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After many years of conflict, happily now resolved, Mozambique has regained its former reputation as an international playground on Africa’s Indian Ocean coast – and the resurgent tourist mecca shares some exciting trans-border holiday routes with South Africa.
The capital city, Maputo (once known as Lourenco Marques under Portuguese colonial rule), lies at the heart of the Mozambique-South Africa trans-border route. You can still feel and see the Portuguese colonial culture in its architecture, second language and food.
It is famous for its nightlife – which includes salsa dancing and prawn dinners – and has been nicknamed the ‘Havana of southern Africa’. The old hotels of Maputo have prevailed throughout decades of civil war, and following the cessation of hostilities, many have been revamped – everyone wants to go to Mozambique these days.
Mozambique-South Africa trans-border access is possible through 3 entry ports.
You can enter through the Kosi Bay border post from northern KwaZulu-Natal. Within an hour, you will be at the famous dive resorts of Ponta Do Ouro and Ponta Malongane, where sharks, dolphins and manta rays are your swimming companions in the clear Indian Ocean waters.
In South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, the Mozambique trans-border experience begins at Mbombela (previously named Nelspruit). This is a fast-track drive into Maputo – but don’t be in a hurry to leave Mbombela, before you’ve enjoyed the surrounding Lowveld landscape and wildlife; so different to that found on the Highveld that covers much of South Africa’s interior.
Then you can take the N4 to the Komatipoort border gate and continue along that road to Maputo. Whichever way you come in, be sure to give yourself a few days in the capital, to experience all it has to offer. When you’re sated with Maputo, you can explore experiences up and down the coast.
These include all manner of resorts and atmospheric little beach bars, but the true Mozambique mood comes over you up north – on Vilanculos and its satellite islands. This is where you start feeling deliciously isolated and go into desert-island mode. Just watching a fisher family go about their work with nets is an afternoon well spent.
Another destination on the trans-border routes that opened recently is Pemba Village, in the far north of Mozambique. Top-end hotels have been built here, combining luxury with the idyllic landscapes and seascapes of the East African coast.
The other Mozambique-South Africa trans-border adventure to consider, for those who prefer inland flora and fauna to the seaside, is in fact a 3-nation collaboration: the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which includes the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Phone: +27 (0)82 394 5885
How to get here
You can fly directly to Maputo, but if you’re taking a trans-border tour it makes more sense to travel by car, either via the Giriyondo border post in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, or at the other crossings mentioned.
Best time to visit
Summer can be extremely hot and humid, and the monsoons that arrive then can bring severe storms into late autumn, so perhaps opt for winter or spring (June to November), when the weather is much more pleasant. This close to the tropics, winters at the coast are positively balmy.
Around the area
If you have the time, don’t miss the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The Mozambican side offers some incredible bush and wildlife experiences.
Your own transport would be the best option, but if you’re planning on going off-road to the beach, a 4x4 (4-wheel drive) is a necessity.
Length of stay
Set aside at least a week to even begin to explore South Africa’s fascinating neighbour.
What to pack
You’ll need your passport, visa and all vehicle registration papers if you are crossing the border by car. And don’t forget a hat and sunscreen, snorkel and fins and foreign currency.
Where to stay
There are a variety of options on both sides of the border, from budget B&Bs to luxury guesthouses and hotels. Consult the listed websites.
What to eat
Peri-peri prawns and peri-peri chicken are delicious Mozambican specialities. And ask about fresh fish; the dorado is particularly good. They also make a popular local drink called ‘R&R’ – rum and raspberry – using Tipo Tinto Mozambican rum.
Mozambicans create stunning wooden craft items for sale along the roadside. These include imitation off-road vehicles, carved fish, carved dolphins and much more to tempt the traveller.