Top 8 Things to Do in Mozambique

Silhouette Of Women Carrying Buckets On Their Head Through Square In Front Of The Chapel Of Sao Paulo,Ilha De Mocambique,Mozambique.

Ian Cumming / Getty Images

For many years, Mozambique’s international reputation was marred by civil war and natural disaster. Now, nearly a quarter of a century after the end of its most notorious conflict, the country is emerging as one of Southern Africa’s most rewarding tourism destinations, full of remarkably untouched wilderness areas ranging from lush game reserves to sun-drenched tropical islands. Its capital, Maputo, is a cosmopolitan city defined by its European architecture and diverse residents, while cuisine all over the country is influenced in part by Mozambique’s Portuguese heritage. Here are eight of the best ways to spend your time there.  

01 of 08

Learn About Mozambican History and Culture on a Tour

A marketplace in Maputo, Mozambique

Tours Maputo

The capital city of Maputo is a great place to get started on a trip to Mozambique, especially since there are many guided tours and day trips available to help you get a sense of the country's vibrant African culture.

Tours Maputo offers guided trips in English and Portuguese. Its Maputo City Tour focuses on the downtown area, while the Mafalala Bairro Culture Tour takes guests through historic alleyways and local neighborhoods—it's similar to what a tour of Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa, would be like in that you're visiting a living suburb and seeing how residents live their day-to-day lives. It also happens to be in a part of the city that many of Mozambique's artists, politicians and sports legends hail from.

Another company, Dana Tours, offers guided tours highlighting Maputo's art and culture, including stops at the popular Mozambican painter and poet Malangatana Ngwenya's former home, the Ntsindya Cultural Center, Xipamanine Market, and local artist Walter Zand's house. Other available tours focus on Mozambican food and offer a deep diver into neighborhoods like Mafalala and the historic downtown, Baixa de Maputo.

Maputo, Mozambique
Phone +258 86 697 0280
02 of 08

Discover the Country's Colonial Past

Mozambique, Quirimbas archipelago, Ibo island, a former Arabic and Portuguese trading centre on the sea-route to India, the fort Sao Joao Baptista

Guiziou Franck / Getty Images

Mozambique’s history is as fascinating as it is tumultuous. From approximately 1500 to 1975, the country was a Portuguese colony; for several centuries before that, it was frequented by traders from Arabia, India, China, and beyond, all while being home to the San, Khoisani, and other Bantu-speaking Indigenous peoples thought to have arrived in the area between the first and fifth centuries.

Each of these cultures have left their mark on Mozambique, especially on Ilha de Moçambique, an island connected by a bridge to the country’s north coast. The island served as the capital of Portuguese East Africa until 1898. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for the importance of its historic architecture. Notable buildings include Fort São Sebastião, built in 1558, and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, which was completed in 1522 and is now considered to be the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere.

In the Quirimbas Archipelago, Ibo Island also offers the opportunity to explore crumbling mosques, churches, forts, and cemeteries. 

03 of 08

Learn to Scuba Dive

Whale shark off the coast of Mozambique

James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

For many visitors, Mozambique is all about the ocean, especially since its coastline stretches for an astonishing 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers). If you have an interest in exploring what's beneath the waves, it’s also a great place to learn to scuba dive. Tofo Beach in Inhambane Province is known for its world-class scuba diving and offers a good choice of dive operators and training organizations.

Course prices are pretty reasonable, too, with entry level rates starting at $420 on average (compared to rates of more than $500 in the United States). The conditions here are generally excellent for beginners, with warm water temperatures—from72 to 82ºF or 22-28ºC—limited current, and good visibility.

The best reason to take the plunge at Tofo, however, is the marine life. The surrounding reefs are jewel-bright with colorful fish and corals, while the area is known worldwide for its resident populations of whale sharks and manta rays. Other scuba hotspots include the Quirimbas and Bazaruto archipelagos, Ponta do Ouro, and Guinjata Bay.

Tofo Beach, Mozambique
04 of 08

Go Island Hopping

A man in a bright red shirt driving a boat to an island

TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald

If you’re already a certified diver or have an interest in paradise island living, make a beeline for one of Mozambique’s offshore archipelagos. In the south, the Bazaruto Archipelago comprises six idyllic islands, while in the north, the Quirimbas Archipelago is a treasure trove of 32 islands. Areas of both are protected as Marine National Parks and the scenery is a catalogue of swaying palms and white-sand beaches painted in swathes across the turquoise sea.

Many of the islands and islets are uninhabited or provide temporary homes for nomadic fishermen. The channels between them are plied by traditional dhows and dugout canoes and the opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, and simply lazing on the beach are endless.

Both archipelagos offer a selection of luxury lodges tailor-made for an indulgent getaway, like Situ Island Resort in the Quirimbas or &Beyond Benguerra Lodge in Bazaruto. 

