Surf’s up in Mozambique!

Mozambique is of course well known for its amazing diving and snorkeling, but did you know it is also an up-and-coming surfing destination? The best season to visit Mozambique with your surf board is from June to August, so get out your board and enjoy the warm, uncrowded beaches and fast waves of the Indian Ocean. And if you catch a flat day or you just need a break from the surf, make sure to bring your snorkel equipment to take advantage of the clear water and the sheltered bays all along the white coast in Mozambique.

Where to go:

Ponta d’Ouro is probably the most popular surf spot in Mozambique. With easy access from the South African border, it can get a little more crowded than other areas in Mozambique, but you will still have ample space to catch the waves.

Another good spot is he Inhambane coastline, which has all the makings of a world-class surf-spot; an ideal mix of warm water, consistent swells, sandy headlands and reefs, with often dolphins offering the only competition for a surfer. There are a wide variety of spots in the vicinity, with the sand point at Tofo beach point being perfect for beginners and long-boarders. The waves around the corner at Tofino draw the serious surfers, where a shallow reef ledge offers advanced surfers the ride of a lifetime. Surfing lessons are available in Tofo for people keen to start.

A bit further north, between the town of Inhambane and Vilankulo, you can find the relatively unknown spot of Pomene.  Like so many other surf spots in Mozambique, surfing here has an adventurous feel, and you can enjoy the rare pleasure of enjoying the pick of the waves all to yourself.

When to go:

The most consistent surf is to be found in the winter months, from May through to August, mainly due to the cold fronts that sweep up the coast from the Cape, bringing solid six to eight-foot swells. In summer the swell tends to be a bit smaller with fun surf available at the many beach breaks.

Much of the coastline hasn’t really been explored, and you will find other world class breaks elsewhere. This and the truly breathtaking, unspoiled beauty of the landscape make Mozambique a perfect country for surfers to discover.

For more info:

http://www.ttridetravel.com/surfing-trip.html

http://www.wannasurf.com/spot/Africa/Mozambique/

http://gosurfafrica.com/mozambique/

http://magicseaweed.com/

Best time to visit Mozambique? Whenever takes your fancy!

The best time to visit Mozambique? Well, as with so many other questions the answer is: it depends… What do you want to do? Do you want to travel around on stay put on the beach? Do you like hot balmy evenings and warm seas, or does a more moderate temperature appeal to you?

My personal favourite times to travel in Mozambique is between April and June and between September and November, as there is little chance of rain, but it’s also still quite warm, even at night.

The rainy months, from November to March are not the best if you want to get around the country. Especially in February there are potential problems with flooding which can make travelling quite difficult as many roads become impassable. However, if you are looking for a real tropical experience, hot days (often in the high 30s) and balmy nights, then this time might actually work for you. You do have to be prepared for rain (sometimes only in the afternoons, but also possibly lasting a couple of days), and sweltering temperatures with high humidity even at night. However, I personally find the warm, inviting temperature of the Indian Ocean at this time, coupled with the (slightly longer) balmy evenings irresistible. So if you don’t have to travel far across the country, and you don’t mind some showers: this is the time for you. Be aware though: the height of Mozambican Summer season is Christmas and New Year. If you want to spend your holidays on a beach around this time, start booking now, as most places are filling up fast (if not already full)!

Not such a fan of scorching temperatures? Many people would say that the months from May to October, so including the height of the European Summer Holiday, provide the best weather conditions. This time is winter in Mozambique, so it rarely gets extremely hot, but the beaches still rival the temperatures of the ones in Spain and the South of France. And what’s more, even though also here it is high season, and especially in August you do have to book in advance, there is a lot more room to spread your beach towel and feel your toes in the sand on the Mozambican beaches than on the over-packed ones in Southern Europe. Temperatures between May and October are lower than in the rest of the year, but still around 28 C during the day, and there is generally no (or very little) rain. It can get a bit cold during the night, temperatures in July have been known to go down to 12-14 C, but nothing a nice fire and light duvet won’t fix. Although Mozambique offers perfect beaches and diving all year round, the winter months are also generally the best time to go for diving as there is less wind, fewer storms and the current is not as strong. This all increases visibility. As an added bonus whales are generally seen off the coast from June to October. So, if you are limited to (European) high season holidays, the Mozambican winter offers the perfect summer getaway!

