Mozambique's Main Points.
- Visas no longer needed by South Africans, BUT all other nationalities (except for Malawians) need visas which are best obtained at a Consulate before your trip, but are also issued at all borders and airports for around US$30.
- Cell phone Reception (if you don't have International Roaming, buy an M-Cell 'Pronto a Falar' Starter Pack for about R20): We got a signal on M-Cell in and around Ponta do Ouro, Maputo (Catembe), along most of the E.N.1 up to Inhambane, Massinga, Vilankulo, Inchope, Gorongosa Town, Caia, Quelimane, Guro, Manica and in Zimbabwe on International Roaming in and around Mutare, Masvingo and Beit Bridge.
- Medical Rescue Insurance is essential as an Air Evacuation costs hundreds of thousands, there are no top-class hospitals in Mozambique, and your medical aid will not cover you over the border. We used TIC (Travel Insurance Consultants) based in Johannesburg who offer full cover for R12 per person per day. Contact Kim Justus (011) 780 3300, website: www.tic.co.za
- The Law: Wear seatbelts, carry driver's license and passport (if away from tourist lodges), car must have 2 red warning triangles, one tied to front of car if towing. Good manners and courtesy are the best protection against being fined in Mozambique.
- Getting Lost is what may happen to you if you are in a hurry (as we most certainly were), and are not too familiar with the purpose and use of a map (see 'Best Beach). To avoid costly and frustrating wrong turns and wild-goose chases, I was given the Meridian Colour GPS by Magellan, and a well wisher has supplied his personal Garmin MapSource 276C loaded with Tracks4Africa maps.
- Money is Meticais (Mt) and do take along a calculator as R1 gets you Mt3600, while US$1 gets your Mt24 000. Avoid the street changers - better rates and safer at banks and Cambios (Bureaux de Change). Cash Rands are best but Credit Cards (Visa and MasterCard) are accepted at some resorts so enquire before departure, BUT Travellers Cheques are virtually useless. Generally, Mozambique is a more expensive place in which to travel than South Africa.
- Malaria is prevalent throughout Mozambique and, as Malaria is still one of Africa's biggest causes of death, there is no doubt that taking preventative tablets is essential. I took Doxycycline and my son was on Mefloquine. Consult your doctor.
- Roads are constantly being resurfaced but even the best are not nearly as good as those in South Africa so don't expect to average more than 80km/hour. Through the many towns and villages on the E.N.1 the limit is 60km/hour and this is strictly enforced by the Transit Police using laser traps. Hoot whenever your see people or parked buses/bakkies/trucks etc up ahead as engines are left idling and they will not hear you coming. Speeding and driving at night are very bad ideas.
- Petrol (Gasolina) and Diesel (Gasoléo) are easily available for around R8 and R7 respectively but I have only seen unleaded ('sem chumbo' sometimes mistakenly 'sem plumbo') petrol as far north as Maxixe and also in Beira.
- Food can be bought fresh at local markets, and the local pão (small white loaf), is baked fresh every day almost everywhere. Outside of Maputo supermarkets are not well stocked and the prices are high.
- Border Formalities: No visas needed for South Africans, passports must be valid for more than 6 months, you must have original vehicle registration papers and obtain a TIP (Temporary Import Permit Mt 25 000) and Seguros (3rd Party Insurance R120) at the Moz side of the border or risk very heavy fines.
- Weather: It can rain during January to April, is windy from September to November and get quite cool from June to August; otherwise it is quite dry and hot.
Best Ways to Contact the Best:
Best Way to Stay on Track:
Get yourself a GPS and make sure that it is loaded with accurate and usable maps. For Magellan models go to www.pertec.co.za, tel Johannesburg (011) 805 1996, and for the Garmin receivers go to www.avnic.co.za, tel Johannesburg (011) 704 6147. For information about the mission and utility of Tracks4Africa and to download the T4A maps (currently only compatible with Garmin MapSource software), go to www.tracks4africa.co.za
Best Resort Town
PONTA DO OURO - Just 10km from the South African border near Kosi Bay, "Ponta" (as it's affectionately known) offers a wide range of activities ranging from Scuba Diving to swimming with wild dolphins and accommodation ranging from cosy camping to homely hotels.
