Central Maputo Moçambique

President Samora Moises Machel Independence Square

After a few days in Maputo, I wondered if a month would be too much time in Mozambique. I’ve felt like that about other places in my travels, only to shed a tear when it was time to leave. Maputo isn’t an easy city. There are challenges – sketchy public transportation and infrastructure, poor signage, a significant language barrier, and humid tropical weather. Adjusting is difficult, but Mozambique is worth the effort.

Our Lady of Conception Cathedral

It’s exciting to get out of your comfort zone and see life from another perspective. Still, it takes several days to acclimate and find your way around a new city. In a month, there’s time to get comfortable with the environment and dig deeper. Each day brings a better understanding of a new culture but getting around has been challenging. Most taxi drivers don’t speak English and communication is difficult. They can misunderstand your destination unless it’s a well-known place or you have a card with the printed address. Buses packed like sardines are potentially dangerous, not to mention learning the pickup and drop-off points.

Vista Portuguese Fort

Maputo Tour Groups and Guides

For the past few days, I’ve explored the city concentrating on major attractions in central Maputo. Different guides have taught me about local culture and history. Some have picked my brain about difficulties experienced as a tourist in Maputo.

Hair for Sale Central Market

One local group – Maputo a Pé – is knowledgeable and well-connected with local clubs and expat organizations like the French and American cultural centers and the Club of Mozambique. Their office is in the information center near the entrance to Tunduru Botanical Gardens. I’ve appreciated their help and plan to go on an “art safari” and barrio walks to learn more about Mozambique.

Relief of Portuguese Soldiers and King Ngungunhane

Walking on concrete pavement for extended periods of time takes its toll. To make it worse, Maputo’s pavement is a mass of cracked cement and people park their cars on the sidewalks. This forces pedestrians to walk in the street until they can divert to a safe, unobstructed walkway. I’m getting accustomed to this, but it’s dangerous. Reckless drivers have the right-of-way and disregard vulnerable pedestrians. The police don’t do much about the parking or bad driving…………………but I’m digressing…

Central Market

Central Market

One of my guides – Hendy Mario of Maputo Free Walking Tour – specializes in Maputo’s historical sites. Hendy is Mozambican. His wife is from Georgia USA. Hendy grew up on the Island of Mozambique, a remote fishing village on a “crescent-shaped coral island” in northern Mozambique. The island is noted for its mixture of European, Arabic, and Indian cultures. For centuries it was a Portuguese trading post on the route to India and considered the “capital and trading centre of Portuguese East Africa“.

Hendy Mozambique Free Walking Tour


“The entire Ilha de Mocambique is barely two miles long and a few hundred yards wide. It’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.”


Hendy’s tour was set up like those I enjoyed in Prague. You aren’t obliged to pay a set fee. Instead, you pay the guide what the tour was worth to you. I learned much from Hendy and thought my time was well spent.

Walkway Maputo Train Station

We walked the central area where he pointed out notable buildings and talked about their history. Many of them are described in Phillip Schauer’s book Maputo Architectural and Tourist Guidea valuable reference when the dull brain fails.

Portuguese Monument to the Great War

Hendy’s tours concentrate on major historical attractions, some I’d visited previously on my own. His narrative provided more insight and taught me about African ethnic culture in Mozambique – the subject of a separate blog post to follow soon. Despite ethnic and linguistic differences, “there is little conflict among the various groups”.

There are twelve major ethnic groups in Mozambique:

  1. Makua – largest ethnic group
  2. Sena
  3. Shona
  4. Tsonga / Shangaan
  5. Makonde
  6. Yao
  7. Swahili
  8. Tonga
  9. Chopi
  10. Ngoni
  11. Ndau
  12. European, South Asian, Chinese, Mestiço (mixed races)


“The greatest cultural disparities are those dividing the north from the south. Because they’re far from the capital and other urban centers, northern groups show less influence from the Portuguese.”


Central Maputo Attractions

Hendy and I met at Hotel Pestana Rovuma’s café near Independence Square, and our first stop was Nossa Senhorha da Conceicao (Our Lady of Conception). The beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral is a well-known landmark in Maputo with a tall single spire and stained-glass interior. Portuguese architect Marcial Simões de Freitas e Costa built the cathedral in 1944.

French Cultural Center

There was a large funeral gathering at the cathedral with government cars parked outside. I didn’t think it appropriate to walk inside but will return later to see the interior artwork and stained glass.

Across the street from the cathedral we visited City Hall, a French “Beau-Arts” building. The architects were Carlos Cesar do Santos, Franz Keindl, and Arnaldo Pacheco Pereira Leite. Completed in 1947, the words of the former President of the Portuguese Republic Americo Tomas – “Aqui e Portugal” (This is Portugal) – were inscribed on the building but removed after Mozambique’s independence.

Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque

An imposing Statue of Samora Machel – 30 ft. tall weighing 4.8 tons – dominates Independence Square. Machel was a follower of Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, the assassinated leader and founder of The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). During the 1960s, he spent time with Mondlane in Tanzania where FRELIMO was founded. Machel was Mozambique’s first President from 1975 to 1986. He died in an air crash in South Africa under suspicious circumstances. His statue was “designed and constructed in North Korea by the Mansudae Overseas Projects, an arm of the Mansudae Art Studio“.

Wooden Coffin of King Ngungunhane

King Ngungunhane

His widow, Graça Machel, later married South African President Nelson Mandela. She’s an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights. In 1997 she became a British dame for her humanitarian work and now lives in Maputo.


Graça Machel is the only woman in history to have been first lady of two separate republics, serving as the First Lady of Mozambique from 1975 to 1986 and the First Lady of South Africa from 1998 to 1999.


