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GENERAL INFORMATION ON MOZAMBIQUE

Introduction

Washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Mozambique is a jewel in the rough. After many years it is being rediscovered as a popular destination for those seeking a vacation in paradise. Its white sandy beaches, clear, calm seas, pristine coral reef and rich marine life make Mozambique ideal for diving, fishing and snorkeling holidays. Various fly-in packages are offered from South Africa and include accommodation in one of the many exclusive luxurious resorts on the coast or on one of the islands. It is a true privilege to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of this hospitable country without the crowds of so many other popular beach destinations.

History
Mozambique was first settled by the sea-faring Portuguese in 1507. They set up trade routes to the interior looking for gold and other precious metals. Feeling they were safer, they built forts and settlements on the islands off the coast of Mozambique. Around the middle of the 17th century, the slave trade grew, with the bulk of human cargo going to Brazil, another Portuguese colony.

Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) became the capital of the colony in 1898. During the first half of the 20th century, thousands of Portuguese settlers arrived and the economy boomed under the iron fist of the Portuguese dictator Salazar. Modern towns with red roofed buildings, boulevards and bandstands sprang up. An African could be granted Portuguese citizenship if he met certain strict requirements but for the most part, the local people were regarded as labour to be exploited.

In the early 1960s, the resistance to colonial rule that was sweeping through the rest of Africa, reached Mozambique. Frelimo, the Mozambique Liberation Front , was formed and launched its first military campaigns. The war dragged on until the overthrow of Salazar in 1974. Portugal’s new socialist government quickly granted its colonies independence and in 1975 Mozambique became a people’s republic under the leadership of Samora Machel.

The country was in bad shape after the war, aggravated by the sudden departure of Portugal with all its skills and capital. The Mozambique National Resistance, Renamo, largely funded and supported by the governments of Rhodesia and South Africa, started a campaign to destabilize the Mozambican government. This continued until 1992 when Mozambique switched from a Marxist to a free market economy and South Africa withdrew its support of Renamo. Democratic elections were held and Frelimo won with a comfortable majority.

Geography
At 801 600 square kilometers, Mozambique is the size of the UK and France combined and has a 2 500 kilometre coastline. Most of the country comprises a low lying coastal plain. Two major rivers, the Limpopo and the Zambezi, flow through Mozambique and 200 kilometres of Lake Malawi coastline lies in the extreme North West. Maputo, in the South is the capital.

Climate
Mozambique lies mostly in the tropics and has a mild, humid climate with summer rainfall from October to March. Average maximum temperatures are 32C with a minimum of 24C.

Government
Mozambique is a multiparty democracy, with 250 elected representatives in a national assembly. The two main parties are Frelimo and Renamo.

Economy
Since 1994,, Mozambique has made great progress, its economy is regarded as one of the fastest growing in the world. The inflation rate is down and it is attracting more foreign investment then any other sub Saharan African country. $1 billion has been invested in the Pande gas fields near Vilankulo whilst many Zimbabweans who lost their farms have settled here and started growing tobacco. Tourism is once again flourishing and the badly damaged infrastructure is being rebuilt. All this is creating badly needed employment to complement subsistence fishing and dry land agriculture, mandioca, maize, cashew nuts, peanuts, mangoes and coconuts are the most common crops cultivated.

Currency and Banking
The MT (meticai) is the official currency and usually quoted in thousands. Cambios or money exchange offices offer the best rates and are the most efficient. Banks offer good rates but service can be extremely slow. Save for the more luxury establishments, credit cards are generally not accepted. A few banks have recently introduced ATMs that accept both Visa and Mastercard. Banks are generally open from 8.00am to 3.00pm.

Visas
Most visitors except South Africans and Malawians require visas, which should be obtained in advance, this is a relatively simple process and if there is not a Mozambican embassy or consulate in your country of origin, can be done in South Africa.

Culture
With a population of 20 million, Mozambique is not a densely populated country. 16 ethnic groups speak a variety of languages, although Portuguese is the official language, only about a quarter of the population speak it. English is becoming more understood as tourism grows. 35% of Mozambicans are Christian, 30% Muslim.

Health
Ensure you have adequate medical insurance and eat and drink sensibly along the way. Medical care in Mozambique is limited and in the event of a problem, you would be evacuated to South Africa. This can be costly if you do not have insurance. Malaria precautions are advisable, consult your doctor for the correct medication. The best way to prevent malaria is to avoid being bitten. At sunset, when mosquitoes are most active, wear long pants and long sleeved shirts and use repellent.

Art and Crafts
Woodcarvings are the most visual of crafts. The Makonde tribe from the north is famous for its carved masks. Clay pots, basket work and colourful cloths are all finely crafted and make great souvenirs. Bargaining is customary in most markets. Regular shops are generally open from 8.00-1200 and 14.00-18.00 Monday to Friday and on Saturday morning.

Communication
Most large towns have internet cafes and many lodges and hotels offer internet access to their guests

Electricity
Electricity is 220V and uses the same 2 or 3 pinned round plugs as South Africa. Power cuts are common so protect sensitive electrical equipment.

Cuisine
Peri-Peri (a spicy chili sauce) is found on most tables in Mozambique. Peri Peri Chicken, grilled flat and served with chips is found everywhere. Excellent fresh seafood is a feature of most restaurants with calamari and prawns being the most common.

Marine Life
Mozambique’s most valuable asset is the near pristine coral reefs and rich marine life. Snorkelling, scuba diving and spear fishing are all catered for by numerous dive operations along the coast and on the islands. If you have never dived before, highly professional courses are offered. Some of the best sites are at Ponta do Ouro, Jangamo, Tofo, Barra, The Bazaruto Archipelago, Pemba and the Querimbas Archipelago. Just some of the creatures you may encounter include turtles, mantas, dolphins, whale sharks, dugongs an incredible variety of colourful reef fish. Another popular past time is big game fishing. The clear blue waters team with king mackerel, wahoo, dorado, bonito, kingfish and yellowfin tuna. The sailfish season peaks from June to August but summer is the best time for marlin.

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