Discover Mozambique’s heart on historical Ilha de Mozambique

The heart of Mozambique can be found on a small island just off the coast of Nampula province, in the north of Mozambique. Ilha de Mozambique is a vibrant combination of Mozambican, Portuguese, Arabian and Indian traditions that bring to life a special, magical atmosphere that seeps into your skin from the moment you arrive.

The island was a well-established major port well before the famous seafarer, Vasco da Gama, arrived on the island in 1498. Realizing the potential of the island, a port and naval base was established by the Portuguese in 1507. The Fort São Sebastião was constructed during the 16th century and protected the Portuguese settlement from Dutch attacks in 1607 and 1608. The ancient Fort still stands, with its rusting canons pointing out across the bay waters. Visitors are left awestruck by the scale of the Fort and one can only imagine the tales the walls could tell. Constructed in 1877, the hospital is a majestic neo classical building which was once the largest hospital south of the Sahara. It is one of many beautiful buildings that can be viewed.

The Portuguese settlement of Stone Town was constructed through the mining of coral rock out of the centre of the island. The excavated area below ground level became home to the local residents and is referred to as Mokuti Town after the Mokuti thatch used to create roofs for the houses. With the island only being 3 kilometres in length, and roughly 500 meters wide, it is amazing to think that well over 7 000 people call the island home today. This number having peaked at approximately 14 000 during the civil war period. The island was the capital of the country until 1898 when this was moved to Lourenço Marques, now known as Maputo.

But enough of the facts, Ilha de Mozambique has a special charm that is hard to put into words. It is one of the most unique historical highlights in Africa, acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Walking along the winding roads, it is easy to imagine the grandeur of the bustling little port in its prime when trade with slaves, spices, ivory and gold were at its peak. Its friendly inhabitants lead a poor yet such a carefree and simplistic life that leads you to wonder exactly who is the poorer person at the end of the day. Local markets and informal traders are mixed with more established little restaurants and cafes where fresh sea food and cold drinks are the order of the day.

Ilha de Mozambique has an authenticity about it that is hard to find elsewhere in the country. It is a must do destination for those that wish to learn more of the country, to experience its history and culture and be delighted by an off the beaten track adventure. It works well as a two night stop over before travelling onward to one of the beach lodges in the area – such as Coral Lodge, Ossimba Beach Lodge and Nuarro Lodge. Or combine it with the islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago further north.

The nearest airport is Nampula Airport at the moment with Nacala Airport set to offer more routes and international flights in the near future. From Nampula Airport it is approximately a 2.5 hour road transfer to the concrete bridge that connects Ilha de Mozambique with the mainland. Alternatively, a private charter flight can be arranged to nearby Lumbo airstrip.

 

Accommodation options on Ilha de Mozambique:

Villa Sands Boutique Hotel is family owned and managed. Guests are welcomed as friends by Gisela, the co-owner of the hotel that was transformed from old warehouses. Space and understated elegance is seen throughout the property with the sunset terrace being the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset and a refreshing drink. We recommend booking the Atrium rooms (note some only have an alcove for natural light, no window due to the historical building’s original construction) or the Superior Rooftop Rooms for those that want a view and have no concerns about stairs. The hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a swimming pool in which to cool off from the heat of the day.

Terraço das Quitandas Guest House is located near the Vasco da Gama museum on Ilha de Mozambique. The Guest House has an eclectic atmosphere with its thick walls and diverse furnishings paying homage to the island’s historical seafaring influences. The six suites are spacious and comfortable. Guests can also relax during the heat of the day in one of the three recreational rooms or one of the two balconies. Breakfast can be enjoyed at the Guest House whilst lunch and dinner can be enjoyed at one of the local restaurants on the island. The manager, Antonio, is happy to assist with recommendations.

Travel Tips:
* Ensure you use good quality mosquito repellent during your stay.
* Pack a good sense of adventure along with sufficient memory cards & batteries for your camera.
* Experience the island in the company of a local guide.
* Appreciate your surroundings, things happen a little slower on the island – time to relax!
* Understand the remoteness of the island and do not expect things to run as smoothly as they would in a modern city – it is all part of the magical charm
   that is Ilha de Mozambique…

Wildlife Photography tips for the amateur photographer.

