If there is such thing as the “balance of nature”, then Mozambique counterbalances its longstanding social struggles with a diverse natural landscape composed of incredibly rich and untouched ecosystems. This southeastern African republic has gone through many rough patches throughout its history since its independence from Portugal in 1975 all the way through a Civil War that lasted from 1977 until 1992 and impacted both land and people in a brutal way.
Nowadays, despite still being a somewhat unexplored tourist destination, the country is in a process of reinventing itself, while making sure to feature its natural beauty and vibrant culture as highlights of this transition. With a narrow yet long geographic area, Mozambique land borders touch 6 countries, while its coastline is bathed by the warm Indian Ocean waters, extending for 2500km. Hence, the country’s potential often rests along the coast, where places towns and villages are more accessible than inland, and where its rich marine ecosystems make it for a diver’s Shangri-la. Still, among crystal clear waters and tropical settings, you will also find a warm and resilient people – a combination that will not only warm your body but your heart. After all, you are in the “land of smiles”.
As the arrival point of most travelers, the capital of Mozambique provides an honest glimpse into the country’s current situation: a two-faced reality of a heavy past and a hopeful future. With that in mind, in order to fully appreciate the capital, one must capture its essence – which means looking past what is at plain sight. An effective way to do so is by visiting some of its landmarks, like the Maputo Railway Station – one of the city’s most emblematic buildings, built in 1910 and elected the third most beautiful of its kind by Times Magazine in 2016 – or the Maputo Fortress (Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicao), which was originally made out of wood but after going through much hardship has been renovated into the historical monument it is today. By visiting the Central Market ( or bazaar), whose iron structure was imported from Belgium and nowadays serves as the hub of commerce in the city, you can buy anything from fruit and vegetables to souvenirs, while getting close to the local people, those who truly make the city pulse. Another means to feel Maputo is by exploring its surroundings. There are an array of places to see and things to do only a bus ride away, like visiting the Inhaca Island, a paradisiac archipelago inside the Maputo Reserve known for the beauty of its beaches.
About 500km northeast of Maputo, lies Tofo, a small village with a big spirit. Over the past few years, Tofo has been one of the main destinations for travelers in Mozambique – a trait that has also caught the attention of expats and international businessmen. Among the reasons for such popularity are some practical things like its accessibility (especially compared to inland sections of the country), a range of affordable accommodation, and an idyllic tropical setting. Some motivators lie not on land, but at sea, since Tofo is well-known in the world of water sports for its perfect waves (surfing), favorable winds (kite and windsurfing), and incredibly rich marine ecosystems, with exotic coral reefs, whale sharks (most divers’ favorite) found in nearshore waters. The village is also popular among backpackers, who often seek Tofo for its peaceful vibe more than anything else.
The Quirimbas National Park is one of the most well-preserved regions of Mozambique. A sanctuary of fauna and flora, it is regarded as one of the leading forces on the development of the country’s northern region through sustainable tourism projects. Created in 2002, the park encompasses an area of more than 7000km2 and hosts 4 of the 200 hundred most important eco-regions of the world, where the abundant local fauna (characterized by lions, elephants, buffalos, etc) runs free across the landscape. The Archipelago of Quirimbas, which extends along the coastline, is also part of the nature reserve and is considered of great importance among marine environments, with the potential to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of the 29 islands that constitute the archipelago, only 11 are within the park’s boundaries, where dolphins, humpback whales, marine turtles, and over 300 species of fish still thrive. Such natural wealth lures divers (and researchers) from around the globe, who come to bear witness to this wild and colorful underwater world. As one travels from south to north along the coast, all shades of Mozambique come forth, with the Quirimbas National Park happening to be one of the most colorful ones.