Our trip starts from Maputo, capital city, located in the far south of Mozambique, 80 km from the South African border.
Walking around the city center you can breath the exotic atmosphere that the city maintains, the last colonial abode inherited from Portuguese alternating with new commercial building, hotels, once majestic squares, timeless building and the cathedral recall Maputo’s antique splendour.
We mingle with people at the “Mercado Municipal”, a local covered market with long rows of stands trading exotics fruit and vegetables in little coloured pile, fresh and dry fish, bags overloaded with flour and rice, a wide range of spices with intense scents all around, coloured capulanas and pretty much anything else they can trade.
We stop in a historical Café in town for an espresso and “chá” (tea) dunking it in a traditional way with a “bolo” (cake). The coffee culture is one of the lovely things that Maputo inherit from the Portuguese along with “pão” ( bread) that can be found all around the country. Walking down the “Avenida Marginal”, we stop for dinner in a typical restaurant where you can try different fish dishes, seafood and clams in a Mozambican style.
We move on driving up north to “Vilankulo”, the gate of the Bazaruto Archipelago, some 700 km from Maputo. The Archipelago is compose of 5 main islands: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Banguè e Santa Carolina. The Archipelago was declared a National Park in 1971 by the then Portuguese administration in order to preserve the fragile ecosystem and to save the wonderful, unique nature. White endless beaches brushed by turquoise and crystalline waters; unexplored reef barriers inhabit by a wealth of tropical fish, turtle and other rare especies like the “Dugongo”, a marine mammal.
The coastline stretching from maputo to Vilankulo rewards its travelers with a glimpse of the African wild unexplored in a wonderful natural context. Strong colours leaves you breathless: the bright blue of the sky melting with the Indian ocean; the green vegetation and the palms; the red sand interchange with the white dune.
As we leave the chaotic suburbs of Maputo, the landscape becomes quiet and calm – we cross villages that seem to move in slow motion past the car windows. At the road side, rows of white plastic bags seem to dance at the wind’s rhythm announcing young Mozambicans selling “castanhitas” – a virtual invitation to take a break on our road trip.
We arrive in Xai-Xai, Gaza provincial capital, a favorite weekend destination for Mozambicans. Brushed from sea breeze, touched on the south by the Limpopo river, the place looks like an exciting busy town.
We keep moving to Inhambane, the EN1 national road flows between forests of cashew, mangos and papaya, divided by small villages with small houses adorned with either metal sheets or sisal roofs by the “machambas”- small subsistence farms cultivating mostly manioc and maize. Everywhere you look, people always seem to be smiling. Under the shadow of the big mango tree the elderly greet us while children play, shouting and running following car in an exciting rhythm – we realize that the true treasure of this country is its people. Every stop along the road, becomes a photo opportunity, an adventure, an unforgettable memory.
We keep driving passing through villages with curious names: Chidenguele, Quissico, Chissibuca – all of them welcoming us with a lively market and a hypnotising smell of food all around. We reach Inhambane province, the road side lined up with basketfuls of tangerine inebriating our sense, while the town itself privilege us with a spectacular African sunset.
The place is one of the first historic settlement on the coast, once dotted with blooming ports used by Arabs and Indians merchants ships sailing up and down to the East coast of Africa.
Thanks to its history and colonial architecture the city is considered one of the most fascinating cities in Mozambique, where African characteristics were forged with Arab and Portuguese influences .
As Vasco De Gama, the famous Portuguese explorer defined : “Terra de Boa Gente” (Land of good people), upon arriving in the XV century, impressed by the locals. Inhambane is also the way into wonderful beaches such as Tofo e Barra where bayswater meet the Indian Ocean.
Along the bay’s mangrove you will find the right place for birdwatching, while the beaches are ripped for perfect surf sessions and of course the special experience of swimming along the whale sharks – nature’s biggest fish, harmless for humans.
We take another break at the pleasant, relaxing grounds of the Lagoa Poelela Resort – a nature lovers gem, outside the mainstream of massive tourism, reserved for curious traveller.
The Resort is located on the eastern shore of Lake Poelela, from where it inherit its name, surrounded by extensive plantations of coconut palms, sliding into sandy roads between dunes and small rivers ending up in the Indian ocean.
A magical atmosphere of white sandy beach, surrounded by exotic vegetation, where countless species of bird organise to provide the perfect soundtrack for a passionate sunset.
The Resort offers two and four beds beachfront chalets, each with private bathroom, shower and hot water. All of the spacious and comfortable chalets are built with local indigenous materials respecting the surrounding nature and creating a sustainable mix of hospitality and local culture. The room decorations evoke typical African warm earth colours, resulting of the natural complement of the idyllic scenery of white sand and the lake turquoise waters. Sliding French doors with large windows give access to a lovely terrace with a picture perfect view of the lagoon.
The quiet of the lagoon invites you to enjoy the slow and sleepy rhythms marked by the African sun. The fine beach, the turquoise waters of the lake, the immense plantations of coconut palms in which hundreds of birds find refuge, the dives of the Kingfisher that catches its prey, lead away from the frenzy of the western rhythms.
As the sun falls into the lake, it makes way to an African nights lit by millions of stars and a shimmering moon, truly a remarkable experience..
Only a few kilometres separate Lagoa Poelela from the Indian ocean, the closest beach is Zavora, a paradise like place boasting a reef with a natural pools ripped for great snorkelling. Its also a great place for deep sea fishing and a great spot for diving with the many resident Manta Rays.
From April to October humpback whales populate this area and can even be spotted from the beach.
A walk to the light house reward us with perhaps the best photo of your trip – the panorama from the tower leaves us breathless as the power of the ocean brushes the sand and the wind shapes the dunes.
by Nunzio DeNigris