Driving through the Ressano Garcia border in the early days was daunting, write TONY BIRKHOLTZ
Once through to the Mozambique side, the roads were in such a bad state that it was often safer and smoother driving on the verge and many a trailer lost its suspension or wheels along these routes. Old army tanks and vehicles lay abandoned on the side of the roads in memory of the civil war that ravaged the country for so long. Skull and crossbones signage dotted the open land indicating the scourge of land mines left behind. Other border controlled access points from South Africa are now open from Kruger National Park and the Greater Transfrontier National Park, further north via Pafuri (also in KNP) and via Swaziland.
Inhambane Province is now the hub of leisure tourism in the country with Inhambane and Vilanculos gaining prominence. Tourists began trickling into the country after the civil war ended in 1995 and many lodges and resorts sprang up along this unspoilt coastline. These were adventurers from South Africa and Zimbabwe driving across the border in search of deserted beaches, exceptional fishing and the most amazing scuba diving.
Now with the roads upgraded (by the Chinese) with more filling stations en route as well as overnight stops, more people can visit these areas. The 480 km road north from Maputo to Inhambane can be done in five hours.
Arriving at Inhambane is something to behold. The town dates back to the 16th century and dhows still cross the bay, fishermen cast off into the water, hawkers and street vendors ply their trade, and there is a mosque and a few quaint restaurants such as “Masaroka”.
While living in Mozambique we used the ferry between Inhambane and Maxixe and enjoyed many a 2M beer and a tasty meal at “STOP” restaurant, which overlooks the bay from Maxixe. Driving on from Inhambane to the beaches of Tofo and Barra (aptly known as the Manta Coast) takes you past the airport and through a maze of coconut trees to these idyllic beaches where lodges of all types have sprung up over the years. Tofo is known for its surfing and diving. Accommodation varies from basic backpacker to comfortable and air conditioned.
In peak season, the Barra strip is packed with holiday makers from South Africa. This strip also offers a variety of accommodation. Beach bars have also opened here and the full moon party celebrated each month at Tofo, creates an unofficial holiday the following day for all the revellers to recover.
Activities in the area include scuba diving, deep sea fishing, kayaking, ocean safaris, sunset cruises on Inhambane bay, quad bike trails and more.
For those who wish to venture further north, the next major tourist area along the EN1 is Vilanculos, the launch pad to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a proclaimed marine reserve. These unique islands are a short hop across the channel by light plane or boat. Upmarket lodges on these islands offer an exclusive experience to the more discerning traveller.
Vilanculos offers a range of accommodation along its beaches similar to the Barra and Tofo area. Water sports are a favourite in the warm Mozambique Channel. Getting to Vilanculos by road takes you through Maxixe, then after 68 kms the busy town of Massinga, and another 175 km onto to Vilanculos. Along these routes are turnoffs to small resorts, a short drive off the main road. However, most of these lodges and resorts will require a 4×4 for ease of access.
- Maputo Airport and O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg offer daily flights to Vilanculos and Inhambane