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Southern Mozambique

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The 2M beer is ice cold and I lazily watch the warm tropical air forms tiny droplets on the bottle. I am sitting under a coconut leaf roof on the veranda of a small restaurant in Coconut Bay in Southern Mozambique near Inhambane.

The warm tropical sun makes me yawn and I consider again how tough life in Africa really is.

I watch as a lone fisherman walks on the sugar-white beach, balancing a large barracuda on his head - food for his family or he will sell it on the Inhambane market. A cool breeze blows in over the turquoise sea and I savour the wild, fresh, briny smell.

I feel the tiredness of my shoulder muscles as I stretch lazily. Earlier that morning I made my first kayak fishing attempt. Rods and reels, sardine, various spinners and lots of paddling. The water was colder than usual because of a cold front coming in from Madagascar, but it was as clear as Perrier and as blue as my grandson’s Josh’s eyes.

Moments after I let my rigged sardine sink into the blue depths and started trolling, a monstrous fish jumped out of the water behind me and splashed into the water with a noise like a small thunderbolt.

Deciding that discretion was indeed the greater part of valor, I meekly reeled in my tempting sardine before I get towed to Australia on my unstable little craft.

My indefatigable friend Johan is an unrepentant fisherman and kept at it. Not long after, he let out a startled yelp and started a furious battle with a Dorado which he hauled out a bit later, the fish shining like a newly minted gold Kruger coin in the bright early morning sunlight.

Yep, life is good.

Isaac arrives with the freshly made rissois (a small, delicious Portuguese cake stuffed with crab and prawn) and battata fritta (french fries). He places it in front of me with a flourish.

"Peri-peri meester Meech?"

His open, honest face cracks with a wide, brilliantly white smile. He knows that the fiery peri-peri is never refused - feared and respected, but never refused. It is has been Mozambique’s national condiment for centuries.

My dive the previous day was spectacular. I prefer my large scuba tank which allows me to stay on the bottom long after the others are out of air. My cunning plan gives me more dive time and less waiting on the heaving boat - the appetizing smell of 2-stroke smoke never fails to induce a dedicated fish-feeding effort on my part.

Manta Reef is one of the top 10 diving sites in the world, and we dived the 30m reef with Ian and Kay of Centro de Mergulho. I hear just the sound of my breathing in my ears and experience the sensation of flying in the gin-clear water. The bewildering profusion of colour and shape, the astonishing variety of design and the perfect function and cooperation never cease to astonish. Any fool can see that this is design - evolution my white backside.

Mozambique is Southern Africa’s best kept secret. 2,800 Kilometers of spectacular beaches, clear, warm oceans, abundant marine life, friendly people and great food make this country unique.

Money

Mozambique’s currency is the metical (plural – meticais). All major towns have ATMs, often operated by Banco Internacional de Moçambique (BIM), and all accepting Visa, but not MasterCard.

You can change US dollars cash at most banks (though not at most BIM branches) without paying commission, and South African rands are widely accepted in southern Mozambique. Travellers cheques can be changed only at Standard Bank (minimum US$35 commission per transaction, original purchase receipt required

Visas

All visitors (except citizens of Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, & Zambia) need a visa, and while there are rumors that some borders and airports may issue them on arrival, don’t count on it and obtain a visa before arrival. At the South African land border (Lebombo/Ressano Garcia) you can choose the currency in which you want to pay for your visa, meticais being slightly cheaper than rand.

Apply for a visitor visa which will be valid for 90 days, before arriving costs $20 (single-entry) or $40 (double/multiple entry). A letter of invitation is required. A transit visa, valid 7 days, is also an option for travelers as only a visa for the final destination is required.

Stay healthy

Malarial prophylaxis is essential in all parts of Mozambique. Chloroquine/Paludrine are now as ineffective as in other parts of east Africa, and it’s worth going to see your doctor to get decent protection.

Get all your vaccine shots before arriving Medical facilities in Mozambique are now generally reasonably stocked, but it is always worth getting a range of vaccinations before you leave. Prevention is better than cure. It is worth considering carrying some clean needles if you are visiting out of the way areas, purely as remote medical facilities may have problems getting hold of them.

Mind what you eat. As common in most countries in the world, if you are concerned about the standards of hygiene in a place, don’t eat there.

Do not drink tap water or use any ice. If you are ever unsure about the quality of the tap water, water-purifying liquids (normally chlorine-based) are widely available and very cheap - normally much cheaper than buying bottled water, also consider bringing puritabs if you are planning on going well off the beaten track.

Private clinics. There are a few private health clinics in Maputo that will also arrange repatriation in emergencies. Clinica da Sommerschield (tel: 21 493924) Clinica Suedoise (tel: 21 492922).

Get there

Most international flights arrive from South Africa, although direct international routes also exist between Mozambique and Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and Portugal.

There are several flights daily from Johannesburg to Maputo, operated by South African Airways (SAA) and the Mozambican flag-carrier Linhas Aereas de Moçambique (LAM). These and other airlines such as Kenya Airways, Swazi Express Airways, TAP Portugal also fly from Durban, Swaziland, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Nairobi and Lisbon. In addition, local carrier Air Corridor may start operating one or more international routes soon.

There are also several flights during the week from Johannesburg, Dar Es Salaam, and Nairobi to Pemba in the North, operated by either South African Airlink (SAA) or LAM.

After checking in you need to get a tax stamp on your boarding card. For internal flights the tax is 200 Mts and for International flights 500 Mts to be paid in cash.

Language

The official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, though many people speak English in the capital Maputo and in tourist areas. The further north you travel the less likely you are to encounter English speakers, and as you enter more rural areas even Portuguese is limited.


• A River Sings •
• Central Kalahari •
• Southern Mozambique •
• Dignity in Flight •
• From Desert to Delta •
• Sudan white water •
• Ghosts of Marromeu •
• Gonarezhou •
• Mana Pools •
• Walkabout in Hwange •
• Okavango Delta Trip Report •
• Overland to Central Kafue Part 1 •
• Overland to Central Kafue Part 2 •
• Overland to Central Kafue Part 3 •


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