Mozambique offers more to see than the seaside

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The CFM railway station and bus terminal in Maputo. The station is a historical landmark from the colonial period.
The CFM railway station and bus terminal in Maputo. The station is a historical landmark from the colonial period. Photo Credit: Fedor Selivanov/Shutterstock.com

Mozambique is mostly seen as a spectacular beach destination with palm-lined, white-sand beaches. But the destination has so much more to offer than just its spectacular seaside resorts.

The country’s capital, Maputo, is often overlooked by travelers, but the city has a lot to offer. Although Maputo was badly damaged during the country’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1992, it is now a vibrant tourist town with hip sidewalk cafes, jazz bars and a lively arts scene.

Travelers should make sure to embark upon a historical and art deco walking tour of the city organized by Jane Flood (http://www.maputocitytours.com/jane-flood-walking-tours). Flood knows the ins and outs of downtown Maputo. She’ll show travelers some of the city’s best architecture, including the CFM train station and the art deco splendor of Se Cathedral. Visitors will also be able to see the Malangatana murals on buildings that are not usually accessible to the public. Mozambique's best-known visual artist, the charismatic Malangatana Ngwenya, was named Unesco Artist for Peace in 1997.

Flood will take travelers for a stroll through the Tunduru botanical gardens, which reopened in December after a two-year closure for upgrades. The botanical gardens now feature a beautiful greenhouse, improved pathways and public benches and a new irrigation system. The gardens were designed in 1885 by British landscape designer Thomas Honney, who also designed gardens for the King of Greece and the Sultan of Turkey.

For an incredible wildlife experience, travelers can opt for the Lugenda Wilderness Camp in the Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique. The camp features only eight tents, set among the trees along the banks of the Lugenda River. Travelers can embark upon game drives and canoe trips down the Lugenda River, and walking tours to see cave paintings from Batwa tribes that used to inhabit the area.

Also worth a visit is the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique. The park was almost completely destroyed during the country’s civil war, but today its rehabilitation is well on its way. The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, teamed with the Mozambique government to protect and restore the ecosystem of the park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities.

After the city and the African savannah, it is time to head to Ilha de Mozambique and Ibo Island. Both these islands offer a “step-back-in-time” experience and showcase the history of the slave and spice trade as well as the Indian, Portuguese and African cultures that are typical of Mozambique.

The fortified city on Ilha de Mozambique, a former Portuguese trading post en route to India, has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site. Today, the island’s churches, mosques and colonial buildings still show the island’s rich African, Arab and European heritage. It is a colorful island, a photographer’s dream with evocative ruins, dhows and old churches in a tropical setting.

Virtually unknown, Ibo Island is a place where time has stood still. Formerly a prosperous trading post, the island still features three forts, a beautiful old Catholic church and numerous ancient trading buildings. For those who would like to have a glimpse of what Ibo Island has to offer, the Ibo Island Lodge recently launched a 360-degree virtual movie at http://www.iboisland.com/vr-video-3/.

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