Built by the Portuguese, after Mozambique gained independence in 1975, the square’s name changed to Praça da Independência. Samora Machel’s statue replaced Portuguese cavalry officer Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque. Albuquerque’s statue was moved to the old fort with other remnants from the era of Portuguese rule.

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Mozambican Artists and Master Wood Carvers

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

We passed the Iron House near the botanical gardens and designed by an associate of Gustave Eiffel in the late 19th century. Intended to be the governor’s residence, the house’s metal-plated exterior was unsuitable for tropical weather. Inside there was a display of interesting pieces by local artists – all made from bullets and remnants of Mozambique’s civil war.

Avenida Buildings

I’ve visited Tunduru Botanical Gardens a few times to escape the heat and busy city streets. Trees and plants in the park are a magnificent haven. Hendy pointed out a colony of fruit bats that made the park their home. You can see them literally hanging in the trees.

On the way to the fort we passed interesting architecture including the Avenida Buildings which burnt down in 1990 and were never restored.  In a prime central location, they were constructed in the 1900s for Gerard Pott, a South African and Honorary Consul of Transvaal.

Graça Machel

Another interesting building that has seen better days is the TAP (Portuguese National Airline) or Montepio (Portuguese Savings Bank) building. There’s a colorful abstract mosaic painted on the façade. It’s had many uses and now is an apartment building.


We continued to restored Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicaothe Portuguese fort built it in the mid-19th century and surrounded by fragrant frangipani trees. The fort’s museum houses “remnants from the era of early Portuguese forays to the area”. The sealed, carved wooden coffin of King Ngungunhane – “final ruler of the famed kingdom of Gaza” – is on display in one of the side rooms.

Montepio Building

In another area of the museum, local Mozambican artists and master wood carvers crafted beautiful detailed wooden carvings. They depict scenes from Vasco da Gama’s arrival in 1498 and the Portuguese take over up until Mozambique’s independence in 1975. The hard-fought battle for independence was fierce and brutal. Africans fought on foot using primitive weapons, while the Portuguese had horses and guns!

Inside Maputo Train Station

We ended the tour at CFM Railway Station. The beautiful Victorian building was designed in 1920 by an associate of Gustave Eiffel. It has a wrought iron roof dome and marble pillars and is considered one the most beautiful train stations in the world.

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

A Monument to the Great War stands in front of the CFM station. It represents the “efforts of the Portuguese and Mozambicans in the World War I”. The statue is considered a Portuguese memorial “representing Portuguese sacrifices repelling the German invasion of northern Mozambique”. Portugal “conscripted thousands of Mozambican men to fight for the Allies”.  “More than 130,000 Mozambicans died in the war,” resulting in an uprising in 1917.

After Mozambique gained independence in 1975, the Minister of Transportation wanted to destroy the Monument, but the “multi-ton hunk of steel-reinforced concrete made that difficult”. Today it remains as a somewhat neglected monument to Mozambique’s “territorial integrity”.

Old Engine Central Train Station

“Legend states that the female figure in the Monument to the Great War honours a courageous woman who rid the area of a deadly cobra (rising up from her feet), which killed many people. The notorious creature met its match when plunging to its death into a boiling cauldron of porridge balanced on her head.”

Iron House

After visiting the station, I thought about taking the train from Maputo to Cape Town in March. When talking with several locals, I realized it would be a long, uncomfortable trip. With frequent stops, it could take up to 7+ days. I’ll fly instead.

Cine África

This central tour merely scratched the surface of the many interesting buildings in Maputo – each with its own unique story. Another favorite is Cine África on Avenida 24 de Julho. The beautiful Art Deco building was once a theatre that “disseminated films produced in Africa,” but it’s now closed.

Portuguese Fort Vista


“Inhaca Island reefs are among the most southerly in the world. Since 1976 parts of the island and surrounding waters are a marine reserve with over 300 different species of birds.”


Maputo Beach

Nature Reserves, Inhaca, Ponta do Ouro

Some of Mozambique’s nature reserves are closed from November through March for the rainy season. I’m planning a snorkeling trip to Inhaca island in Maputo Bay and perhaps Ponta do Ouro. Inhaca is a marine research center known for remarkable coral reefs. Ponta do Ouro is a popular area near the South African border. Getting to both locations can be complicated and involves ferries and booking in advance.

Heroes, Guedes, Police

Crafts Fair – Feira de Artesanato, Flôres e Gastronomia (FEIMA)

My guided tour is delayed until Monday, so yesterday I explored Maputo by foot again. It was overcast, ideal for walking. I learned that not much happens in Maputo on Saturday morning, especially when it’s a public holiday – February 3rd is National Heroes Day.

Pancho Guedes


“Heroes Day commemorates the lives of fallen soldiers who fought for the country’s independence, specifically Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane the assassinated leader of the Mozambican independence movement political party, “


Portuguese Colonial Residence

Saturday street traffic was light compared to during the week, and people were moving slowly. It’s my first Saturday in Maputo, and I’m still learning how things work. Just as I’d grown accustomed to hearing good morning in Afrikaans – goeiemore, Zulu – Sawubona, or Xhosa – mholo, now it’s bon dia, a Portuguese expression everyone recognizes!

Pancho Guedes Buildings with Concrete Relief

Pancho Guedes and Tropical Modern Architecture

I walked around Maputo’s crafts fair Feira de Artesanato, Flôres e Gastronomia (FEIMA), and then headed to an area known for tropical modern architecture. Pancho Guedes was among Portuguese artists, architects, and intellectuals stifled by dictator Salazar during the 1920s. He left Lisbon and emigrated to Maputo where the atmosphere was more liberal.

Most Mozambicans are friendly and helpful – sometimes teenage vendors are obnoxious. Their customs are rooted in local culture and passed down by generations. Song and dance are said to play an important part in local activities and ceremonies.

