Mozambique’s messy post-colonial history and poor infrastructure mean that most visitors are cut from fairly intrepid cloth. But travelling in this enigmatic and under-explored country is well worth the occasional bump in the road, both literal and metaphorical.
First and foremost amongst the country’s many attractions is its pristine Indian Ocean coastline – all 2,414km (1,500 miles) of it – which offers palm-fringed beaches, warm tropical waters, abundant marine life, great fishing, excellent diving, fantastic snorkelling and a number of idyllic islands from which you can enjoy all of the above in sweet isolation.
And then there are the parks. Though much of the country’s big game was wiped out during the desperate days of the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992), sterling conservation efforts have seen several national parks restored to something approaching their former glory. Their remoteness and relative inaccessibility, compared to the parks in neighbouring South Africa, means you’ll never be jostling for space with the masses.
Mozambique’s Portuguese heritage and faded art deco charm characterise much of the capital, Maputo, in the form of colourful, crumbling and sometimes bullet-ridden colonial buildings, which stand in stark contrast to the more modern parts of this vibrant port city. The music, the nightlife and the food are equally interesting and eclectic; head to the bustling fish market to enjoy what many locals will tell you is the best seafood in East Africa.
There is also good hiking with little-visited mountains dotted throughout the Mozambican hinterland, but extreme caution should be taken due to a large number of leftover landmines.
Since peace returned to the country in 1992, Mozambique has been trying to piece itself back together and realise its substantial tourism potential. But for now, a large part of the country’s appeal lies in its relative obscurity from the more beaten paths of Southern Africa.