If you have an interest in wildlife photography and wondering where to begin there is light at the end of the tunnel by just following a few easy steps.

The first thing to do is get the right equipment for the job, depending on what you think of shooting like landscapes, animals, or birds. The right equipment is crucial to get that perfect shot.

For a good all round choice get yourself a DSLR camera of your choice with 2 exchangeable lenses, one wide angel 18 -70mm is a good option and a zoom lens, the 100-400mm has a good range for the photos that needs a bit more zooming.  Of course, there are always the more expensive telephoto lenses as well that the top professionals use but if you know the basics you don’t necessarily need that to take high quality wildlife images.

When shooting wildlife like animals or birds you would always try and get the best angle, which is not always possible when on a game viewing vehicle. Patience is a big part of wildlife photography, you can sometimes sit for hours at a water hole waiting for the one shot that will make the wait worth wile.  For landscape photos light is the most important, the best time for landscape shots is early morning or late afternoon when the light is much softer, you will end up with more quality images compared to shooting in full afternoon sun.

The DSLR cameras have a lot of functions that you can adjust, you definitely don’t need to know all of them, but to know a few and what they are there for will make a huge difference in your photo quality.  The last thing you want to do is shoot on full auto, that will make your photos look very amateurish.

The first setting that you need to adjust and place your camera on is apateur prihority, this is where you adjust your f stop of your camera (the lens opening), the camera will automatically adjust all other setting for you accordingly, it all depends on your lens but you can adjust the range anything form F4.5 to F22. The higher you go on your f-stop setting the more in focus everything will be from your focus point to whatever is behind it, F16 and higher is good for landscapes just keep in mind you need a lot of good light for high f-stop shots or a tripod.  The lower your f-stop the less light you need and its more used for close ups, such as the head of a lion through a zoom lens, where there is only one object in the shot.

The next important thing to look at is your ISO setting, the ISO controls the sensitivity of light going through the camera, you would generally want to keep the ISO as low as possible, a good ISO for wildlife on a good day will be between 250 or 400. The higher you go on your ISO settings the darker it can be like for a dusk or dawn shot you can move it up to 800, just remember the higher you go the grainier your photo will be so keep it as low as possible.

The last thing you need to look at is your white balance setting, this is one of the easiest setting to adjust on your camera, there is an auto white balance setting that you can use but it is better in the end to adjust it yourself for the most accurate image color. White balance is where you adjust your camera to the lighting conditions in your environment, for example inside a room there will be fluorescent light bulbs so you will need to switch your white balance to the fluorescent setting.  There are white balance settings for incandescent, fluorescent, flash, cloudy, open shade and sunny.

For wildlife photography, you will only use the cloudy, sunny, and open shade options, so you will need to set it to the setting according to the weather conditions.

You will have to play around with the settings and find out where they can be found on your camera (refer to the manual if unsure), but in the end the most imported thing to do is have fun and enjoy the beautiful world we live in.

(written by Riaan Geldenhuys)

Botswana Sunsets & Waterways

Botswana, what an amazing experience it was indeed! I have only driven through Botswana on route to Namibia, this was my first time to enjoy the privilege of spending a few nights in this lovely country.

Our first 2 nights were spent at Tuskers Bush Camp, a small bush camp situated approximately 2-3 hours from Maun in the private Kwatale concession on the eastern edge of the Moremi Game Reserve.  What a lovely place! Very rustic whilst imparting that true sense of an African Safari.  We enjoyed magical African sunsets and sundwoners at the end of both days.  It is such a relaxing moment absorbing the sounds of nature all around you.  Here you have the real ‘In Africa’ feeling. If you love and prefer to sleep in the middle of nowhere, then this is the place to be.  Accommodation is in a tented camp with all the needed facilities that you will expect in your typical bush camp. There are no electrical points in the tents and your telephone and camera are charged in the main area if needed.  Tuskers offer a stunning view over the waterhole from their dining area where you will most definitely see giraffes and elephants visiting the waterhole in the afternoon. They have lovely staff and good food.