Tropical modern architecture was popular in Mozambique and Angola during the 1950s and 60s. In those days, there was no air conditioning, so houses were built to “adapt” to hot tropical conditions by using ledges, galleries, and pierced concrete screens”.  Elements of the style that “cool” include shaded stairways, covered walkways, and perforated walls.


I claim for architects the rights and liberties that painters and poets have held for so long. Pancho Guedes


Helen Lieros Frescoe

Frescoe Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Inside Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Ceiling Greek Orthodox Cathedral

I went inside the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gabriel. Zimbabwean artist Helen Lieros painted the colorful frescoes free of charge.

Hotel Polana Maputo

Police at the Presidential Complex

The walking tours in Phillip Schaueer’s book Maputo Architectural and Tourist Guide are well narrated, and I walked the route with it in hand. After an hour or so, I turned the corner and entered an area of government buildings along Avenida Julius Nyerere. At that point, the scene suddenly changed.

A man dressed in plain clothes approached and ordered, “Hand over your phone and come with me.” Startled, I said “NO, I don’t know you!” Then, things got tense. Suddenly a machine-gunned guard from the President’s Complex came across the street and started asking if I had taken any pictures. Again, I said no, and explained that I was photographing buildings along a nearby walking route and showed him a map of the route in Schauer’s book.

Still unconvinced and full of military machismo, he asked to see my camera which I supplied while continuing to explain that I was a tourist on a walking tour. He said “someone” along the route had reported me taking photos of the President’s Complex! That was creepy, as the streets were mostly vacant, and I had only seen a few guards in residential areas, none near the government complex.

The machine gun-toting guard spoke and understood English. I told him his gun was scaring me! He looked through the photos on my camera, finally seemed convinced of no foul, and said I could go. Flabbergasted, I walked away! As I continued, another official looking man eyed me as he passed walking in the opposite direction. I kept my head down and ignored him.

I remember reading that it wasn’t wise to photograph government buildings and didn’t do that. Nowhere did it say if you walked by the President’s Complex – albeit on the other side of the street – you might be approached by a guard carrying a machine gun!!! YIKES…. I also read that you must always carry your passport. If the police ask to see it and you don’t have it, you could be headed to jail. It’s puzzling that the guard who approached me never asked for identification or the address of where I was staying.

Maputo Waterfront

I usually don’t carry my passport on outings and didn’t have it with me. When walking around in a foreign country, I prefer leaving it locked in the hotel safe. If you lose your passport, you’re in trouble.

Suppose I could have been handcuffed and carted off to jail. Hopefully, they would have released me eventually, because there are no photos of the Presidential Complex on my camera! It was a scary experience. Maybe they thought I was a member of the  Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) will never know…. On the other hand, maybe the guard just wanted me to offer to pay him money – didn’t think of that.

With just cause, the Mozambican government seems to keep a very close eye on everything happening in Maputo!

Exploring Maputo

Avenida Armando Tivane

The travel day from Amanzimtoti to Maputo wasn’t quite bad enough to label “from hell,” but it was close. The small commuter flight was unremarkable, and passing Mozambique Immigration easy, but getting from Amanzimtoti to Durban’s King Shaka Airport was full of hiccups.

Travel Day Disasters

Havoc on the N2 – During the drive to the airport, traffic was slow and congested. A truck jackknife on the N2 blocked northbound movement, bringing everything to a standstill. Thought the delay would result in missing the flight to Maputo, but somehow, I squeaked by and made it on time.

Maputo Skyline

Excess Baggage AGAIN – There was a misunderstanding about the “checked” baggage allowance, ha – a misunderstanding explained as clearly my mistake ;( – not the airline’s! An efficient agent helped sort it. The commuter airline – SA Airlink Ltd. – is privately owned, not the same as South African Airways (SAA), and doesn’t share their baggage allowance limits. However, SAA handles their bookings, billing, and check-in. There has been much happening with SAA in recent months. They’re on and off being on the verge of bankruptcy, and were recently, bailed out by the South African Government.

Reluctantly paid $50 for a second bag, and that always angers me. Having flown on so many airlines this trip, I’ve become weary of being penalized for having two bags – reasonable for a long trip through multiple climates and countries. Booking a restrictive round-trip ticket isn’t for me. I like to leave things open and maintain options like changing the itinerary anytime and on the fly.

Fruit Vendor

Many European and African airlines heavily exploit baggage allowances – hope they get busted someday. If you’ve followed my blog posts, it’s a recurring theme. The $50 fee didn’t seem worth a fuss, but in the past, I’ve thrown a fit when asked to pay as much as $500+ in excess baggage fees for a second bag – shameless robbery!

Maputo Bay

Credit Card Problems – Received an email alert about an unknown charge, so I notified the credit card company – they freaked and immediately cancelled the card. The issuing company credited the erroneous charge within the hour, but the cancelled card was traumatic. Thankfully, I had a backup to use until the replacement arrives. It was another card that doesn’t charge foreign currency conversion and other travel fees, or I’d be paying some hefty transaction charges.

Food Crisis – There was no time for breakfast. I was super hungry and stopped for a quick wrap to take along. It was packaged poorly and fell apart in my bag – lettuce, tomato, avocado everywhere….

Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gabriel

More Credit Card Mayhem – The credit card didn’t recognize Maputo, even though I filed an updated travel plan that included Mozambique. The bank’s system must have flagged it as shady and flat-out rejected payment. After a few raised eyebrows at the hotel and an email, I resolved the problem. I like the hotel. It’s well-located, reasonably priced, and comfortable with a helpful concierge!

