Time and tide have not been kind to Mozambique. A long, horrific civil war has scarred the country, shattered its infrastructure and left a million land mines scattered about the countryside. Much of its wildlife, including big game such as elephants and rhinos, has been decimated by war, and cyclones have ravaged its coastline. Droughts and floods take turns rubbing salt in Mozambique s wounds.
Mozambicans are putting the past behind them and are rebuilding their country at a remarkable pace. Discussions between the government and the opposition have resulted in an easing of tension. It s now possible to travel in relative safety, though getting around does require keeping your wits about you. And there are a fair number of things to see, including world-renowned beaches, World Heritage sites, funky colonial architecture and colorful local culture.
It has been estimated that more than one million land mines - laid by both sides during the war - remain unexploded in Mozambique. Some minefields have warning signs, but most are unmarked and often only get discovered when someone gets blown to bits. For this reason it is simply not safe to go wandering off into the bush anywhere without first seeking local advice - and even then your safety isn t guaranteed. Stay on roads and well-worn tracks where other people have obviously gone before.
There are also a lot of guns in Mozambique, and a lot of desperately poor people. Armed robberies and drive-by theft at gunpoint in Maputo was once completely unknown, but since 1996 several incidents have been reported. Women are advised not to walk alone along any beach in Mozambique, and travel by convoy is recommended throughout the country, due to the risk of banditry.
Full country name: Republic of Mozambique
Area: 801,600 sq km (309,500 sq mi)
Population: 15.7 million
Capitals: Maputo (pop 1.3 million)
People: African (99%, including Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena and Makua)
Languages: Portuguese (official), indigenous languages
Religion: Indigenous beliefs (50%), Christian (30%), Muslim (20%)
President: Joaquim Alberto Chissano
GDP: US$12.2 billion
GDP per head: US$670
Annual growth: 3%
Major industries: Food, beverages, textiles, chemicals, petroleum
Major trading partners: South Africa, Spain, US, UK, Portugal, France, Japan
Visas: All visitors need visas, which are good for up to three months, and proof of onward travel.
Health risks: Bilharzia, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, diptheria, tetanus, meninogococcal meningitis, polio, malaria
Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours
Electricity: 220/240V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
When to go
Sunshine, blue skies and temperatures averaging between 24°C and 27°C along the coast are the norm, except during the rainy summer season from about December/January through to April when everything gets soggy and sticky, and temperatures exceed 30°C in some areas.
The best time to visit is from May/June to November, during the cooler dry season. During the Christmas/New Years holidays, around Easter and in August, the southern resorts fill up with the vacationing South African neighbours
There is good fishing for marlin, barracuda, sailfish and swordfish. Notable resorts are Inhaca Island near Maputo, the Bazaruto Archipelago and Mozambique Island. There are many beaches and lagoons with safe bathing; however, there is a danger of occasional sharks in the warm Indian Ocean.
Many hotels have pools. Some resorts have facilities and excellent clear waters full of underwater sights for divers or snorkelers to explore. Zavora’s coral reef is outstanding.
There is also good hiking but advice and extreme caution should be taken due to the large amount of leftover landmines in the country. Birdwatching is excellent.
Attractions - Maputo
The Central Market spills out of the shabby yet beautiful building in which it is housed, and is a hub of activity selling all kinds of goods, from handicrafts, basketware and carvings, to fruit and vegetables, a variety of seafood and many household items needed for everyday use.
The market is a haven for pickpockets and thieves, though, and visitors should ensure that all valuables are concealed from view.