Quirimbas Islands, Mozambique
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05 of 08

Swim With Wild Dolphins and Try Deep Sea Fishing

Swimming with wild dolphins

Gang Song / EyeEm / Getty Images

Ponta do Ouro is known as one of the best places in the world for ethical dolphin encounters. Located in the southern part of the country near the South African border, it's home to a resident population of bottlenose dolphins. Local conservationists have been studying and working alongside them for two decades, slowly habituating them so people are able to interact with them safely in their natural environment. Several companies offer dolphin tours but the original is operated through the Dolphin Encountours Research Center.

This operator follows a strict code of conduct that keeps the experience positive for the dolphins, while using money from the tours to fund ongoing research and conservation work. You can sign up for a one-off snorkeling tour or increase your chances of success with a three-day launch package. Because the dolphins are wild, there are no guarantees, but if you do get to swim alongside them, it's an experience you will never forget. Other possible sightings include spinner, spotted, and humpback dolphins and humpback whales in season.

With the Mozambique Channel offering perfect conditions for bucket list species including sailfish, marlin, tuna, and dorado, the country is a deep sea fisherman’s paradise. The water is warm, while dramatic underwater topography creates the nutrient-rich upwellings to which hunting pelagics are irresistibly drawn.

While some of the best places to fish are in the Quirimbas and Bazaruto archipelagos, the legendary status of St. Lazarus Banks is hard to beat. Located approximately 55 miles (90 kilometers) offshore, the banks can only be reached by charter boat, usually on a multi-day liveaboard trip. Strong currents and plentiful food attract trophy-sized fish ranging from giant trevallies to dogtooth tuna, with the peak season running from August to the end of April. Be sure to choose a charter with a catch and release policy, as Mozambique (like most coastal countries) is becoming increasingly affected by overfishing. 

Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique
06 of 08

Sample Mozambican Cuisine

Local seafood dish, Ibo island, Quirimbas Islands, Mozambique

Frederic Courbet / Getty Images

Mozambique’s plentiful coastline is also the inspiration for its national cuisine, with seafood featuring prominently on menus around the country. Whether you dine at a five-star resort or a roadside shack, you’ll have the opportunity to sample fish, calamari, and octopus, while prawns are the most iconic Mozambican dish along with galinha asada or barbecued chicken. Both are often marinaded in piri-piri sauce, Mozambique’s most famous export. Other key ingredients include coconut, cassava, and cashews.

Portuguese influences are evident in many dishes, including rissóis de camarão (shrimp-filled croquettes) and dobrada (a tripe stew served with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and chillies). Whatever you go for, don’t miss out on paõ, a Portuguese-style bread roll best bought fresh from early morning markets. Mozambique's top beer brands are 2M and Laurentina, while local tipo tinto rum is best paired with raspberry in a drink known as R&R.

07 of 08

Look for Exotic Wildlife

Gorongosa National Park, Sofala, Mozambique, Africa, East Africa

Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Getty Images

While most safari enthusiasts head south to South Africa or north to Tanzania and Kenya, Mozambique is also home to its fair share of impressive reserves. The jewel in the country’s wildlife crown is Gorongosa National Park, a reserve that has recovered admirably after the poaching epidemic brought on by civil war. Located at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley, the park’s floodplains are now a haven for lion, elephant, hippo, and antelope.

Also in the north of the country is Marromeu National Park, a coastal reserve that harbors the highest density of waterbirds in Mozambique, including rarities like the African skimmer and the wattled crane. In the south, Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park connects several of the greatest wildlife areas in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, creating a super-park measuring 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers).

5FMW+F9J, Goinha, Mozambique
Phone +258 82 308 2252
08 of 08

Explore Lake Niassa

The Top 7 Things to Do in Mozambique

Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Getty Images

In the northwestern part of the country, Lake Niassa—or Lake Malawi as it’s known by the rest of the world)—spans Mozambique's borders with Tanzania and Malawi. It’s the ninth largest lake in the world and supports more fish species than any other lake on Earth. Of these, the most famous are the cichlids, colorful freshwater fish with an astonishingly high rate of endemism.

Christened the "Lake of Stars" by explorer David Livingstone, the Mozambican section of Lake Niassa is unspoiled and remote. Adjacent Niassa Game Reserve is home to abundant wildlife, including more than 10,000 elephants and the critically endangered African wild dog. It’s also a sanctuary for endemic ungulates including the Boehm’s zebra, the Johnston’s impala, and the Niassa wildebeest. Luxury lodges like Mbuna Bay Lodge and Nkwichi Lodge invite travelers to experience the best of the lake through a range of water-based activities.

Lake Malawi
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Top 8 Things to Do in Mozambique