Maputo Natural History Museum

Laptop Revolt – After what seemed like “running the gauntlet“, I took a few minutes to sit quietly in my room and breath. THEN, the laptop decided it was not changing wireless networks any more. It went berserk listing WiFi connections “automatically” connected to in past countries as “unavailable” and sending confusing messages. Don’t understand how the laptop remembered all those old WiFi networks – there have been so many! Eventually, the computer came to its senses and calmed down. It’s fine now, except everything initially appears in Portuguese and is then translated (sometimes) to English!

Cafe along Avenida Julius Nyerere

Easy Peezee Visa – The only “pleasant” surprise of the day was that Mozambique Immigration was a no-nonsense, non-intimidating process. They asked for a passport with sufficient blank pages and a completed visa form and quickly stamped a visa – yeah! The charge was $50 which thankfully you could pay with a credit card – some African countries require cash in $USD. Two Scottish tourists held their USDs in hand ready to pay. Immigration took fingerprints and a photo, which appear with the visa stamp. If you stay beyond the visa dates, you pay a hefty fee when leaving the country.

Avenida Julius Nyerere

Maputo Transportation

I decided not to rent a car, since research indicates hectic traffic and that driving in Maputo is dangerous. After South Africa, I need a driving break. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get around, other than by foot of course. Everyone says Maputo is best seen on foot, but hitting the pavement all day every day eventually gets tiring, especially in the heat.

Public transportation in Maputo is non-existent and problematic. The government scrapped a project for building a much-needed tram system – primarily because of the high cost. They need to do something.

Avenida Julius Nyerere

The concierge advised that crowded local buses are dangerous and suggested avoiding them, especially the minibus taxis called “chapas“. Public transportation seems to be a sore subject in Maputo, especially for commuters – something I missed while doing research.

Typical Street Cart Maputo

After their civil war, Maputo had a “public transport crisis”. A state-owned company, Transporte de Moçambique (TPM), tried to fix the problem by acquiring several hundred buses which are now old, but still operating.

Wood Carving

Electric Trams

In the early 1900s, Maputo was home to “one of the first electric tramways in Africa”. The tram system lost popularity and caused “protests from the public, because certain classes had limited access to its use”. They haven’t been used since 1936.

Modern Buildings Avenida Julius Nyerere


Maputo also has three-wheeled tuk-tuks like those used in Cambodia and India. They pose a competitive threat to the taxis and are called “tchopelas“.

View from My Accommodation

First Day Exploring Maputo

I spent my first full day walking and exploring the busy area near my hotel. Avenida Julius Nyerere and Avenida Armando Tivane both have interesting architecture and shops, cafés, and restaurants. Julius Nyerere was an anti-colonial activist and politician and the first president of Tanzania. Armando Tivane was a political commissar during Mozambique’s national liberation struggle. He excelled at boosting the morale of the guerrillas and helped them gain the strength to defeat the Portuguese.

Portuguese Pastries Taverna Doce Avenida Julius Nyerere

The cafés on  Avenida Julius Nyerere are cozy and serve great pastries, espresso, and tea! The street pavement throughout most of Maputo is a mess – cracks and crumbling concrete on the sidewalks. I’m not sure if it’s damage from the civil war but it’s potentially dangerous for anyone with a disability.

Mozambique’s economics after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 is obvious from some of Maputo’s street names. Mao, Lenin, Marx, Engels, Ho Chi Minh, and even former North Korean President Kim Il Sung all have streets named after them.

Modern Building

There are guards posted everywhere – some with machine guns – but I saw no evidence of violence or crime. Every bank ATM has an armed guard. Very little English is spoken – so I’m learning survival Portuguese, which has similarities with Spanish.

Greek Orthodox Cathedral

It’s nice to be in a city again. Maputo is reminiscent of some other cities visited – of course Lisbon, and maybe Buenos Aires and Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. The outside cafés and tree-lined streets are beautiful, and food is fantastic with good service. It’s a late-night city with active nightlife – quite a switch from Amanzimtoti and Seychelles. I went out for dinner last night and enjoyed the evening.


Tropical Modernism

Bought an interesting book – Maputo Architecture and Tourist Guide by Philipp Schauer.  Schauer is the German Ambassador to Mozambique. His book has maps and descriptions of interesting city walking tours. It “focuses on Maputo’s architecture” but tells great “stories of its inhabitants and gives ideas and in-depth history of the city”.  Maputo has unusual but fascinating art and architecture, and every day I learn new terms like Tropical Modernism – huh….

Tropical Modernism

Tomorrow, I’m taking an all-day guided tour of major points of interest. The hotel concierge helped arrange it and found a reasonably priced guide. Haven’t taken many photos yet, because walking around with a camera in hand is a bit dangerous – as I was reminded by a group of 5 or 6 young guys hanging out on the street! Looking into nature reserves to see if I can find an affordable one for later in the month.

Can’t believe it’s February! More when possible….

Maputo Mozambique

Skyline Maputo Capital of Mozambique

During 2017-2018 travels, I’ve made a point of experiencing new places, trying not to only frequent favorite, familiar haunts like Cape Town. After a seaside respite in Amanzimtoti near Durban, I leave South Africa next week for a month exploring Mozambique, beginning with Maputo. Mozambique has long fascinated me. I passed through on safari a few years ago, but didn’t spend meaningful time there. It’s my first visit to Maputo.

Maputo Railway Station

I’ve read mixed reviews of the city – good, bad, and downright scary. One solo woman blogger labeled it as her “least favorite city in the world”. I try to keep an open mind while reading negative articles and don’t let them deter my travels. Mozambique is a popular destination for South Africans, and everyone I’ve talked to praises it.

Geography and History

Maputo is known as the City of Acacias and the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. Population in the city proper is a little over one million. There are appealing written descriptions of Maputo portraying its streets lined with the yellow, red, and purple canopies of Acacia, Flame, and Jacaranda trees.

Mozambican Flame Tree


“Founded as a port town by the Portuguese, the influence of travelers and traders from Africa, Asia, and Europe made Maputo a diverse and lively metropolis.”