Tip for the travellers: Use water sparingly when you shower as salt cold water is always readily available, but the fresh warm water needs to be attained from the staff before you can shower.

After Tuskers we took a road transfer to the Delta where we enjoyed a boat transfer to Xobega Island Camp. Forests, pans, rivers, open grassy plains – all just breathtakingly beautiful.  So in other words; it is not just a transfer – but more of a great experience.

When we arrived at Xobega we were warmly greeted by the staff and the manager is an absolute delight.  We sat in the main area and the camp manager explained all the safety rules and logistics of the camp.  The camp is neat and clean and the staff also very friendly.  The tents are clean and comfortable and perfectly functional with a “bucket” shower and a chemical toilet.  I love the idea that they are so eco-friendly.

In the late afternoon we took a boat cruise through the channels of the delta which opens into huge “lagoons” which is just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  The sunset was amazing and the birdlife outstanding! I have honestly never seen a sunset so beautiful as like that afternoon.  Even the hippos popped up every regularly to admire it.

Xobega is a must for all bird lovers! The boat cruises really caters for this.  Our cameras were constantly snapping away at the rich variety and considerable numbers of birds in the Delta.  There is currently a resident Pel’s fishing owl nesting on Xobega island.  We had the privilege on going on the Mokoro’s between the channels.  This was really an awesome experience and I would recommend this to anyone.  The local guides who steer the mokoro’s through the winding waterways are exceptionally skilful as poling a mokoro is not for the unexperienced.

Tip for travellers: Use water sparingly at Xobega.  Other than at Tuskers; cold water is also limited.  So when you shower, be sure to close the shower, then wash, then open to rinse again as one will not be able to get water at night as you are not allowed to walk alone at night to the main area.

After we visited the Delta, we made our way to Ghoha Hills for 2 nights.  We were met by Zambo, who was also our guide for the stay.  What a pleasant and lovely guy he was.

The lodge is set on the highest mountain (Goha Hill) in the area and has a spectacular view of the Savuti Plains. Ghoha Lodge is a stunning lodge! The décor and facilities in the tents are lovely and the views from the rooms are breathtaking! A big thumbs up to the chefs of Ghoha as the food was really divine.  The lounge and swimming pool areas beckon you to relax for a while. The fire-pit/boma area is so delightful. The view from the main area is great and there is also a water hole where animals go to drink at various times of the day.

The rooms are very spacious and allows for a lot of privacy. The shower is absolutely amazing as you look out onto the bushveld while taking a shower. The tents are well appointed with luxurious products and personal touches to make you feel at home.

The overall experience at Ghoha was the best we had on our trip. Accommodation, game viewing, food, service and the list goes on!

Tip for travellers: Stay for more than 2 nights only.  It is totally worth it! 😊

Our last night we spent in Mankwe with Africa Ecco Mobile Safaris at their mobile camping set up.  I must honestly say that they offered much more than what I have ever expected from mobile camping. I didn’t expect to have such a full and detailed service as what we received with Ecco.  Their attention to detail was superb. The food was made over an open fire which made it really special in a true African safari way.  Water to wash your face in the mornings was readily available and provided by the staff.  Towels and body wash was ready when one wanted to go take a shower.

I will easily spend a 2 week tour through Botswana with Africa Ecco Safaris!

Botswana was truly an amazing place! I would do everything all over again in a heartbeat! The educational would not have been so great if it was not for our awesome guide, Wilson.  I have been on a few safaris before, but never have I met such a knowledgeable, friendly, and spontaneous guide.  Normally things that I would not find interesting he managed to make it truly absorbing. A very big thumbs up to him!

I would just like to thank each and everyone from the Sun Destinations team for affording us the opportunity to take part in this Botswana educational and to gain first-hand experience in your properties.  It was an amazing experience and one I will treasure forever.

(written by Monique Streicher)

Cyclone Dineo in Mozambique

“Mozambique was completely destroyed by Cyclone Dineo in February 2017”. Well – turns out not really but it was this kind of commentary that drove the Infinite Africa team to go investigate. Shortly after the mid-February tropical Cyclone that struck Inhambane Province in the South of Mozambique we hit the road to find out just what was damaged.

