Introduction

 

Two decades ago the name Mozambique conjured up in the minds of many tourists and travelers a place where landmines lurked, banditry burgeoned, hunger held sway and road travel was slow and dangerous.  With an economic growth rate (now mostly driven by the massive coal and gas reserves of Tete Province and the Rovuma basin)  of over eight percent over the past fifteen years, one of the most successful mine-clearing and gun-gathering operations ever implemented, and new tourist lodges opening almost every week, Mozambique has become one of the brightest and most enticing prospects on a continent still sadly best known for its poverty and unrest.

 

From the golden dunes of Ponta do Ouro in the south, to the remotest reaches of the raging Rio Rovuma in the north, Mozambique’s myriad beaches remain relatively undeveloped and frequently undiscovered.  Along this 3500km long coastline there are magnificent mangrove estuaries, blindingly white stretches of sandy beach, tangled river-deltas, idyllic islands, trackless game reserves and virgin reefs.  In Mozambique the visitor can view big game in the morning, dive on teeming reefs in the afternoon and dance to the rhythms of Africa and Latin America in the evening.  Or alternatively consider a birding safari that can offer a dozen different forest types and hundreds of ticks during just one day.

 

Dozens of lodges and hotels now cater to the full range of travelers from sun- baked backpackers and organized overlanders to up market fly-ins and seekers after the small and special such as birders, botanists and divers.  Inspiring new development such as the 100 000km² Parque Nacional do Limpopo that incorporates South Africa’s Kruger and Zimbabwe’s Gona-re-zhou National Parks, and the complete restocking and rehabilitation of probably Africa’s finest Reserve, the Gorongosa National Park will restore Mozambique’s reputation as being a great safari destination.

 

And then there’s the ‘other’ coast of Mozambique – Lago Niassa (better know as Lake Malawi) which can only be described as “real Africa – at last!” 

 

Mozambique’s Niassa Province is sparsely populated, elevated enough to be cool during the long summer months and has a Game Reserve that has been called “Africa’s last truly wild place”.  Not to mention an historic port called Inhambane – the ‘nicest town” on Africa’s East Coast, an unlikely island called Ilha da Moçambique that is Africa’s most intact Swahili settlement and an immense inland man-made lake called Cahora Bassa where the Tiger fish battle long and hard and are bigger than Kariba’s finest.

 

Like a Marrabenta dancer sinuously reaching for the sun, Mozambique stretches across South East Africa touching Tanzania to the north, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the West, the Indigo-blue Indian Ocean to the East and South Africa and Swaziland to the south.  Mozambique is like a Universal Woman with her  feet firmly on the verdant, friendly African soil, her head in the clouds of European conquest and grandiose schemes, her body in the steaming, sultry heart of Latin America, her heart firmly at home and her soul somewhere indefinable, somewhere you have to find for yourself by visiting her.

Southern Moz

The Mozambican Plain (Planícíe Moçambicana) with its endless sweeping savannas, meandering rivers, a string of coastal lakes and high sand dunes, dominates the landscape of the southern region. Although most of the land lies below 100 metres, the eastern border with Swaziland and South Africa is marked by the Lebombo Mountains which do reach over 500 metres occasionally. At its mouth the Limpopo River drains more than 60% of this sector, while the Incomati, Inharrime and Nhavarre rivers have drainage basins covering the rest of the area.

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Northern Moz

Northern Mozambique is naturally divided by Malawi into two distinct regions: the north-east and the north-west. The north-eastern region consists of the provinces of Zambezia, Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa. Extending from Chinde on the Zambezi delta in the south to Namoto village at the mouth of the Rovuma, and from Cóbuè near Lake Malawi's Likoma Islands in the west to Mozambique Island in the east, this is a vast area of mysterious mountains (Namúli and Unango), historic settlements (Angoche, Mozambique and Ibo islands), idyllic islands (lihas das Quirimbas) and wildlife (Niassa Reserve).

The coastline is over 1 000 kilometres long. Tiny coral creatures that thrive in the warm tropical water have produced about one hundred coral isles and islets. The main island grouping off Zambezia is the Moebase Archipelago. The Angoche Archipelago lies adjacent to Nampula Province, while the remote llhas das Quirimbas lie between Pemba and the Rovuma. Deep, vast inland bays are also a notable feature of this seaboard, with Nacala harbour among the world's deepest and Pemba Bay one of the world's largest natural ports.

Mozambique's coastal flats, hundreds of kilometres wide in the south, are at their narrowest in this region, where the Mozambican Plateau replaces the Mozambican Plain as the dominant relief feature. This is the result of an underlying geological structure, composed of immense volcanic batholiths exposed by erosion throughout Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa provinces in the form of obelisk-shaped granite domes. Mounts Namúli (2 419 m) in Zambezia, Mitucué in Nampula and Jeci in Niassa are all examples of granite domes. Apart from these enormous basalts, metamorphic rocks occur widely and marble quarries operate at Montepuez in Cabo Delgado province. Minerals and semi-precious stones such as tourmaline, aquamarine and morganite occur around Nampula town, Nacala and Morrua.

Major rivers in this region include the Zambezi; the Rovuma, forming the boundary between Mozambique and Tanzania; the Lugela, rising on the Malawi border near Mt. Mulanje; the Molócue, which has its source on Mt. Namúli; the Lúrio, which forms the boundary between Nampula and Cabo Delgado; and the Lugenda, draining lakes Chiuta in Malawi and Amaramba in Mozambique. Yet another major freshwater feature is Lake Malawi (Lago Niassa), with a 250-kilometre-long coast alongside Niassa Province.

The north-western region comprises the province of Tete. Resulting from the penetration by Portuguese explorers and traders up the Zambezi valley as far as Zambia's Luangwa River, this remote region is different and very distinctive from the rest of the country. The Cahora Bassa dam and hydro-electric scheme is located in the Zambezi River in the heart of Tete Province, and the resultant 270-kilometre-long lake is both a fishing mecca and a highway to wilderness areas otherwise inaccessible. Tete, the province's capital city, dates back 300 years and has long been a hub of trade in southern Africa. Today the suspension bridge spanning the Zambezi at Tete is still on the trans-African highway and is the only crossing point (apart from the Sena bridge) for vehicles downstream of Chirundu.

The western border is formed by the Luangua River. Bin-Bin village on the Malawi frontier lies on the eastern extremity, while Missale is the northernmost town and Chindio on the junction of the Shire and Zambezi rivers is the southernmost point. Although the Zambezi drains the entire area, major tributaries such as the Luangua, Lula, Luenha and Revúbué have carved deep valleys in Tete province before flowing into the Zambezi. From the bottom of the Zambezi valley, to the tip of the Angónia plateau's Mt. Dómuè (2 095 m) on the Malawi border, this area of Mozambique exhibits many landscape and climatic variations.

Geologically, this region is a complex mix of volcanic, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Tete province is rich in minerals such as coal, gold, copper, iron and nickel, as evidenced by the coal mine at Moatize and the alluvial gold diggings around Chifumbazi. Lava flows surface as hills on the Zimbabwe border around Nyamapanda, and intrusive granite batholiths surface as domes around Muende on the Angónia Plateau. Large areas of erosion occur within the boundaries of the Zambezi drainage basin and depositional flats formed by the flooding Zambezi are present on its banks, where it joins the Shire River.

 

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