Dhow Maputo Bay

Maputo is 50 miles from South Africa’s border, with the Maputo River separating the two countries. Mozambique’s southern border is on the northern bank of the Esturio do Esprito Santo leading to Maputo Bay. Maputo is on one end of the Bay with Catembe on the opposite edge. The Bay is 56 miles long and 20 miles wide. In the 1500s, it was called Catembe Bay – “an exchange place for Arab and African merchants” in an economy based on the Ivory trade, primarily elephant tusks.

Mozambican Panorama Estevão Mucavele

The new Maputo-Catembe Bridge replaces the current ferry and road systems between Maputo and Catembe. The two-mile bridge cuts transport time to South Africa significantly, boosts trade and tourism, and when completed will become Africa’s longest suspension bridge.

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach Mozambique in 1498. Da Gama landed in the Muslim island town of Moçambique. Portuguese explorer Antonio de Campos followed Da Gama and discovered Maputo Bay. He was followed in the late 1500s by navigator Lourenço Marques. Maputo Bay once was known as Delagoa Bay and the city of Maputo as Lourenço Marques.

In 1876, the Portuguese government sent a commission to develop the area and build a hospital and church. Maputo became a city in 1887 and the capital of Mozambique in 1898. With its busy port and railroad serving South Africa’s gold fields, the city continued to grow.

Independence and Civil War

Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975 was followed by years of intense civil conflict that concluded in 1992. The civil war was violent with transformation into a socialist one-party-state, crackdown on dissidents, and widespread nationalization of Portuguese-owned enterprises. White Portuguese Mozambicans fled the country “creating economic collapse and chaos”.

Maputo River Basin


Civil war left Mozambique in disrepair with visible “signs of the violent 16-year conflict, like bullet holes on the walls of many buildings”.


In 1962, the nationalist independence movement – Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) – became a prominent force in Mozambique. The party has ruled the country since its independence in 1975. Frelimo struggled through civil war against an anti-Communist faction known as Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).

Niassa Reserve Northern Mozambique

RENAMO insurgents “received support from the then white-minority governments of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa”. In 1990, Frelimo approved a new constitution and established a multi-party system. The RENAMO opposition party “never fully integrated into Mozambican politics”. Since democratic elections began in 1994, Frelimo is the solid elected majority party in parliament.

Statue of Samora Machel Independence Square

Economy and Culture

Mozambique is one of the least developed countries in the world. The country’s abundant assets and potential are promising, including a 2,000-mile coastline, three major shipping ports – MaputoBeira, and Nacala – and rich mineral, coal, natural gas, and offshore oil resources. Healthcare, education, poverty reduction, food security, and job creation are Mozambique’s highest priorities.

Mozambican Peri-Peri Prawns

Maputo’s economy centers around its busy port and gateway to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Chief exports include cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood. In addition to trade, there are robust manufacturing and service sectors. Maputo has several universities, including Eduardo Mondlane University, the oldest in the country.”

In 2016, Mozambique’s economy “entered into a crisis after the discovery of $2 billion in questionable government-backed loans to three state-owned companies. Donors responded by freezing over $250 million in direct budget support”. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cancelled Mozambique’s financial program. Since then, the Government has tried to restore donor and investor confidence – unsuccessfully.

Maputo Central Market

Maputo is a melting pot of ethnic cultures dominated by the Bantu and Portuguese, but also influenced by Arab, Indian, and Chinese immigrants from cities like Goa and Macao.

Architecture and Food

Maputo is known for its “distinct, eclectic architecture”. Portuguese colonial, Neoclassical, and Manueline buildings stand alongside Art Deco, Bauhaus, and less-appealing Brutalist construction. Some of the more modern buildings were designed by Portuguese architect Pancho Guedes.

Maputo Bay

Mozambican cuisine is “deeply influenced” by the Portuguese, who “introduced new crops, flavorings, and cooking methods”. Mozambicans serve food with sauces made from vegetables, meat, beans, or fish. Typical ingredients include cashew nuts, onions, bay leaves, garlic, coriander, paprika, red pepper, millet, sorghum, and potatoes.

Batalha Monastery – Portuguese Manueline Architecture


Maputo is famous for its Mozambican prawns in peri-peri sauce, a spicy concoction made from an especially hot African chili pepper.


Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao

Provinces and Districts

There are ten provinces in Mozambique and one capital city with provincial status. The provinces have a total of 128 districts.

  1. Cabo Delgado
  2. Gaza
  3. Inhambane
  4. Manica
  5. Maputo City
  6. Maputo
  7. Nampula
  8. Niassa
  9. Sofala
  10. Tete
  11. Zambezia

Samora Machel Mozambique’s First President 1975 – 1986

Mozambique and Maputo Attractions

After its long civil war, Maputo is slowly recapturing its former glory as a tourist destination. There are many attractions in Maputo and throughout Mozambique, including stunning beaches and nature reserves.

Maputo National Museum of Art – houses work by Mozambican artists like poet and painter Malangatana Ngwenya and sculptor Alberto Chissano.

Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens

Maputo Central Market – fragrant open market with a constant “hub of activity” housed in a beautiful Victorian building. Vendors offer fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, handicrafts, basketware, carvings, and more. Tourists are wise to beware of pickpockets working the market!

Mozambican Acacia Tree

Cathedral Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (Our Lady of Conception) – a well-known landmark in Praça da Independencia (Independence Square). The cathedral has a tall single spire.

Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana (Saint Antonio Catholic Church) – built in the shape of an inverted flower.

Statue of Samora Machel – Samora Machel was Mozambique’s first President from 1975 to 1986. Machel died in an air crash in South Africa under suspicious circumstances. His statue is a prominent feature in Praça da Independência.