With so much FAKE NEWS these days it is important to be able to filter reality from sensation. This is especially true when choosing an Inbound Tour Operator. Trust is probably the single most important factor when selling African holidays to the FIT market – especially in regional countries, and even more so in Mozambique, traditionally an unknown destination.

So what did we find? Driving from Maputo to Inhambane is a wonderful experience. It takes longer than one would expect and it is always recommended to provide for some extra time when planning to drive this far in Mozambique. The main reason for this is the number of local villages based right on the highway. Each little settlement requires motorists to slow down from 100km/hr to just 60km/hr. This is just for a couple of kilometres, but it happens very frequently.

The road is currently in tip top shape with very few pot holes and no other issues. Any car could do the trip. The road is standard single lane in both directions but with a large shoulder and many passing opportunities. It is not a busy route and traffic is not a factor. The road is very well policed so make sure that you abide by the rules. We were not pulled over once during our entire drive and were often waved trough road blocks with a smile. This is in stark contrast to some sensationalist reports that often depict the Mozambique traffic system as corrupt, hostile and unbearable.

We drove straight to the heart of the damage reports. The beaches off Inhambane. It is only when one approached the beaches that damage can be noticed. The most of the damage being the cashew nut trees. Most of the informal houses also received some damage, but already seems to be largely repaired, or well on the way. The trees tell a story. The storm, not considered to be an extremely strong cyclone damaged trees that were very old. Some of these iconic trees have been around for many decades, and their total destruction tell a story of a storm that was stronger than what this area has seen in many years.

Talking to the locals, it seems that this storm took many by surprise. The area does see a major tropical storm from time to time and is nothing too serious to the people that live here. But Dineo was different. Some tell of their houses lifting completely from the ground. Luis, an Inhambane town resident, says that his grandfather claims that in all of his 70 years there has never been such a storm.

Barra Beach received major damage and there will be many months of construction and clean up work to return to normal.  Tofo was spared the brunt of the storm and there is generally just light damage with repair work already well underway.  Properties further afield, such as Massinga Beach Lodge and Travessia Beach Lodge in the north and Naara Eco Lodge in the south, reported minor to no damage.  The establishments and local villages continue to rely on money spent by tourists and we are grateful that much of the area has generally been spared by Dineo so that tourists can still enjoy the beautiful area.

30 Day Tourist Visas now available at Borders for all Visitors

Selecting Mozambique as a travel destination has become that much easier after the recent announcement by the Mozambique government that all visitors to the country are now eligible to obtain visas at borders equipped with the necessary equipment to issue biometric visas.  This is a great breakthrough as there has been a lot of confusion over the past several years after the announcement that visitors with a Mozambique embassy or consulate in their home country should obtain their visas prior to traveling to Mozambique.  Contrary to this ruling, visitors have been able to secure their visas at borders although there were incidents at Maputo Airport were tourists were turned back due to confusion with the interpretation of the law.

The uncertainty of securing a visa, the risk in being turned away on arrival and reported poor service from some internationally based embassies and consulates had a severely negative impact on Mozambique’s reputation as a tourism destination which led to many travellers deciding to travel to other countries.  The availability of visas to all travellers is therefore seen as a major breakthrough by stakeholders in the Mozambique tourism industry.

The new announcement by the government of Mozambique also states that High Commissions and Consulates will no longer be issuing any 30-day tourist visas which reinforces that all visitors, irrespective if they have any Mozambique representation in their country of residence, will be able to secure their visa on arrival at the border.

There are now a total of 44 borders with equipment to issue biometric visas to visitors.  These borders include the following major tourist destinations / border crossings: Maputo Airport, Inhambane Airport, Vilanculos Airport, Beira Airport, Nampula Airport, Nacala Airport, Pemba Airport, Ponta do Ouro Border (Mozambique/South Africa), Goba Border (Mozambique/Swaziland), Namaacha Border (Mozambique/Swaziland), Ressano Garcia Border (Mozambique/South Africa) and Giriyondo Border (Mozambique/South Africa).

(written by Barbara Kuhn)

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