I set out to explore southern Mozambique on a road trip from Joburg in a Mini Countryman to prove that there’s a lot you can do without needing a big 4×4. Three thousand kilometres later, I discovered some special off-the-beaten-track spots and deserted beaches. I swam in a lagoon that looks like a piece of jewellery, communed with schools of raver-coloured tropical fish on offshore reefs, ate a lot of peri peri prawns and ended off each sun-filled day with cold 2Ms.
These were my Mozambique highlights:
Sultry, sexy and sweltering: Maputo was a fiery 38 degrees when we arrived and felt as steamy as a Bikram yoga class. It’s an African Miami with pink and turquoise art deco buildings, music playing everywhere, European-style cafes and an exotic Latin flavour that you don’t get anywhere else in Africa. The air smells of grilling prawns, salty sea, ripening mangoes and a hint of coconut cocktails. See more photos of Maputo here
Hikes to the deserted beach, kayaking on the calm Chidenguele lagoon, birdwatching from our tented room, feasting on prawns and calamari and tropical fruit, lazing in a hammock in the heat of the day and drinking G&Ts at sunset: it was a hard two days at Naara Lodge in Chidenguele.
Turquoise lakes shimmer below the sleepy town of Quissico, which is yet to become a blip on the tourist map. LaGoa Eco Village, a sandy drive from town down to the lagoon, is a laidback rustic backpacker’s set in a lush garden with the bath-water warm lagoon as its giant swimming pool.
Normally a fishing haven for South Africans, Guinjata Bay was practically deserted. We had a massive stretch of beach to ourselves, and went to sleep with a soundtrack of rustling coconut palm leaves.
This sleepy little town is often overlooked in favour of nearby coastal spots of Barra and Tofo. While Inhambane doesn’t have a beach or resorts, it’s a lovely town that’s worth exploring. Check out the market and the 18th century Catholic church and mosque, and wander its laidback streets lined with buildings the colour of Steri Stumpies.
Tofo is where backpackers come for a week and stay for a year or three, and it’s easy to see why. A long curving stretch of sand lined with backpackers, cottages, bars and restaurants fringes a bay of gentle waves. In this one little laidback town you can go diving with manta rays and hammerhead sharks, snorkelling with whale sharks, do surfing lessons (according to local surf rats this is one of the best places in southern African to learn to get up on your board), yoga classes, horse riding, or just drink 2M beer and soak up the chilled vibes.
White sand, still sea as transparent as glass, reefs teeming with fish, dhow traffic at sunset and sunsets that seem made for beach cocktail drinking: Benguerra Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago is the tropical island paradise that holiday brochures are made of. With private sun loungers, a villa the size of my flat back home and a perfect beach steps away from my bed, Marlin Lodge was rather a nice place to spend a few days.
We escaped the bustle and dust of Vilanculos on the mainland and trekked out into the bundus – thick bush, thick sand and a lot of cassava plants. An hour’s drive north of town, Marimba Secret Gardens is one of those backpacker gems that’s still relatively undiscovered (as in, it hasn’t been in Lonely Planet). There are cosy huts on stilts, friendly dogs, even friendlier owners (a Swiss couple), great food (guacamole and cassava chips, marinated kingfish with coconut rice and dhal, veggie burgers and home-made hummus sandwiches), a deserted stretch of beach, dhow trips to the islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago and kite surfing lessons, all at budget-friendly prices.
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