Dugong Quirimbas Islands

Louis Trichardt Memorial – created in memory of Voortrekker Louis Trichardt’s trek to find a route to the sea through Mozambique. Many in his expedition died of malaria.

Malangatana Ngwenya Painter and Poet

Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens – designed in 1885 by British gardener Thomas Honney who created landscapes for the Sultan of Turkey and King of Greece.

Museu da Moeda (Money Museum) – also known as Casa Amarela or Yellow House is the oldest standing building still in use in Maputo. Damaged during the civil war, the simple structure was “beautifully restored with old street lamps above the doors”.

Area Map

Praca dos Trabalhadores (Workers Square) – a statue commemorating Mozambican soldiers who fell in World War I.

Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) – Maputo Railway Station is a popular major landmark in a beautiful Victorian building.

National Money Museum

The Maputo Special Reserve – 60 miles southeast of Maputo, the Reserve has marshes and rivers and includes elephants, birds, zebra, antelope, crocodiles, hippo, small bucks, bushpigs, baboons, fish, and unique plant life.

Gorongosa National Park –  considered “Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration story” Gorongosa is home to lions, elephants, buffalo, zebras, bucks, hippos, crocodiles, and over 400 species of birds. Tourist dollars support the Park’s conservation programs to help farmers and provide educational programs and health care for local communities.

Mozambique Textiles

Mozambique Textile


Niassa Reserve is a large protected area of spectacular untouched natural scenery. It’s twice the size of South Africa’s Kruger Park. Poachers have reduced the Reserve’s elephant population by 70 percent.


Vamizi Island Quirimbas Archipelago Mozambique

Niassa Reservehome to the endangered African wild dog, elephant, sable antelope, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, and many exotic birds.

Mecula Mountain – in isolated northern Mozambique, Mount Mecula is part of Niassa Reserve, threatened bird species inhabit this little-known montane forest ecosystem.

Jacaranda Trees

Lugenda Wildlife Reserve – an untouched 16,000 square mile expanse of wilderness in northern Niassa province. Lugenda Wilderness Camp on banks of the Lugenda River in the Ngalongue Mountains is part of the Reserve.

Bairro Mafalala Walking Tour – two-hour tour through the Mafalala bairro, Maputo’s oldest township, including the late Samora Machel’s house, a visit with a local curandeiro (healer), and a traditional dance performance.

Fortaleza – a restored Portuguese fort with major historical significance located at the fishing port and one of Maputo’s oldest buildings.

Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana

Fere de Populare Neighborhoodinfamous area of bars and discos where Mozambicans dance to “seductive Latino beats”.

Inhaca Island – popular tourist spot accessed by ferry from Maputo’s fishing harbour. Visitors enjoy the island’s restaurants, hotels, maritime museum, and historic lighthouse.

Diver Inhaca Island

Maputo Elephant Reserve – a 190 sq-mile “mosaic of lakes, floodplains, mangrove swamps, woodlands, and forested dunes sweeping down to unspoilt beaches” north of Ponta Malongane. Once a sanctuary for elephants, white rhino, and other game, poaching during the civil war severely reduced animal numbers.

Quirimbas Archipelago – off Mozambique’s northern coast, the archipelago’s islands are part of Quirimbas National Park. They’re popular for diving and known for coral reefs and waters inhabited by dolphins, whales, and endangered dugongs (sea cows).

There is so much to see in Mozambique. It will be hot, and unfortunately malaria medication is required before, during, and after a visit. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required at entry. Despite of all this, I don’t think the environment will be more challenging than Seychelles.

The sites explored will depend on budget and stamina – extreme heat (high 90s) zaps my energy. I would love to visit Lugenda Wilderness Camp, but it’s pricey – rightly so, as it’s important to restrict the number of tourists allowed to visit endangered areas.

Dhow Quirimbas Islands

The first hurdle will be obtaining a visa, and I’m hoping there are no snags. Last year Mozambique began issuing tourist visas upon arrival at the airport – or at least they said they would do this. Before that, visitors from the US were required to go through red tape to get tourist visas PRIOR to entering the county or be turned away. I didn’t get an advance visa – no embassy nearby. I’ve tried contacting the Mozambican Embassy online and by calling and emailing, but never got through.

Port Cidade de Nacala Mozambique

My nightmare is arriving and being rejected. Hope that doesn’t happen, but in Africa one never knows, and complacency is dangerous. I’ve gathered documentation to prove a limited, 30-day stay and am trying not to overthink it. When you’re traveling solo it’s especially important to be prepared. Haven’t booked a departure flight yet, because I want to leave options open until I’ve experienced Maputo. Border crossings and immigration entry points have never been my favorite part of traveling.

Looking forward to a great experience in Mozambique! More later from Maputo….

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve is a hidden KwaZulu-Natal gem tucked away between Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg. The coastal forest and grasslands have local history, including “mysterious burial mounds” and remains of The Umbilo Waterworks built in 1887 and now a national monument.


“In the late 19th Century, Durbanites caught a train to Pinetown Bridge and walked down to The Waterworks for picnicking, boating, fishing, and hiking. In 1905, a destructive flood quickly put an end to Umbilo Dam.”

“In 15 devastating hours 16 inches of rain fell, and logs, bamboo, and debris blocked the river at Pinetown Bridge. The bridge gave way, and the ensuing tidal wave killed hundreds of people and destroyed countless homes on the lower Umbilo riverbanks. Durban discovered alternative water supplies, so Umbilo Dam was never rebuilt.”

Strelitzia Nicolai – Wild Banana Tree

Hiking Trails

There are four hiking trails in the nature reserve – Duiker, Bushbuck, Waterfall, and Dormouse. They begin at the Interpretive Centre on a path leading down to the picnic area. The start of the Waterfall Trail is a 30-minute walk over old wooden bridges on the other side of the Umbilo River. The trail continues following beautiful flat river rock and thick jungle-like terrain with massive strelitzias – wild banana trees.


