MOZAMBIQUE: 309,496 SQ/MI. You have 11 days in Mozambique and there are 309,496 square miles to explore; what to do? If it's a return visit to the continent or perhaps a romantic getaway, 11.7 recommends this Mozambique itinerary. And here's why.
Mozambique once a rising star, fell off the travel radar during their prolonged civil war. Since the early nineties, Mozambique had been rebounding and eking its way to its way back into the minds of African enthusiasts. Its wildlife populations are slowly recovering, investment and reconstruction are injecting new hope and luckily its extensive coastline remains pristine and undeveloped in comparison to the Seychelles and Mauritius.
In this itinerary, we’ve paired adventure and absolute beach bliss. It’s for those travelers seeking something a bit more cutting edge and yet truly African. Plus the country’s calamari, prawns and Laurentina beer are reason enough for a visit. People might ask “Mozam-what?" That’s just fine with us; we’ll keep this place our little secret.
Day 1 & 2
Upon arrival in Maputo, you are met and transferred to the justly famous Hotel Polana. Set in the heart of Maputo, on one of the city’s most desirable avenues, the recently refurbished hotel is a cool and gracious haven. The views of the Bay of Maputo are incredible and one can spend a relaxing afternoon strolling around the gardens or by the pool before a night out on the town.
Explore the various sites of the city such as the iconic railroad station, the Museum of Natural History, Casa Velha, the Forteza de Maputo and the lively central market. Make sure to take advantage of Maputo’s incredible eateries and watering holes such as the various pastelarias as well as the Barracas de Museu - one of the most incredible places to drink in Africa with a conglomeration of more than 100 bars.
On the morning of Day 3 you fly to Beira and are transferred by road to Gorongosa National Park located in the southernmost part of the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. Gorongosa National Park is one of the most interesting travel destinations in Mozambique at the moment with a visionary restoration project in place to re-establish the park back to its former glory. The Park provides insight into the more complex socio-ecological aspects of Mozambique.
Gorongosa is a region of high species diversity and ecological features found nowhere else. The Park is home to significant populations of oribi, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and sable. Predators are recovering slowly, with a number of lion prides and a few male coalitions within the Park. Elephant herds and bulls are regularly encountered, with the bulls being particularly relaxed providing great viewing. Large herbivores are being reintroduced through the sanctuary, which has good herds of buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Leopard occur but these numbers still need to increase somewhat. In the rivers and lake, good populations of hippo and crocodile occur, whilst on the floodplains zebra, impala, monkeys and baboons are to be found. Nyala and bushbuck can be seen frequently in the forests, whilst bush pigs are sometimes also encountered. Nocturnal species include serval, civet, genet, both bushbaby species and porcupine. Birding at Gorongosa is incredible with excellent quality and quantities of special and endemic birds such as the Collared Palm Thrush, the Green Coucal, Narina Trogon and Spotted Creeper. Lake Urema provides a home to a huge number of water birds and one can literally sit for hours watching fish eagles swoop down, spoonbills forage, jacana’s tip toe across lilies, herons and stock pluck fish and much more.
The rain and seasonal watery inundation of the valley, along with many different soil types, creates a unique mosaic of distinct ecosystems. The plains are dotted with acacia savanna, dry forests in sandy areas, wetlands or pans seasonally filled by the rains, and thickets on termite-built mounds. The plateaus contain Miombo and montane forests, as well as a spectacular rainforest at the bottom of a series of limestone gorges. Mount Gorongosa is significant as a stand-alone wildlife treasure, its rainforest containing an incredible number of endemic and uncommon species such as the Green headed Oriole, Livingstone’s Turaco, Swynnerton’s Robin and the Emerald Cuckoo. This unique combination of characteristics and ecosystems gave rise to what was once and will soon again be one of the densest populations of wildlife in all of Africa.
Explore Gorongosa walking and water-based adventures are more of an experience than a trail, more of a discovery than a destination. Led by top regional professional guides, luxury-walking safaris offer a real experience as one explores the many layers of the vision to restore Gorongosa. From morning strolls to night drives, sundowner boat cruises to brunches taken within old ruins, no two days are the same. Visits to the local village are balanced with informative introductions to the conservation-biased restoration project within the Park. Afternoon and evening game drives reveal areas of the Park that one cannot cover on foot, whilst walking safaris unveil aspects of Gorongosa’s natural world. During the wet season, boating, canoeing and mekoro safaris provide a hippo-eye’s view of this waterlogged wonderland, all covered in a carpet of stunning purple and pink water lilies.
Explore Gorongosa semi-permanent tented camps have been specifically designed and prepared for guests’ every comfort and enjoyment. From the layout of the tent to the type of linen, every detail has been scrutinized to ensure the best possible experience. Tents can be fitted with twin singles or an oversized double bed, and also contain a clothes rack, suitcase stand, vanity table and stool, side tables and floor rugs. Each tent includes a large ‘en-tent’ bathroom of open-air hot canvas shower, flush toilet, and vanity stand with twin basins and relevant amenities. Tents oriented lengthways with large double ‘doors’ (can be fully rolled up to create open front) on view or river-facing front, opening onto a veranda area with cushioned day bed and reclining canvas camp chairs.
Day 7 - 10
In the mid morning, you depart for Beira where you board your flight to Benguerra Island via Vilanculos. Benguerra Lodge is situated on the protected northwest side of the island and has been recently refurbished in an open air, Bedouin-inspired style. The spacious casitas feature huge beds surrounded by mosquito netting and lovely beach views. Enjoy your lunches on your private deck and when not in the ocean just feet away, hang out in your private plunge pool. The chalets merge within the surrounding indigenous Acacia and Natal Mahogany forest.
Benguerra has a total of 164 species of birds and the small patch of indigenous forest near the north point rings with their sounds and those of squirrels and monkeys. The island has rich cultural life with dhows regularly sailing past the northern point of the island dragging nets, or going to nearby reefs. Two Mile Reef offers the best reef diving in Mozambique with beautiful staghorn corals and tropical fishes from tiny clownfish to moray eels and black-tipped reef sharks. Dugongs also frequent the area. Its large protected pool called the Aquarium is a must for snorkelers. Fishing by lure and by fly is also very popular and the lodges host annual big-game fishing competitions. Romantic getaways to a private island can be arranged at a moment’s notice.
Freshly caught fish, calamari, lobster, and crab are prepared for dinner under the stars. Extend the evening lounging on Persian rugs and pillows with a warming fire and drink in hand.
VILANCULOS/ IN TRANSIT
After breakfast, you are transferred to the Vilanculos airport to board your departing flight.