 

 

 

 

 

Ponta do Ouro: Mozambique’s Most Southern Beach Experience

Ponta do Ouro (also Ponta d’Ouro) is a beach tourism paradise. The little town, made up of mostly holiday houses and resorts, lies in the extreme south of Mozambique, only 10 kilometres from the South African border and about 120 km south of Maputo.

Even though it’s not far from Mozambique’s capital city as the crow flies, the trip at present will take 3 to 4 hours, as the (national!) road to the village is mostly deep sand which can only be tackled in a 4×4.

Driving along in my little Rav4 I was repeatedly sure I was going to get stuck, but luckily my little car was up to the task and I made the trip from Maputo without having to get out the shovels. Although the journey takes a while, some would argue that it adds adventure to the whole trip. Maybe so, but if you enjoy scenic, sandy roads and a feel of adventure off the beaten track, then plan a trip to Ponta (as it is affectionately called) soon, as work has started on a tarred road connecting the little seaside town to Maputo. Now toll-gates and a smooth surface, I’ll give you, are not as romantic as sandy tracks. However, once the road is finished the travelling time will probably be cut down to about 1 hour, making a quick weekend getaway a much easier option for many (especially in the rainy season, when the pretty white sand turns to slippery mud).

The little town of Ponta do Ouro is overshadowed by holiday accommodation and offers many place to stay, from self-catering holiday homes to fully equipped resorts catering to all budgets. The town itself is compact enough to discover on foot, so when you want a break from lazing around on the unspoiled white beach and feel like going for a stroll, go check out the market, curio stalls or wander off for a drink at one of the local pubs and restaurants.

Besides the beautiful beaches the area is known for surfing, diving and deep-sea fishing and amazing swims with wild dolphins. Especially the Dolphin experience is not to be missed. Run by a team of passionate conservationists, you will not just have the experience of a lifetime watching dolphins in the wild, but also learn more about the threats that face them, broadening your understanding of the need to protect these magnificent creatures. Be aware that many of activities offered, such as jet skiing, quad-biking and 4x4ing on the beach are either not permitted, although not strictly controlled, and/or can be very environmentally destructive and disturbing to the animals. When offered the opportunity to do activities such as viewing nesting turtles and going to see dolphins, try and make sure that this does not disturb the animals and is not destructive to the environment. (for more information http://www.thedolphincentre.com or http://www.dolphin-encountours.co.za)

 

 

 

 

Santa Maria: Secret Paradise on Maputo’s Doorstep

Santa Maria Peninsula might be Maputo’s best kept secret. Just across the Maputo Bay and next to Inhaca Island lies a pristine nature reserve including over 20 kilometres of deserted Mozambican coastline, 12 lakes and a vast territory of natural indigenous bush. The coastline is part of a marine reserve protecting endangered turtles and is flanked by the calmness of the Bay on the Western side, the wildness of the warm Indian Ocean on the East and the Maputo Elephant Reserve to the South.

Staying in this paradise, you can start your day by watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean and end the day by watching it set behind the backdrop of the city’s silhouette. Spend your days snorkeling the coral reefs, go on a whale or dolphin watching trip (June to November), or explore the sandy dunes and nearby Maputo Elephant Reserve.

Although just across the bay, Santa Maria is not the easiest place to get to. By car it is a 6 hour drive from Maputo through Catembe. The road requires a 4×4 and you need to take your own petrol and a supply of food which will last your trip and stay. Travelling by car would only be advisable to groups who have a longer period of time at their disposal and would enjoy travelling through the soft sandy roads of the game reserve. The journey can be broken up by spending a night within the boundaries of the reserve and then continuing on to Santa Maria.