The Waterfall Trail passes sprawling yellowwood trees, ponds, and a historical waterworks slipway. Near the bottom of the falls beyond the turnoff to Duiker Trail, there’s a natural viewing platform. In the summer heat, a large pool below the falls is tempting, but water quality is poor, and swimming isn’t recommended.

Paradise Valley Wooden Bridge

I’ve been a bit under the weather with a stubborn virus and haven’t done much strenuous activity for a week or so. The gentle Waterfall Trail was perfect. I met several couples enjoying the romantic falls and heard but did not see animals. Fragrances in the light, humid air and the sweet sounds of birds singing were magnificent!

Bushbuck Cardo Kleberg

Dormouse Pinterest

Stainbank Reserve, Toti Beaches

Yellowwood Tree

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is an extraordinary mass of vivid green with gorgeous grasslands and thick coastal forests, including yellowwood. Yellowwood, present in the country for more than 100 million years, is South Africa’s national tree. The reserve provides an ideal habitat for indigenous plants and animals. Even insects like centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers, dragonflies, damselfies, and caterpillars thrive there.

Masked Weaver Nests

Southern Masked Weaver by John Caddick

The reserve is near my accommodation in Amanzimtoti, aka Toti. I spent the afternoon hiking in the 600-acre park sighting zebra, red duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey, mongoose, and birds, including a majestic African Fish Eagle. Cute Southern Masked Weavers are a favorite, and hundreds of them had built their nests dangling from trees near the dam.

Hiking Trail

Hiking and Coedmore Castle

The park has hiking paths, a cycling trail, picnic areas, creeks, a dam, and the remains of Coedmore Castle. Kenneth Stainbank’s Scottish father built the Baronial style castle in 1885 with the help of stonemasons using stones from the Umhlauzana River.

Dawn Amanzimtoti

Same Amanzimtoti Sky 8 Hours Later


“When Stainbank built Coedmore Castle, he wanted to create a little piece of Europe on grounds filled with African antelope and monkeys.”



You can arrange a tour of the castle’s interior. Descriptions of the steel-pressed ceilings, wooden paneling, and an iron staircase into the tower sound impressive. The castle’s exterior is wrapped in peaceful gardens.

Coedmore Castle

Coedmore Castle Durban

Scottish Stainbank married Ethel Lyne, a South African from Pietermaritzburg. They had seven children, and their eldest daughter, Mary, was an artist. Rooms throughout the castle contain sculptings she produced from her garden studio. Stainbank’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Keith, and her family still live on the property.

Doonside Beach

Surfer Baggies Beach

Mary Stainbank introduced the modern school of sculpture to South Africa. Her work is displayed in the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery which also hosts other artists’ exhibitions. The Coedmore gallery houses the largest, intact collective body of work by any one sculptor in South Africa.”

The weather was warm but overcast with a slight breeze – a good hiking day. I took the “red path” which encircles the reserve and involves creek crossings. It’s a gentle hike with a few mildly challenging areas. I met several people along the path. It’s school break, when South African families spend time together.

Doonside and Warner (Baggies) Beach

Heavy storms from October 2017 damaged the coastline and beach below my accommodation. Repairs are in process. It’s possible to walk on the beach, but until they finish rebuilding parts of the hillside, getting up and down is dangerous and tricky. I’ve spent most beach time at Doonside and Warner – two busy, entertaining beaches!

Water Lily

First visit at Doonside was windy, and my beach umbrella kept blowing away. A local watched as I chased it down the beach and showed me how to anchor it by burying part of the umbrella canopy in sand. Amazingly, it held for hours despite heavy wind!

Buried Beach Umbrella

Southern Masked Weaver

Even after applying what seemed ample SPF sunscreen protection, I still got sunburned while swimming, snorkeling, and walking on the beach. Later, I purchased a surf tee with UV protection. The stinging wind-blown sand against my sunburned skin eventually forced a retreat – but not before I enjoyed hours of therapeutic beach time!

Creek Crossing

Indigenous Grasses

Durban beaches are not as pristine as Seychelles, but the long sandy stretches are pleasant and usually filled with happy people having fun. Surfers frequent areas of Warner Beach (also known as Baggies Beach) that have powerful waves.

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

The beach is a surfing hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal. Baggies Beach “hosts the Baggies Surf Pro, and welcomes international legends who crave the exciting waves”. It’s also a favorite spot for nimble kite surfers – love watching their moves as they seem to fly from wave to wave!

Dancing Jewel Damselflie



Stainbank Reserve Dam

Lone Grassland Tree

La Digue Island Seychelles

Anse Gaulettes

My day trip to La Digue Island was marred by torrential rain that didn’t let up. Bicycling in rain with poor visibility made photography challenging, so I used several media shots in this blog post. There are abundant Internet photos and videos of the islands. Nothing beats seeing them in person, even in the rain.

Picasso Triggerfish

Rain began during the one-hour ferry ride from Mahé to Praslin and continued as we switched to a connecting ferry between Praslin and La Digue. When the ferry arrived in La Digue around 9am, people were huddled under palapas or clutching umbrellas and trying to avoid puddles in the flooded streets.

Weather, Population, History

Weather in the Seychelles is temperate, but the isolated islands are in the middle of the Indian Ocean near the equator, so frequent, unpredictable storms occur almost every day. The area has microclimates, so it can be raining on one island and at the same time, sunny on another. Some storms are violent but brief, clearing within minutes or hours, but that wasn’t the case when I visited La Digue.

Blacktip Reef Shark

December and January are known for especially heavy downpours. The least rainfall occurs in July. During my stay on the islands there were storms, but it was often clear.

