unrest made me ask what was she thinking? But by taking me there, she proved me wrong of all my doubts and fears. How we spent our romantic escapades on this eastern coast of Africa turned out to be a memorable one that Mozambique became our ultimate romantic getaway destination.
After obtaining a two week tourist visa at the Mozambique Embassy in Washington D.C., the next day we boarded a South African Airways flight from JFK Airport via Johannesburg to get to the Lourenco Marques Airport in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. Once we have cleared immigration procedures, a driver from Hotel Turismo welcomed and brought us to our accommodation. Riding on a rented 4WD, we began our eight day Maputo Mozambique Holiday with a visit to the Maputo Central Train Station, designed by the famous Gustav Eiffel it is an interesting historical train station that showcases Old Portuguese architecture. We stopped for some coffee at their shop, and viewed old steam locomotives on display in the yard. It holds the distinction of being one of the world’s beautiful train stations. Beside the station stands The Iron House (Casa do Ferro), this house made of pressed metals was built by Gustav Eiffel in the late 1800’s, it now stands as an archive for Portuguese history.
On its left side is the entrance to the public park Tunduru Garden. We took pictures beside the Samora Statue at The Samora Machel Avenue. Then we checked out the Natural History Museum, it is a taxidermy exhibition site. Lots of decaying, dusty, old stuffed animals hanged on its wall. We viewed great reminders of Portuguese settlement at the Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora de Conceicao, cannons, old statues and great pieces of history can be found on this fort which was used to protect Maputo.
A trip to Mozambique won’t be complete without a sub Saharan safari adventure. On our next day we head out to see the Maputo Elephant Reserve (Reserva Especial de Maputo). It was super fun to drive our four wheel vehicle onto the gorgeous beach! My wife was so thrilled when she saw zebras; hippos and elephants chase our 4x4 on the water. Along with some reedbuck and monkeys running around the shores, this was the best safari we have ever seen! We spent half of our day driving along the shores with a herd of elephants and hippos. We went bird watching and saw more wildlife animals along Lago Xingute (Lake Xingute). At night we stayed on a pretty campsite where friendly locals provided us enough firewood and drinking water. They were so polite.
In the morning we drove our 4WD into a Vodacom Ferry Service that took us to Inhaca Island. It’s a stunning beach with lots of great places to visit. The beach has a tangled tropical forest tumbling down the slopes and small cliffs near the Marine Research Station. The Old Reef part is a bird watcher’s paradise, we saw egrets and herons. We snorkeled on the Coral Garden to view more interesting marine life like lobsters, turtles, crabs, puffer fish, cleaner wrasse, and Picasso triggerfish. We got served platters of fresh seafood, peri peri prawns and other delectable Portuguese cuisine at the Lukas Restaurant. My wife enjoyed collecting shellfish along the shore while I went fishing with the locals at the fishing harbor. From here we visited the nearby Xefina Pequena, a remote beach guarded by armed military. It has clean waters and secluded atmosphere and great views of Maputo. We trekked along the ruins of its old colonial fort and learned about its political prisoners and history. Maputo is a thriving port and the city has broad avenues and high rise buildings. The capital’s harbor and rail links are used by other countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland.
I drove along bad roads and numerous military checkpoints to get to the next town, Inhambane located on the eastern coast of Mozambique. We took pictures beside the Vasco da Gama Statue who then named the island of Inhambane as “Land of the Good People”. We started our tour of this quaint little town with a visit to Villanculos’ major attraction the Mozambique Horse Safari – Day Tours. We were welcomed by its owners Mandy and Pat Retzlaff and they briefed us about the history of its 200 rescued horses from Zimbabwe. They went with us as we rode our horses along the beach up to a viewpoint overlooking the Indian Ocean. We rode here every afternoon during our stay in Villanculos.
After here we availed the 3 day Sail away Dhow Safari Tour of Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. We took a day trip to Magaruque, one of the small islands in Bazaruto. We had a memorable adventure of its glorious swimming waters, snorkeling, great food and beach bumming around on its pristine and beautiful islands. We sailed relaxed and lying on a dhow with cute dugongs, dolphins and turtles for company. We had an overnight stay at a beach cottage in Benguerra Island, we also snorkeled its 2 mile reef. The cook, the captain and our guide made our sail away tour enjoyable, it was the best adventure ever!
We got suited as first time divers at the Odysea Dive and with our dive instructors we explored the Dune of Bazaruto Reef. Manta rays, giant turtles and nursing sharks joined us on our dive along the reefs of the Indian Ocean. After our perfect dive and diving thru drift waters my wife and I passed our open water divers certificate. From here we also checked other spectacular coastal areas like the Tofu Bay and the Barra Reef. After our tour of the waters, we visited a community project in Villanculos called the Machilla Magic. It’s an arts and crafts shop that provides livelihood for this small village in Mozambique. My wife eagerly joined a group of Mozambican women attending a cassava cooking class. This starchy root is a staple and versatile food on the island. They made breads, and pressed the root crop to yield some grains used for tapioca starch making. The community also provides training for men to create recyclable indigenous materials into wooden art pieces. It was a humbling experience to learn they would express their creativity in so many ways just to survive. I admire the sustained ability of its people.
While driving around town we saw The Old Hoffmann House, The Casa Grandela, and the Maritime House (Capitao). We bought some woven baskets and batik paintings at The Mercado. The Inhambane Museum gave an informative overview of traditional African musical instruments and interesting art objects. Old photographs from the Portuguese colonization are displayed all around. Lastly, we prayed at the Church of Senor da Conceicao, a 170 year old historical stone church.
We spent the remaining days of our vacation in the town of Nampula, the third largest city in Mozambique. We visited the Catedral de Nossa Senhora de Fatima. It looked beautiful from the roadside; inside we saw lovely sculptures, and paintings on stained glass windows. Then we head next to the Mozambique National Ethnographic Museum, where we found lots of artifacts and narrative about the indigenous people of Mozambique. I took photographs of Makonde carvings and the workers while making their craft. My wife marveled at the goldsmiths making necklaces and bracelets. We pictured more country life sceneries along the landscapes of Namapalu. At night we bought handicraft bracelets at a local market and had a good meal of prego steak rolls at the nearby Copacabana.
We were teary eyed as our plane lift off the island, we felt blessed to have seen such country. Much needs to be done to build up the country’s industry and repair its shattered political economy. But it’s a country with lots of potential to succeed. I have high hopes for the hard working people of Mozambique.