The second, and faster, option is travelling by boat. You could get the ferry  or Vodacom boat to Inhaca Island and from there you can organise a boat ride which will take you across to the peninsula. Alternatively you can ask your accommodation providers to arrange a transfer from Inhaca, some even arrange transport direct from Maputo, although this usually more costly.

Santa Maria offers accommodation to suit every budget but most are strictly self-catering, the Santa Maria Village is 3km inland and if you run out, you can get most necessities there, but the option of eating out is limited. Most accommodation provides all the basics, such as kitchen equipment, bedding and towels and you can of course always catch and eat your own fish on your stay!

Some self catering places to stay are:

Nhonguane Lodge (www.nhonguanelodge.co.z)
Nhoxani Lodge (http://www.nhoxani.com)

Camp Carlos (http://www.campcarlos.co.za)

 

If self catering is not your thing, you can opt for the more luxurious Machangulo Beachlodge, where you can pamper yourself with five star dining and even spa treatments (http://www.machangulobeachlodge.com)

KUGOMA Short-Film Festival – focus on the environment

From Thursday 9 until Sunday 12 July the city of Maputo hosts the 6th Edition of the Short Film Forum KUGOMA, The main theme this year is the preservation of the environment, with most films documenting issues related to conservation. The theme of this year’s festival is extremely relevant, as Mozambique, and many of its neighbours, are combating illegal poaching and other threats on the amazing natural beauty the country has to offer.

The sessions take place at the Franco-Mozambican Cultural Center (CCFM) and start with the showing of the film “Jonah”, by the filmmaker Kibwe Tavares. “Jonah” is a short film that reflects on the effects of tourism in Zanzibar, Tanzania, from an economic and environmental perspective. It’s a narrative that tells the story of the friendship between Mbwana and Juma, who dream of being professional photographers.

During the three days the festival will present films from countries such as South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, United States of America, England and Russia. The short films “Second Wind”, “Robots of Brixton”, “Sumer” and “Chuppan Chupai” are just a few examples of productions that can be seen in the country’s capital. Many of these films have a science fiction theme, a genre that is not always associated with African cinema. However, many directors of the new generation, Africans and people of African decent, are seduced by this genre and have written and performed short films of a special beauty. In these films Kugoma has found, almost always, a direct relationship with pro-environment discourse, focusing on both individual as well as collective accountability.

Parallel to the main programme the festival organises debates, concerts and exhibitions.

The event will also show a set of animations and African films in the series ‘Collective Conscience’, focusing on the younger audience. These films aim to discuss some concepts related to climate change, which children often hear about, but not always in a form adapted to their age.

Find yourself in Maputo? Check out this event!

For more information: http://kugomashortfilms.wix.com/kugoma#!principal/c24vq

https://www.facebook.com/KugomaForumDeCinemaDeCurtaMetragem

 

Take advantage of Mozambique’s Natural Goodness

  

In much of Europe healthy living and natural products are more popular than ever. For the health and beauty conscious Mozambique has a lot to offer!

Business is attracted to Mozambique because of its natural resources and for tourism the country offers amazing biodiversity and breathtaking natural surroundings. However, the natural environment holds more than investment opportunities for business people and kodak moments for tourists: many plants can add to your health and beauty!

So when in Mozambique, take advantage of some of the best kept secrets in health and beauty treatments. A plant that has been used for generations, and is now also available in dried form in some tourist shops, is the Moringa tree. Moringa has been called a miracle plant and consuming it in any form is considered by many to do you a world of good. You can of course ask people to guide you to a tree near you and pick its leaves and dry them yourself. You could also go on a little shopping expedition and buy some of the ready -made products available. Dried Moringa leaves or powder can be used to make tea, sprinkle on food, or even for a steam facial! Moringa has a detoxifying effect which purifies water, balances hormones and generally beautifies all skin types! Additionally, you could create a facemask using powered Moringa leaves and boiled water.