Anse Marron

La Digue is the third largest inhabited island and fourth in size. The population of around 3,000 lives in two west coast villages – La Passe, where the ferries dock, and La Réunion. La Digue doesn’t have an airport and is linked to other islands by ferry.

Butterfly Fish


Year-round temperatures fluctuate between 75 and 90 degrees both day and night.


La Digue was named after a ship in the fleet of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, who visited the Seychelles in 1768. French settlers inhabited the island in 1789, bringing African slaves with them.

Endangered Black Paradise Flycatcher

Inhabitants of La Digue are called Diguois. “The first French settlers were exiled from Bourbon for taking part in a political rebellion. They were to be sent to the East Indies, but bribed the captain to take them to Seychelles where many had relatives.” Later, liberated slaves and Asian immigrants also settled on the island. The population is mostly Catholic.

Emperor Angelfish

Beaches, Nature Reserves, Wildlife

La Digue’s main industry is tourism. The island is known for stunning beaches like Anse Source d’Argent and Grand Anse. The bicycle company provided a map showing the major trails, beaches, and reserves. I encircled most of the island in steady, warm rain.

Anse Source d’Argent

I visited Veuve Nature Reserve, home to the rare black paradise flycatcher. The Reserve was disappointing and many of the muddy trails were flooded and impassable. I heard, but never saw, birds and animals.

Red Fody

In addition to the flycatcher, La Digue is home to several rare endemic species. As with many Seychelles islands, there’s a significant population of giant Aldabra Island tortoises. I peddled by several tortoises crossing the bicycle route. Coconut crabs and a variety of geckos, bats, and tropical birds – fodys, sunbirds, terns – occupy the island.

Cocos Island National Park

Green sea turtles live on the edges of La Digue’s coral reefs, and butterfly fish, eagle rays, and moray eels flourish there. I didn’t snorkel on La Digue, but while snorkeling near Cerf Island saw colorful fish, eels, and a small, beautiful blacktip reef shark.

Anse Marron

“Animals that traditionally live on La Digue are threatened by those introduced by human inhabitants. The rat population was probably the first animal brought to the Seychelles. Rats quickly caused extinction of many birds by eating their eggs and disturbing delicate nests. Dogs and cats are less of a menace.”

Grand Anse

La Digue’s beaches are some of the most photographed in the world. They glow with soft white sand, translucent turquoise water, and spectacular pale pink granite boulders. If you’re adventurous, you can discover hidden beaches on isolated parts of the island.

Anse Fourmis

Some of the larger, well-known beaches draw tourists from all over the world, and are the island’s forte. These include:

West Coast Beaches – Best for Swimming

East Coast Beaches

Isolated / Secluded Beaches

Anse Sévère

The southeast coast has a series of “adjoining bays with picturesque beaches separated by granite boulders and backed by tropical forests”. The beaches along the coast have big waves and powerful undertow. They’re too dangerous for swimming.

Félicité Island

The hike through the jungle to Anse Cocos is said to include a challenging “rock-hopping” experience. During my day trip, the rocks were wet and slippery, and forest trails too muddy to hike.

Anse Bonnet Carré


Bicycles are the primary means of transportation on La Digue. At one time, cars were not allowed. Today, there are a few vehicles, most belonging to hotels and resorts. Ox-drawn cart is another way tourists navigate the island.

Map La Digue


“Driving a car on La Digue can be difficult. Roads were originally designed for bicycles. Cars going against each other must slide off the road with two wheels in the sand.”




Diverse ethnic groups inhabit La Digue. Flavorful Local food has Indian, African, and European influence and is served at an interesting mix of restaurants. Fish is abundant, and it’s prepared in hundreds of ways, including grilled, steamed, sautéed, curried, and raw with lemon and spices.

Fruit Bat Curry with Rice

Ginger is a primary ingredient in Seychelles cooking. Other island food and drink includes jamalac, breadfruit, rum, octopus, palm wine, lobster, and the “biggest local specialty – bat curry ” made with Seychelles Fruit Bat meat! I didn’t try the curry.

While waiting for the rain to calm, I enjoyed espresso at The Fish Trap in La Passe and returned later for lunch. Their specialty is fresh, simply cooked seafood.

Snorkeling and Hiking

The best snorkeling in the islands is in the “crystal-clear waters of the Ile Marine National Park north of La Digue”. The Park is a group of three small coral-fringed islets off the northern tip of Félicité Island. Snorkelers swim beside Hawksbill turtles, Blue Surgeonfish, Parrotfish, Moorish Idols, Emperor Angelfish, Batfish, and stunning Picasso Triggerfish.

Moorish Idol

The hike to La Digue’s highest peak – Nid d’Aigle (Eagles Nest) – is challenging. When you reach the top, sweeping panoramic views make it worth the effort. I didn’t hike on this trip to La Digue, but if I return to the Seychelles, will spend more time snorkeling and exploring – in better weather.

Green Gecko – Sabrina van de Velde

Snorkeling on Félicité Island is a must. Even though La Digue is a small island, a guide is recommended. Tourists have been caught in currents and lost on hidden trails in the dense tropical forest.

Blue Surgeonfish


“Since the Seychelles are detached from the rest of Africa, many animal species on the island are endemic to La Digue”.


Back in Durban

I arrived back in Durban happy to be in a more “connected” environment. The Seychelles are amazing, but a bit isolated. I’m still reflecting about Seychelles nature, culture, and people, and my unique experiences on the islands.

Tropical Forest – Tim Holt Science Source

December was rainy in Durban, but since my return the weather has been divine – low humidity compared to Seychelles. Will stay in Durban during January, hoping to snorkel and visit a few nearby game reserves! In February, it’s on to Maputo in Mozambique.

Coconut Crab

HAPPY 2018!