Must-see places and need-to-have items…

Having visited all the conservation areas (except the Marromeu Game Reserve) in Mozambique and driven the full length of the coast, we would like to share the following with your readers:

Places that most visitors would enjoy are, in no particular order, the following:

  • Inland the Limpopo National Park bordering onto Kruger is very scenic, especially along the Shingwedzi river. Transfrontier Parks Destinations tfpd.co.za operates the Machampane Tented Lodge and offer many activities as well. There are campsites at the Massinger dam and at Mapai along the Limpopo river. Gorongoza National Park is a must, visit them at www.gorongosa.org . We stayed in the Girassol Lodge & Safari www.girassolhoteis.co.mz . The Niassa National Reserve is wild and undeveloped and does not offer visitors many options in terms of accommodation – in fact, apart from the campsite near the Park Headquarters, to the best of my knowledge Lugenda Wilderness Camp www.lugenda.com is the only operational lodge in the Park. In the south, the Maputo Special Reserve is an absolute gem, with inland lakes full of hippos, crocs and birds. A new lodge at Ponta Chemucane can be booked through TripAdvisor, and there is talk about two further lodges being developed at Ponta Milibangalala and Ponta Dobela.
  • Along the coast the Quirimba Islands, Ilha de Mozambique and the Bazaruto Archipelago can compete with the best in the business. We stayed in the Ibo Island Lodge iboisland.com but there are other options as well such as Mitimiwiri www.mitimiwiri.com . Rani Resorts closed down their lodge on Matemo but the Anantare Medjumbe Lodge is operational, as is the lodge on Vamizi Island. On Mozambique Island there are many options – unfortunately no camping is allowed. We stayed in O’Escondidinho, a renovated old double storey building with high ceilings, air conditioning (in some rooms) and a lovely courtyard with a swimming pool. Mail reservas@gmail for a direct booking. On this trip we did not cross to the Bazaruto Islands but stayed in Vilanculos, in the Dona Ana Hotel  res@thehoteldonaana.com  . As mentioned in our blogs, the Mozambique most people know starts south of here – Pomene Reserve is one of the most pristine coastal and mangrove areas along the coast, with Pomene Lodge www.barraresorts.com offering both camping and bungalows and a restaurant/bar.  Inhambane is known to most as is Bara and Tofo – with numerous establishments catering to all tastes. We sped past all of them on our way to Bilene, which we approached from the north on sand tracks rather than the tarred road from Macia. The closest beach spots to Maputo can be found at Macaneta, where one needs to board the ferry at Marracuene to cross the Nkomati river.

As all campers know, the list of items to take with is endless. So where do we start? I will leave out the obvious 100 or so items and only list the ones that we agreed on are vital for survival in Mozambique:

  • A basic understanding of the Portuguese language will be a huge advantage. Especially in the remote areas, where English has not been heard before at all. In fact, in some areas even Portuguese is unheard off…I knew this before our departure and downloaded Babbel’s language course (highly recommended) but did not spend enough time with it…in which case the BBC’s Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary is a wonderful back-up. Numbers (as in How much is this?), handy phrases such as Where is the closest filling station? etc can mean the difference between buying things – or not – and being able to fill your petrol tank…
  • A compressor to inflate your tyres with. Driving on sand tracks require low tyre pressures but as soon as you get back on the tar, you need to re-inflate your tyres. If you don’t, the vehicle will be swaying on balloon tyres and not perform the way you expect (if you do not have the ability to do so, drive slowly until you can re-inflate) and  the tyres will overheat which can cause long-term damage to your expensive rubber. Filling stations in Mozambique seem to be unable to inflate tyres, you need to find a tyre workshop to do so…
  • Although the government has been building a lot of new filling stations recently (called Funae, a subdivision of Petromoc, the government-owned fuel company) they might be out of fuel on the day that you arrive. Having an extra jerry can or two of fuel will make it possible for you to carry on to your next destination instead of having to wait for the fuel truck. Many filling stations (Galp, Petromoc, Total) accept credit cards (VISA, not Mastercard) in larger towns but you need cash in the outlying areas
  • Cash. Mozambique might be lagging in some areas but they have an admirable ATM network in operation. We found BCI to be most widely available, but FNB, Standard Bank and Millennium also have a large footprint. BCI (and FNB, if I remember correctly) needs 6 digits before you can access your account. My Investec Bank PIN only has 4 – so many a hot hour was spent in front of ATM’s refusing me money until I learned the trick – just type in one or two zeros after your PIN number and the machine will be happy! Also – in smaller towns, the machine is loath to give you Mts5 000 at one go (the daily limit in Mozambique) but if you punch in 3 000 and then 2 000, you get your money!
  • On a long trip you need to get your passport stamped after 30 days. I had a letter from the High Commission in Pretoria (and an expensive 90-days business visa) requesting any inland Immigration officer to stamp our passports, but the official in Beira was not impressed. Maybe a good thing after all, because the other issue you face in Mozambique (if you are a self-drive visitor) is the TIP –Temporary Import Permit – for your vehicle. This document is only valid for 30 days and can only be re-issued at border posts – no inland procedures for renewal are in place.
  • Patience. Lots of it, especially when driving on the main roads. There are towns or villages every so often, with the speed limit being reduced to 80 and then 60km per hour. Quite often, the authorities forgot to put up the boards informing you that you are now out of the village and, if you are law-abiding, you might drive on at 60 for a long time. Worse, you might think you are out of the zone and start picking up speed – be assured, that is where you will be flagged down and shown your speed on the radar device. The writing out of the fine can take up to 30 minutes but is the right thing to do – the government is trying hard to wipe out corruption and speed fines not issued properly (no written notice, normally at half the amount) is one of the most common problems.
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