The next plant to look out for is Aloe Vera. Its clear, jelly-like gel is approximately 99% water. Rich in vitamins A, C, E, B (just to name a few) Aloe also has detoxifying properties. It´s cooling effect can relieve burns, minor cuts, itches, rashes. If your skin is in need of an extra boos, use the gel straight from the plant to cover your face and skin then allow it to dry naturally.

Another product that is readily available is Coconuts. Coconut oil is one of the most hydrating substances in the world. After a relaxing sunbath, or an invigorating swim in the ocean, coconut oil or milk can replenish your skin and hair. Use it as an after-sun and your skin will not only stay silky smooth and avoid turning leathery but will also feel soothed and replenished if it is burnt. Additionally, use coconut milk to rinse off a facemask or body scrub and lock in the benefits of your chosen product. Coconuts are also full of antioxidants with additional antifungal properties and the health benefits of coconut oil are said to include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism. Besides using coconut oil for your hair and skin, you can of course also eat coconut, or use the oil in cooking. In Mozambique many of the traditional dishes (such as Matapa, a delicious mix of crushed cassava leaves with peanuts and coconut, and Zambezi Chicken, chicken with coconut and lemon) are made with coconut. So dig in, it’s good for you!

 

Horses and Canoes: Safaris with a Difference in Vilankulo

The town of Vilankulo, and even more so the Bazaruto Archipelago is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Mozambique. Many tourists are attracted to the unbelievable azure blue waters, amazing diving opportunities and white sandy beaches that go on for miles.

Although diving and snorkeling is spectacular and a definite must when in the area, there are two other unique activities that should be on everyone’s bucket list: go on a Mozambique Horse Safari and join Vilanculos Canoe Trail for an unforgettable, eco-friendly tour through nature.

Mozambique Horse Safaris is a story unto itself, having been established in 2006 with 2004 horses rescued from Zimbabwe’s land invasions by husband and wife Robert and Amanda Retzlaff. Their amazing story can be read in Amanda’s best-selling autobiography ‘One Hundred and Four Horses’. Their unbelievable journey started in 2001 when they were victims of the trashing and looting of farms in Zimbabwe. As the land invasions spread, thousands of horses were abandoned on the farms, or destroyed. The Retzlaffs moved from one leased farm to another as the land invasions intensified, taking on horses along the way. Eventually they took the horses across the border to Mozambique, where in an awe inspiring, resilient move they set up Mozambique Horse Safaris.

Mozambique Horse Safari organizes custom-made horseback riding holiday safaris and daytime trail rides along the untouched Vilanculos coast, taking you on the ride of a lifetime on wide, deserted beaches. They also have horses on Benguerra Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago.

Clients are usually based on the outskirts of Vilankulo, at Archipelago Lodge. This self-catering lodge is located on the beach and offers 18 chalets, all with a stunning view of the Indian Ocean. Should you want to change or upgrade to luxury accommodation, this can also be arranged.

In addition to discovering one of the most beautiful coastal areas in Mozambique on horseback, you can add to your experience by going joining Vilanculos Canoe Trails on one of their amazing tours on the Govuro Spring River, about 25 km out of the town of Vilankulo. Get into one of their traditional two man Canadian Canoes and enjoy the crystal clear waters, great birdlife and amazing flora and fauna all around.

Whichever way of transport you chose, racing down a sandy dune on a gorgeous steed or drifting along with the current of the river, you’re sure to have the adventure of a lifetime!

For more information: http://www.mozambiquehorsesafari.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VilanculosCanoeTrails

Fishing, Walking Trails and a Bit of Culture at Cahora Bassa

Last week did not just see the celebration of 40 years of Independence, but also the 40th anniversary of Cahora Bassa, or Hidroelectrica De Cahora Bassa (HCB), in Tete Province, which celebrated its joint establishment by Portugal and Mozambique on June 23, 1975, a direct result of the Lusaka Accords, signed on September 7, 1974, and the independence of Mozambique on June 25, 1975.

