Dolphins in Mozambique.Despite its undeniable beauty and charm, Mozambique tends to be overlooked by international travelers who continue to associate Africa with wildlife and the Big Five.

What Mozambique does offer is a haven of untouched wilderness, natural beauty and endless deserted white beaches on the Indian Ocean fringed with coconut palms and warm blue seas.

The Southeast African country’s bountiful marine life and breathtakingly beautiful coral reefs are especially appealing to visitors. Ponta do Ouro in the south of Mozambique is believed to be one of the best locations in the world for scuba diving. Divers can expect to encounter many species of marine life, including dolphins, manta rays and even the occasional shark.

Ponta is also the ultimate destination for travelers wanting to have a close-up encounter with dolphins. The team at the Dolphin Centre in Ponta takes visitors on various dolphin-swimming adventures. They have over the years built a special bond with a group of wild dolphins with which swimmers get to socialize. The dolphins have gradually become very curious of humans, and it would seem that they enjoy the encounters as much as the humans do.

Further up the coast lies the magnificent Quirimbas Archipelago in Cabo Delgado Province. The archipelago is a captivating chain of 32 coral islands and stretches for about 60 miles. It is the ideal destination for those looking for complete privacy and exclusivity.

For the truly romantic at heart, there are a few “private” islands in the archipelago. Medjumbe Island, for example, is a castaway fantasy come true, a remote tropical location with only 12 beach chalets. This tiny, pristine island with its breathtaking coral reefs and ocean views is known the world over for its delicious seafood, gracious hospitality and exceptional diving.

Just a boat ride away from Medjumbe is Ibo Island, a quaint little piece of land with a lost-world appeal. From here, visitors can go on fully guided, custom-tailored, island-hopping safaris via dhow and kayak, snorkeling off deserted white sandbanks and sleeping in fly camps on uninhabited tropical islands. The local guides will conjure up fresh seafood and traditional cuisine over an open fire under island stars, leaving visitors free to soak up the starry night skies.

Although Mozambique does offer national parks, most of these have been severely neglected during the country’s turbulent past. Since peace has returned to Mozambique, numerous parks and reserves have started to return to their former glory.

Gorongosa National Park has recently undergone a hugely ambitious and successful rehabilitation program and has been entirely rejuvenated. For travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-track escape with diverse game, rich birdlife and a real sense of untamed Africa, Gorongosa is the perfect destination. 
 

The park is home to populations of oribi, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and sable as well as elephant herds and bulls. In Gorongosa's rivers and lake, there are good populations of hippos and crocodiles, and on the floodplains zebras, impalas, monkeys and baboons can be found. Large herbivores such as buffalos, wildebeests and kudus are slowly being reintroduced to the park. Predators are recovering slowly, with a number of lion prides in the park.

Birding at Gorongosa is also very good, with special and endemic birds such as the collared palm thrush, the green coucal, narina trogon and spotted creeper. 

Local operator Explore Gorongosa will take visitors on walking safaris, driving safaris and water-based safaris to discover the national park and learn more about the innovative restoration projects which are underway here.

However, for travelers wanting a more tried-and-tested safari experience, numerous tours have started offering combination packages between South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Mozambique. AndBeyond, for example, offers the option to spend a few nights in either the Sabi Sand Game Reserve or the Timbavati Game Reserve before heading to the beaches of Mozambique.

Need to know

Languages: Portuguese as well as several Bantu languages.

Climate: The climate is tropical in the north and subtropical in the south. Mozambique has a dry season from April to September and a wet season from October to March, with average temperatures hovering between 80 and 88 degrees.

Visas/ Passport requirements: Visas are required by all nationals and are usually issued for one month. It is advisable to prepurchase your visa.

Health: No immunization is required for visitors entering Mozambique. Mozambique is a malaria-risk area, and taking prophylaxis is most advisable.

Money: Mozambique’s official currency is the Metical. However, U.S. currency is widely accepted and is the best to bring along for exchange at banks and foreign exchange bureaus. Credit cards are not widely used. A 10% tip for service in most Mozambique restaurants is standard.

Flights: Maputo Airport is the main gateway into Mozambique with direct flights from Portugal and from Johannesburg and Cape Town in neighboring South Africa. For those wanting to combine a wildlife safari and beach holiday, there are flights from Kruger National Park to Vilanculos Airport, the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago. Pemba Airport is the gateway to the Quirimbas Archipelago and offers flights to and from Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, making for a great East Africa safari and beach holiday combination.

Photo of dolphins courtesy of Shutterstock.com. 

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