Ha-ha! How my husband refers to Mozambique – he says the mozzies (mosquitoes) there are so big they have beaks!
Mosquitoes and malaria are certainly a problem in Mozambique, and something which travellers need to take note of and be sure to take the necessary precautions.
Having said that, it is also where we spent our most memorable holiday to date as a couple; where as a single, I also enjoyed a fantastic diving holiday with friends; and where I enjoyed numerous holidays as a child. Living in Swaziland as a child, it was a hop over the border and a relatively short trip to the beach.
It is these personal experiences that formed the basis for our study of Mozambique.
As a child, our family holidays were spent on one of the lagoons scattered along the Mozambique coast, at a place then known as San Martinho. I can remember the delight of being able to walk out far in to the ‘ocean’ (really the lagoon), which was calm.
We caravanned there with friends, and I recall one year the adults bought a shark from fishermen which we braaied (barbecued) on the beach. I also remember the big cans of cashew nuts which my Dad would buy to take home with us (an important export).
My husband and I spent a memorable holiday at Ponta de Macaneta some 14 years back. To reach Macaneta, we had to take a ferry across the river at Marracuene, and the locals laughed at us and told us we would never make it to the resort in our Mazda.
The roads were rough and made more impassable by rains, which had resulted in mud basins in various places on the dirt roads. We negotiated the first few successfully, and when we did finally become bogged down in one of these morasses, an enthusiastic crowd of local children appeared out of nowhere to help extract us in exchange for a handful of sweets.
The effort of getting there was worth it – we spent a week lounging on an unspoilt beach with the river at our backs. The only other visitors were a group of German tourists who spent almost their entire time there (except for mealtimes at the restaurant) cavorting completely stark naked!
The restaurant served simple (mostly) seafood dishes and still the most delicious prawns I have tasted anywhere.
With friends, I spent a diving holiday along the Mozambique coast that I will always remember. The first few days were spent at a resort near Morrumbene. Making use of the dive centre at the resort, we took several excursions to nearby reefs, and on our dives were blessed with a couple of rare experiences.
On one occasion, we had just surfaced from our dive when we were confronted by and privileged to share the waters with a friendly whale shark.
On another occasion, we were returning from a dive when we had a rare sighting of a humpback whale and her calf.
Diving these unspoilt reefs was an absolute pleasure, with great visibility.
We then travelled to Vilankulo, where we boarded a yacht and spent the next few days diving on reefs around the Bazaruto archipelago – a group of five little islands off the Mozambique coast.
Highlights of this cruise were a visit to Santa Carolina, also known as Paradise Island, and Shell (or Pansy) Island.
Santa Carolina’s history dates back to the 1950’s, when Portuguese businessman and entrepeneur, Joaquim Alves, built a grand 250-room hotel on the island for his Mozambican bride, Donna Ana.
Once a well known and much-loved exclusive playground for the rich and famous in the 1950’s and 60’s, when Mozambique was still a province of Portugal, the hotel remained a popular destination for 20 years. The beautiful little chapel built into the rocks was the venue for many weddings.
Bob Dylan is reputed to have composed his song “Mozambique” on the hotel’s piano (the very same piano being carefully stored at Indigo Bay Island Resort and Spa on Bazaruto Island).
I have to wonder if this is the same piano we saw gathering dust in the ruins of the hotel on our visit there, as the resort on Bazaruto was then still in the early stages of development. An old guest book was also still lying in the ruins.
In 1973, Alves abandoned the hotel towards the end of Mozambique’s ongoing struggle for independence. Santa Carolina was then declared a ‘no go zone’ during the civil war and the hotel was left derelict after years of neglect.
Apparently there are plans afoot to build a new exclusive resort and return this bit of paradise to its former glory.
Pansy Island was another highlight. The island is basically a sand bank one can visit only at low tide. Its treasure is the delicate and rare Pansy shells that can be picked up on the shore.
In other parts of the world, relatives of the Pansy are known as the Sand Dollar, Sea Cookie and Snapper Biscuit and the shell has attained mythical proportions and wonderful tales of its origins, including the lost coins of Atlantis or mermaids.
A wonderful little Christian poem tells the legend of
There’s a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of
Found in this lovely shell
If you examine closely
you’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by the Roman spear
One on each side is the Easter lily
its centre is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
and led them from afar
The Christmas poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
our happy Christmastide
Now break the centre open
and here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread goodwill and peace
This simple little symbol
Christ has left for you and me
To help us spread His gospel
Through all eternity.
Some quick facts about Mozambique:
- Mozambique is officially known as the ‘Republic of Mozambique’, but more popularly known as Mozambique. The country was formerly known as Portuguese East Africa.
- Did you know that the Portuguese who first arrived at Mozambique at the end of the fifteenth century were led by the famous explorer Vasco da Gama?
- Unfortunately for the country of Mozambique, it has to put up with severe droughts and destructive cyclones and floods that hit the country’s central and southern provinces.
- Most of Mozambique’s population comprises of Christians, while Muslims make for a sizeable chunk too.
- Mozambique faced a period of uncertainty and turmoil from the years 1977 to 1992 when war and famine killed around a million people in the country.
- Although Lake Niassa is a part of the country of Mozambique, the country still shares it with the countries of Tanzania and Malawi.
- In 2008, thousands of Mozambicans were forced to leave their homes for the sake of higher ground when the mighty Zambezi River overflowed its banks.
- There are over 1.4 million orphans in Mozambique, a third of them due to HIV/AIDS. Thousands of these children, an estimated 5000, live on the streets.
NEXT STOP: Zimbabwe