The hydroelectric dam remained in joined Mozambican/Portuguese ownership until 2007, when Mozambique gained complete control, an event described by the then head of the Mozambican state, Armando Guebuza, as the “second independence of Mozambique.”

The Dam was originally built to store water and control flooding but was later extended to include a hydroelectric power station. The Cahora Bassa system is the largest hydroelectric scheme in southern Africa, and as such hugely important to the economy of Mozambique. However, in addition to the power supply, the dam has also created the fourth largest artificial lake in Africa, providing ample possibility for tourism.

Cahora Bassa is located about 150km northwest of Tete, with the closest town being Songo. This town, located in the cool, breezy highlands south of the dam, was purpose-built in the style of a Portuguese village while the dam was under construction. Songo is one of the prettiest towns in Mozambique and it is set in beautiful surroundings that are great for walking.  Another attraction, and a must see when in the area, comes in the form of two captivating monuments: Reversão and Sandwana, crafted by Tete-born artist Naguib Elias (www.naguib.co) in 2012. These jaw-dropping mosaics, each approaching 2ha in size, were commissioned by Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) to commemorate Mozambique taking ownership of Portugal’s last remaining stake in the Cahora Bassa Dam.

Songo is well worth visiting in its own right and offers a few accommodation options. Most people though will choose to stay on the lake shore. The lake is especially known for good Tiger fishing, but also vundo, bream and other species are available. Other activities include day trips to the gorge of the lake to see the dam wall, a trip to a local crocodile farm or walking trails in the area. The region is perfect for Bird Watching and Hippos, Crocodiles, Otters, Kudu and Impala can sometimes be spotted from the bank or off boats.

A good spot for fishing, located in a peninsula at the end of the Gorge and close to the main fishing spots, is Moringa Bay Lodge (http://www.moringabaylodge.com) . The lodge is a family run enterprise, boasting 6 Chalets and 7 Rondavels, all situated within beautifully manicured lawns and surroundings. They have a bar/restaurant and horizon swimming pool overlooking the lake.

Another well -known option is Ugezi Tiger Lodge (http://www.ugezitigerlodge.com), situated against the picturesque slopes of the mountains. Ugezi offers accommodation in air-conditioned chalets with en suite bathrooms, a restaurant and well stocked bar.

 

25 June: 40 years of Independence!

This Thursday, 25 June, sees the celebration of 40 years of independence in Mozambique.

On June 25 1975 Independence was declared, after a ten year ware between the guerrilla forces of the Mozambique Liberation Front or FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique), and Portugal. The war officially started on September 25, 1964, and ended with a ceasefire on September 8, 1974, resulting in a negotiated independence in 1975.

The official celebrations of the now 40 years of Independence started on 7 April, when the “Chama da Unidade”, a torch with eternal flame symbolizing Unity in Mozambique, was lit by President Filipe Nyusi. The torch started in Namatile in Cabo Delgado, and has since made its way down to Maputo.

Public Holidays as such in Mozambique are not necessarily big public celebrations. It seems that often the population prefers to use the free days to hang out at home or visit family. Even for 40 years of independence it is doubtful you’ll just happen upon celebrations in the street. However, 40 years of Independence is not a small matter, so if you want to join in the festivities where should you go?

The day will start in Maputo with the traditional laying of wreaths at Heroes Square (Praça dos Heróis). As this year is special (40 years), the festivities will then continue in Machava Stadium, where in 1975 Samora Machel proclaimed independence. The stadium has undergone a major rehabilitation for the occasion and is in itself worth a visit. The official programme will start in the morning with prayers, military parades etc. The festivities will finish with a mega show, filled with many of the countries big artists, planned to go on till the early hours of Friday 26 June. If you want to go, admission is free! (but be prepared for crowds and possibly rowdy situations as the night progresses).