Rates: R450 per person, DBB (high season).
Best Game Reserves:
MAPUTO ELEPHANT RESERVE AND GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK: Think of a combination of the Natal North Coast, the Okavango Delta and the Transkei Wild Coast and you've got a hint of the magnificent Maputo Elephant Reserve. In central Mozambique and once considered to be the finest wildlife refuge in East Africa, Gorongosa National Park is at long last being restored to its former status.
Contact: There is good info on the Elephant Reserve at www.overland.co.za and general info on Gorongosa at www.gorongosa.net Catembe Gallery Hotel do day trips to the Elephant Reserve, see 'Best Boutique Hotel' below.
Rates: Mt200 000 per person and vehicle entrance, Mt200 000 per night camping. Furnished Chalets are available at Chitengo in Gorongosa.
Best Boutique Hotel:
Rates: From R350 per person B&B.
Best City Hotel:
HOTEL POLANA: A stately 5-star Maputo landmark for eighty years, the Polana's pool alone would cover an area bigger than the entire floor space of most other hotels - and the views are all the way across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar.
Rates: From R1000 per room B&B. (There are special vacation packages).
Best New Place(s):
(1) MAR E SOL: In the heart of Mozambique's Lagoon Coast near an isolated beach tucked between an azure lake and the wide blue ocean.
Contact: (Best to send an SMS) Mozambique: Leonard 0925 88 227 2753, Helena 0925 88 227 2754
Rates: Presently camping only @ R70 per person.
(2) POMENE VIEW LODGE: With breathtaking views and excellent facilities, this is a breezy refuge away from the summer heat and biting flees of Pomene beach just 2km away.
Rates: From R800 per day for a 5-sleeper self-catering chalet.
Best Beach Backpackers:
BAMBOOZI LODGE: Has the laid-back ambience of the typical backpacker's haven, but with a resident SCUBA outfit, swimming pool, chalets, excellent restaurant and clean facilities, Bamboozi is ideal for all budgets.
Rates: (High Season per person) Backpacker dorm: R95 per night, Huts R75 per night, Chalets R500 per night, Honeymoon Suites R500 per night.
PACHIÇA GUESTHOUSE: In an historic mansion overlooking the quay and dhow anchorage off quaint and fascinating Inhambane town. Pachiça's name refers to the bags of coal carried on the heads of slaves during past centuries. This reflects a desire by the Dennis, the owner and chef, to retain an authentically Mozambican ambience, and to embrace a culture as timeless as the tides that rise and fall in front of the house. Great local dishes too.
Contact: Mozambique: Dennis: 0925882 355 9590, South Africa: 073 313 2456
Rates: R70 per person camping at Barra Lighthouse, Pachiça rates on request.
Best Beach Lodge:
BARRA LODGE: If you've just ridden a horse along a deserted beach at dawn, spent the humid midday hours in a sparkling pool before taking an afternoon SCUBA dive, then you must be at Barra Lodge.
Rates: (High Season): Casitas: R744 DBB per person sharing, Backpackers bunkhouse R80 per person, 6-bed self-catering chalets R1115 per day.
Best Family Resort:
MORRUNGULO, also known as Nelson's Bay after the family that has owned the resort since the 1960's. Right out of a postcard and with the beach on your doorstep, reefs nearby and a clean and secure environment - perfect for the whole family.
Rates: (High Season) Beachside 8-sleeper Bungalow R1700 per day. 4-sleeper Casita R925 per day. Camping R70 per person.
POMENE BEACH: I've left footprints on them all from Ponta do Ouro to Pangane, but perfect Pomene Beach with it's curving sands overlooked by a brooding ruin, is really difficult to match.
Contact: See Pomene View Lodge under 'Best New Place' above.
