Driving Mozambique

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You may not have thought of Mozambique as a classic road trip destination. But it has a lot to offer the adventurous traveller. Niel Crafford is driving the length of Mozambique in a 4WD. We’ll be publishing extracts and photographs from his blog and tales from his trip.

Niel CraffordElize and I are about to depart on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to visit all the conservation areas in Mozambique. We’ll be travelling the full length of the coast from Palma in the north to Ponta do Ouro in the south.

Having worked in the country since the early nineties and been to a number of places during that time, seeing the whole of Mozambique has been a dream of mine for many years now. I recall walking into the Polana Serena Hotel in Maputo in June 1990, at the invitation of the Karos Hotel group who wanted me to go and take a look at the little place on Inhaca Island. They had just been given back the management of this grande dame by the Mozambique Government. On the wall of the foyer was a three-metre-high map of the whole of Africa, beautifully laid out with colourful mosaic tiles. There was only one thing wrong with the map: there was no South Africa. We weren’t much loved in those days; fortunately, things have changed and South Africans are once more welcomed with open arms.

We will be travelling in a 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser pickup, converted into a camping vehicle. We have been to all eleven National Parks in Zimbabwe with it – twice! – on a previous assignment, when Crafford & Crafford Architects did a ‘Feasibility Study’ on how to upgrade the existing tourism facilities in all the national parks. 4AFRIKA, our 4WD, has also travelled extensively in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique. On a trip to the Gorongosa National Park in 2011, Elize and I met the Operations Director in the park and were appointed to design the EO Wilson Biodiversity Research Centre in Chitengo, Parque Nacional da Gorongosa.

When Craig Rix asked me to write a few blogs about my trip for Travel Africa, he said, “There are two elements to this that are of interest: the self-drive expedition and all the practicalities involved, quality of roads etc, and the state of Mozambique itself. I imagine that your environmental background would provide some really informed insight to the places you travel, not only in appreciating the beauty but recognising the quality of the habitat and the potential or threats therein. Quite how you balance these two elements I will leave up to you. I suspect your experiences will dictate your thoughts. There’s some obvious focal points: the national parks, the coast, islands, cultural attractions…” So these I will concentrate on.

The Counsellor: Culture and Tourism, in the Mozambique High Commission in Pretoria, Tome Muluana, has been extremely helpful in planning our trip. He also introduced me to Dr Bartolomeu Soto who heads up ANAC, the Mozambique conservation authority. Many thanks to both of these gentlemen, who informed all the park wardens about our mission and provided me with their contact details.

We hope to be able to post the next blog from Gorongosa. Until then…

If you are interested in following Elize and Niel’s progress, click on this link which will take you to the Tracks4Africa vehicle tracking site.

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