More interested in the history of the country than in parades and music stars? Visit the exhibition ‘Independence – Historical Images’ at the Brazil-Mozambique Cultural Centre (CCBM) in Maputo, in coordination with the Historical Archives of Mozambique. The exhibition was opened on June 22, at 18h00m and is open until July 20. It displays more than 40 photos and posters depicting the period during which the country achieved its political autonomy, including historical images of the founder and first leader of the Mozambique Liberation Front, Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, and the first President of independent Mozambique, Samora Moises Machel. (Opening hours Mon-Sat 8h-18h, for more information https://www.facebook.com/CentroCulturalBrasilMocambique)

In addition to the official celebrations on the day itself, the whole month of July will see events  dedicated to the Independence.  An exciting example is the Triathlon in Bilene, being held on 4 July (no connection to that other big Independence Day). The Triathlon is being organized for the very first time, and is part of the celebrations of independence. (For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bilene-Mozambique-Triathlon-2015)

Mozambique’s Marvelous Marine Turtles

There seems to be no end to the amazing wild life Mozambique has on offer. Last week, 16 June, saw the World Marine Turtle Day; no less than five of the seven global species of marine turtles are found in Mozambique, with its largely unexplored and unspoilt beaches providing the perfect environment for sea turtles to lay their eggs.

As with many of the other remarkable animals in the country all five species of turtles in Mozambique are threatened and listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered worldwide. Unfortunately, despite having been legally protected since 1965, poaching is an increasing threat. All the more reason to promote responsible tourism to see, protect and raise awareness about these incredible creatures.

The species to be found in Mozambique are:

  • Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)
  • Green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
  • Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea)

These five species are an impressive example of co-existence, as they do not compete for food or space, but live harmoniously alongside each other.

During the nesting season, the female sea turtles emerge from the waves after the setting of the sun and crawl up the beach to dig holes for her eggs. While laying the eggs they are in an almost trans-like state and very vulnerable. When the laying is finished, they cover the eggs with sand and then make their way back to the sea.

After 55 – 65 days the hatchlings will cut out of the eggs and make their way to the surface and down to the sea.  As they try to reach the water, many fall prey to ghost crabs, sea birds and even jackals. Predation on the hatchlings during their first few months of life is intense and it has been estimated that only 1 or 2 hatchlings from every thousand that enters the sea will reach maturity. The baby sea turtles that survive the journey will continue to grow and drift in the Indian Ocean for the next three years, often to be found floating in seaweed beds., feeding on small organisms.

After taking to the water, males do not return to shore. Incredibly, once mature, the females return to nest on the same beach where they were born, although those beaches may be several hundreds or even thousands kilometers from their feeding sites.

Turtle Season

Sea turtles can regularly be seen in the Mozambique Channel, but nesting usually takes place in the last few months of the year continuing into the New Year. Peak nesting season quite often falls in March. If you want to witness nesting or hatching, always enquire about the probability of seeing these events when booking your Mozambique holiday so you don’t arrive out of season.

The north coast is an important feeding and nesting ground for the Green and Hawksbill turtles (also sometimes for the Olive Ridley) from the Rovuma River down to Pebane (including the Quirimbas, Segunda and Pimeiras Islands). The nesting season tends to start earlier than further south and differs slightly from area to area. Nesting has been recorded in the past from June to November, but more commonly now from about October continuing through to April, especially in the Quirimbas Archipelago.

The central coast from Pebane to Bazaruto Island is frequented by Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green turtles. Many rivers run into the sea along this stretch and the coastline is muddy and shallow in places – which is not ideal for nesting. Loggerheads mainly nest here between October and February.

The southern coast from Bazaruto Island to Ponto do Ouro is favoured by Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles. Nesting in the Bazaruto Archipelago occurs from October to March and from November to March down the coast towards the South African border – top spots include Calanga, Ponta Malongane, Ponta Mamoli and Ponto do Ouro.

Observing turtles and especially the nesting process is a wonderful and unforgettable experience, but conservation comes first; for example, it is very important the turtles are not disturbed with bright lights and noise when nesting! So, as always when watching wildlife: enjoy, but do it responsibly!

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