Rates: See Pomene View Lodge under 'Best New Place' above.
Best Town Backpackers:
ZOMBIE CUCUMBER: Vilankulo is a real Mozambican town i.e colourful, busy, friendly and fascinating. Close to the bus-station and beach, Zombie Cucumber (named after a great book) is just right for the traveler more interested in culture, adventure and authentic experiences than in the air-conditioned isolation of a lodge or hotel.
Contact: No bookings possible. MozambiqueTel: 09258 82 8049410
Rates: Dormitory R70 per night, 2 bed chalets R150 per night.
Best Camping Site:
VILANCULOS CAMPING: Just metres from the beach – see the ocean from your tent. Secure and well managed and very popular during the South African school holiday periods.
Rates: (High Season) Camping R90 per person, Chalet R200 per person, Rooms R160 per person.
Best Island Hotel:
BENGUERRA ISLAND LODGE: The service, style and comfort of the best but without the impersonal and crowded over-commercialization - all in the middle of the most unbelievably blue waters. No pretentiousness here, just friendly and eager service.
Rates: Chalets: US$376 per person sharing. Honeymoon Suites: US$410 per person (yes, Paddy, sharing!).
Best Airline to the Islands:
PELICAN AIR SERVICES (trading as TTA) has daily pressurized turbo-prop flights from Johannesburg and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airports to Vilankulo International as well as from Vilankulo to Bazaruto and Benguerra Islands. Pelican also has flights from Johannesburg to Pemba (Mozambique).
Fares: (excl airport taxes): Johannesburg – Kruger Mpumalanga – Vilankulo (return) R2900, Kruger Mpumalanga – Vilankulo (return) R980, Vilankulo – Benguerra (return) R300.
Best 4x4 Track:
The 20 km long goat path up to the fairy-tale Morrombodze falls high up on majestic Mount Gorongosa. Not for anyone as less-experienced off-roaders will take this track on at risk of longing fervently for the sanctuary of their local mall pavements once more.
Best Inland Lodge:
M'PHINGÚÈ CAMP: At the remote Catapu sawmill, just 30km south of the mighty Zambezi River and Caia town, M'phingúè (Empingwe) is in the heart of a remote and protected tropical forest teeming with birds and game.
Rates: 2 bed roomed Cottage with 2 single beds in each separated by a veranda, a private bathroom and a separate thatch lapa with braai, US$41 for 4 people.
Rustic Cabins with 2 single beds, communal bathroom, US$20 double.
Best 'Undiscovered' Beach:
PONTA MATIRRE: Quelimane, capital of Zambezi Province is a hang of a long way from anywhere, let alone the small coastal town of Pebane, a further 200km to the north, close to which the very few will discover Ponta Matirre.
Best Cultural/Historic Site:
MASSANGANO CITADEL: Overlooking the shores of the mighty Zambezi in a remote corner of central Mozambique, this is an overgrown fortress from where a rebel Portuguese settler family ruled much of Mozambique for over a century. Note that we made it to within about 150km (4 hours drive) of Massangano but time and exhaustion caught up with us and so if you want to get there, shortest route is through Zimbabwe to Mutare, then turn north at Nova Vanduzi up to the turn-off right to Mungári where you turn left at the fork just after the town down to Mandié where you must ask locally for the track to Massangano which is at the confluence of the Luenha and Zambezi rivers.
Best Stopovers before and after Mozambique:
KWA-NGWANASE (MANGUZI): Thobeka Lodge and Backpackers. Basic but quiet, secure and clean.
Rates: Camping R55 per person, double rooms R80 per person sharing.
MUTARE (ZIMBABWE): Ann Bruce's Guesthouse and Backpackers. A real home from home complete with DSTV, dorms, doubles and en-suite room. Walking distance from Mutare central.
Contact: Ann Bruce: 99 Fourth Street, Mutare. Tel: Zimbabwe 09263 206 569.
Rates: R60 per person (dorm), R90 per person double (sharing), R110 per person double, en-suite (sharing).
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