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February 2011 Bush Blog

February 2011

Off-season Offerings 2: Magical Mozambique

Having recently spent 10 days making our way through southern and central Mozambique from the furthest southern point up to the Park, Jos and I have been struck by what an amazing country this is - most especially from a tourism perspective.  How many countries out there, especially in Africa, can boast the wealth of culture, history, natural beauty and biodiversity, size, contrast, people, political and economical stability, and pure friendliness of Mozambique?  Perhaps Kenya & South Africa could compete, and to a lesser extent Tanzania.  But then if one considers the exotic nature, mystery and magic of an emerging destination (of which none of the former three can be considered emerging) - Mozambique must be rated as the number one fresh and exciting tourism destination in Africa at the moment...


The thing is, we have been involved in Mozambique from a business side for almost 4 years now, and Jos & I have been visiting it for over 12 years now - and yet we still manage to find little gems on every trip or situation that we find ourselves in.  Like our time in Tofo recently, where we ate seafood brilliant delights at a brilliant little restaurant (The House of Food) followed by a long walk on a deserted white beach (squeaky sand and all) towards Tofinho where we watch a family of dolphins frolicking in the waves.  We missed the tide for the whale shark snorkelling trip, but the guys who had returned from it that day said that it rated in the top 3 experiences of their lives (and they were all well-travelled folks in their late sixties).  We then moved up to Benguerra Island and spent a most amazing day out on the azure waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (marine) with a jolly splendid fellow named Graham from Fish Therapy who took us out for a day of big game fishing (tag and release - well except for one unfortunate GT that was nabbed by a hammerhead shark just as I was about to lift it into the boat, and a particularly fine and succulent King Mackeral that was kept, on quota, for our dinner that night... yummy took on a whole new meaning), turtle, sailfish and dolphin viewing, a picnic on Pansy Island and a snorkel at 2-Mile Reef... I will remind you all that this was a business trip and that we were actually conducting extremely vital and important "research" into the lodges on the islands that combine well with Explore Gorongosa.  Work, you understand?


After a hard day at the office with Graham, we were hosted superbly by Trevor, Sally and their team at Benguerra Lodge, where we discovered another truly Mozambican piece of magic - night-swimming in warm seawater with phospherescent plankton just in front of our room.  Covered in fairy-like Christmas tree lights with the Milky Way stretched right above us, we truly felt like Mozambique was drawing us ever furhter into her mysterious embrace.  The next stop was a night at Indigo Bay on Bazaruto Island across the bay.  For quality of service and absolute user-friendliness, I don't think you can find a better spot in the area, although it must be understood that this is an Island Spa and Resort and so it is a bigger and more busy operation than Benguerra, Marlin or Azura for example.  The flip side of this is that you can pretty much do everything and anything there and the staff are just brilliant.  We went for a snorkel at Neptune's Reef and were thrilled by the anemone-hugging clown fish and brilliantly coloured (but dangerous) lion fish.  We drank a mocktail (alcohol-free of course - work, you understand) whilst the sun set complete with dhows drifting by in the golden light - more Mozambican magic on tap.


All the way through Mozambique (we drove up, and so did it the slow and gentle way), we were constantly reminded of the warmth and friendliness of the people.  All the historical concerns about corrupt police and bad roads are a thing of the past, most especially on the newly completed N1 highway from Maputo to Vilanculos - the road is an absolute pleasure, complete with a tarred shoulder and cats-eyes for night driving - a far cry from the dusty detours and bumpy potholes of previous years when we have completed a similar route.  Border officials coming in from Swaziland were friendly and courteous and the vibrant hub of Maputo is just a mind and culture-shock of activity, hustling & bustling, and general life in fast-forward.  It is a city going places and we have been amazed how it has grown and developed, seemingly for the better, in the past few years.  We did the ussual prawns and lulas at Costa de Sol just up the Ave Marginal, and took a walk on the beach too.  We popped into the city centre too for some work and were impressed by the general cleanliness and new developments going up.  Not so impressed with the traffic - but then I think I'm spoilt having to put up with elephants and warthogs as the only road obstacles on a daily basis in Gorongosa.

Although this trip only really covered the southern and central areas of the country (there is so much more new and exciting going on in the north too, of course), the overall opinion from us both was that Mozambique is definitely on a rapid upward curve, and is gearing itself up for its title as the all-inclusive culture, beach and bush destination in Africa.  If Mozambique were an ice-cream it should be flavour of the week - something exotic and tropical, sweet and creamy, with no lingering bad taste on the palate.  Talking of ice-cream - it is way past my lunch time, but I really would like to encourage you all to come (back) out and be part of this truly magical piece of Africa.  You will not be disappointed... just make sure you include a week at Explore Gorongosa when you do come or we may have to steal your ice-cream and eat it all up ourselves!
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