Driving Mozambique: a rough guide

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Gorongosa National Park. Credit Piotr Naskrecki

Gorongosa National Park. Credit Piotr Naskrecki

To conclude his blog from his road trip, Niel Crafford reveals some useful tips and advice if you’re planning an adventure in Mozambique

Having visited all the conservation areas (except the Marromeu Game Reserve) in Mozambique and driven the full length of the coast, we would like to share the following recommendations on where to stay (in no particular order) and what to pack:

Inland

Limpopo National Park, bordering Kruger is very scenic, especially along the Shingwedzi river. Transfrontier Parks Destinations [www.tfpd.co.za] operates Machampane Tented Lodge [http://www.dolimpopo.com/machampane-wilderness-camp] and offers many activities as well. There are campsites at the Massingir Dam and at Mapai along the Limpopo River.

Gorongoza National Park [www.gorongosa.org] is a must. Stay at Girassol Gorongosa Lodge & Safari [www.girassolhoteis.co.mz].

To read more about Gorongosa National Park, visit https://travelafricamag.com/go-to-gorongosa/

 

The Niassa Reserve is wild, undeveloped and wonderful, but does not offer visitors many accommodation options. In fact, apart from the campsite near the park headquarters, to the best of my knowledge, Lugenda Wilderness Camp [www.lugenda.com] is the only operational lodge in the Park.

In the south, the Maputo Special Reserve is an absolute gem, with inland lakes full of hippos, crocs and birds. A new lodge at Ponta Chemucane can be booked through TripAdvisor, and there is talk about two further lodges being developed at Ponta Milibangalala and Ponta Dobela.

 

Coast

The Quirimbas Archipelago, Ilha de Moçambique and the Bazaruto Archipelago can compete with the best in the business. We stayed at Ibo Island Lodge [www.iboisland.com] but there are other options, such as Mitimiwiri [www.mitimiwiri.com]. Rani Resorts closed down its lodge on Matemo, but the Anantara’s Medjumbe Island Lodge [http://medjumbe.anantara.com] is operational, as is the lodge on Vamizi Island [http://www.vamizi.com/].

There are many options on Ilha de Moçambique, although unfortunately no camping is allowed. We stayed at O’Escondidinho [http://www.oescondidinho.net/index_us.php], a renovated, old double-storey building with high ceilings, air conditioning (in some rooms) and a lovely courtyard with a swimming pool.

On this trip, we did not cross to the Bazaruto Archipelago due to time constraints, but stayed in Vilanculos. We’d recommend the Hotel Dona Ana [http://www.thehoteldonaana.com]. As mentioned in our blogs, the Mozambique most people know starts south of here. Pomene National Reserve is one of the most pristine coastal and mangrove areas along the coast, with Pomene Lodge [http://www.barraresorts.com/pomene-lodge] offering both camping, bungalows and a restaurant.

Well-known Inhambane, Bara and Tofo have many accommodation options. We sped past all of them on our way to Bilene. The closest beach spots to Maputo can be found at Macaneta, where one needs to board the ferry at Marracuene to cross the Nkomati River.

 

What to pack

As all campers know, the list of items to take with is endless. So where do we start? I will leave out the obvious 100 or so items and only list the ones that we agreed on are vital for survival in Mozambique:

  • A phrase book A basic understanding of the Portuguese language will be a huge advantage. Especially in the remote areas, where English has never been heard before – although be warned, in some regions even Portuguese is not understood. I downloaded a Babbel language course (highly recommended) but did not spend enough time on it, so found the BBC’s Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary
  • A compressor Driving on sand tracks requires low tyre pressures but as soon as you get back on the tar, you need to re-inflate your tyres. If you don’t, the vehicle will be swaying on balloon tyres and the tyres will overheat, which can cause long-term damage to your expensive rubber. Note, filling stations in Mozambique seem to be unable to inflate tyres; you need to find a tyre workshop to do so.
  • Extra fuel Although the government has been building a lot of new filling stations recently (called Funae, a subdivision of Petromoc, the government-owned fuel company), they are often out of fuel. Having an extra jerry can or two of fuel will make it possible for you to carry on to your next destination, instead of having to wait for the fuel truck. Many filling stations (Galp, Petromoc, Total) accept credit cards (VISA, not Mastercard) in larger towns but you need cash in the outlying areas.
  • Cash Mozambique might be lagging in some areas but they have an admirable ATM network in operation. We found BCI to be most widely available, but FNB, Standard Bank and Millennium also have a large footprint. BCI (and FNB, if I remember correctly) needs six digits before you can access your account. My Investec Bank PIN only has four – so many a hot hour was spent in front of ATM’s refusing me money until I learnt the trick – just type in one or two zeros after your PIN number and the machine will be happy! Also, in smaller towns, the machine is loath to give you Mts5000 at one go (the daily limit in Mozambique) but if you punch in 3000 and then 2000, you get your money!
  • A stamped passport and a TIP On a long trip you need to get your passport stamped after 30 days. I had a letter from the High Commission in Pretoria (and an expensive 90-day business visa), which requested any inland Immigration officer to stamp our passports, but the official in Beira was not impressed. Maybe a good thing after all, because the other issue you face in Mozambique (if you are a self-drive visitor) is the TIP – Temporary Import Permit – for your vehicle. This document is only valid for 30 days and can only be re-issued at border posts; no inland procedures for renewal are in place.
  • Patience You’ll need lots of it, especially when driving on the main roads. There are towns or villages every so often, with the speed limit being reduced to 80km and then 60km per hour. Quite often, the authorities forget to put up the boards informing you that you are now out of the village and, if you are law-abiding, you might drive on at 60km per hour for a long time. Worse, you might think you are out of the zone and start picking up speed; be assured, that is where you will be flagged down and asked to pay a fine, which can take up to 30 minutes to be written up. The government is trying hard to reduce corruption, and speed fines not issued properly (no official notice, normally at half the amount) is one of the most common problems.

 

To read more of Niel Crafford’s ‘Driving Mozambique’ blogs, click here: https://travelafricamag.com/category/blogs/driving-mozambique/

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