Southern Africa offers a number of premier holiday destinations, and with so many excellent locations to choose from, it would be wise to plan a trip that includes more than just one country in this decidedly alluring and adventurous area on the this great planet. It would be difficult to visit every single country in the Southern Africa region in one trip, so we will focus today on Mozambique and a few of its neighbors.
The country of Mozambique is brimming with natural beauty, exquisite beaches, thriving wildlife and historic heritage, making it one of the gems of the African continent. Visitors will not want to miss the major attractions of Mozambique, which include the Bazaruto Archipelago which is made up of 4 main islands situated just off the mainland coast. It is accessible by boat or small aircraft and offers high-quality accommodation that attracts international visitors who indulge not only in swimming and sunbathing but also in an array of outdoor activities and water sports including snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and water-skiing.
Small antelope roam the islands alongside fresh-water crocodiles and samango monkeys, while flamingo nest on the freshwater lakes. The islands are also home to over 240 species of birds. The entire archipelago forms part of the Bazaruto Marine Park, making this reserve one of the largest in the Indian Ocean. In addition to humpback whales, dolphins, manta rays, and 5 species of turtle, some 100 dugongs survive here.
For historical heritage, Mozambique’s Ilha de Mozambique is unmatched as its capital has nearly four centuries of history under Portuguese colonization, and it was a major base for Arab traders long before the arrival of the Portuguese. Today, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Ilha is a magical mix of old Portuguese and ancient Muslim architecture. Fascinating places to visit are the museum in the Palacio do Governo as well as the fort, which contains the Church of Nossa Senhora Baluarte, almost certainly the oldest surviving European building in the southern hemisphere, dating back to 1522.
Stretched along the southern edge of the Great Rift Valley 80 km from Beira, the Gorongosa National Park covers 3,770 square kilometers of savannah, woodlands, and rainforest. Game drives are run twice daily and hikes are led to the impressive 1,800-meter high Mount Gorongosa. Visitors are treated to sightings of lion, leopard, and other large cats, buffalo, elephant, warthog, zebra, hippo, crocodile, and a variety of antelope. The bird life is prolific, with over 200 species having been identified, including the rare green-headed oriole.
From Mozambique, traveling northward, one will arrive in…
One cannot talk about traveling to Tanzania without first mentioning the great Mount Kilimanjaro that was formed over a half million years ago and towers 4,600 meters over the African plains, its pinnacle beyond the clouds. People around the world are drawn to climb this mighty mammoth, with the first people known to climb Kilimanjaro being German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian climber Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889. Today, around 25,000 attempt to reach the Mount Kilimanjaro summit every year.
Besides this iconic natural wonder, Tanzania is rich in cultural heritage, while its grassy plains are teeming with animal and bird life. Perhaps the most famous of plains is that known as the Serengeti which draws thousands every year to witness the great migration when some 6 million hooves pound the earth. Some will choose to take in this one-of-a-kind event by walking, while others will opt for hot-air balloon rides, or on safari drives.
Along with Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti, Tanzania offers another one of the world’s greatest spectacles – the Ngorongoro Crater, the 8th wonder of the world. The crater floor is a natural sanctuary for thousands of animals and many species of insects and birds, and lush highlands surround the crater, falling away to the plains and lakes of the Great Rift Valley. Also not to be missed is a visit to Lake Victoria – the second largest freshwater lake on earth. The surrounding land is one of enormous natural beauty virtually bordering on the Serengeti. The Rubondo Island National Park along the southern portion of the lake will be an important highlight of a visit to this area where one can enjoy bird watching, boat trips, and hiking.
Dropping back now on our journey towards the south lies the country of…
Zambia, along with its neighbor Zimbabwe, is home to the magnificent Victoria Falls, described as “the Smoke that Thunders” and more recently as the greatest known curtain of falling water. The falls are one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world, flowing from the Zambezi River. Its columns of spray billowing into the air can be seen from far away, and on the opposite side of the falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height and covered in a mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of this forest gives one a spectacular view to last a lifetime.
Some of the best views are from Livingstone Island where visitors can take a thrilling swim in a natural rock pool on the edge of the falls Devil’s Pool. Other activities at the falls include scenic flights above the waterfalls; water activities such as white-water rafting, river boarding, kayaking, and jet boating; abseiling and high-wire; river cruises and canoeing; as well as elephant rides, walking with lions, horse riding, and game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
Other beautiful parks that are must-visits include the South Luangwa National Park that some experts have dubbed one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The concentrations of game around the Luangwa River and its lagoons are among the highest found anywhere in Africa, and the park is famed for its seclusion and natural beauty. The now famous “walking safari” originated here in the early 1950s and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first-hand. And the beauty of the Lower Zambezi National Park lies in its state of absolute wilderness. Situated opposite the Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe, the entire area on both sides of the river is a massive wildlife sanctuary. Canoeing trips are offered by the lodges, and river guides will take visitors down remote channels between the islands for exciting, close-up encounters with the hippos and elephants.
Rounding out the natural beauty to be discovered in Zambia is the largest man-made dam in Africa formed at Lake Kariba. The lake is a playground for all kinds of boating and water sports, and attracts vast quantities of game. Equipped with marinas, an airport and a harbor, the lake is fast becoming an extremely popular resort destination with well-established luxury lodges and hotels, self-catering chalets and campsites, houseboat holidays.
And finally, nestled between all three of these countries is the land named…
Here visitors will find the African Great Lake of Lake Malawi in the Great Rift Valley system, estimated to be between 40,000 and two million years old. It is the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa and occupies a fifth of Malawi with its clear tropical waters teeming with more fish species than any other lake on Earth.
Bordering the lake is Lake Malawi National Park, the world’s first freshwater national park and a World Heritage Site. Countless thousands of freshwater fish, the mbuna, are more abundant and varied here than anywhere else in the world. Boats can be hired and the fish feed directly from one’s hand. Away from the lake, there are baboons, antelope, and hyrax, as well as spectacular birdlife, and the lake offers great opportunities for sporting activities like kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba-diving. The lake contains a number of small islands, all located in “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” and although preserved in their natural state, some of them have been developed for eco-tourism.
Malawi’s largest park, Nyika National Park, has got to be one of the most outstanding destinations in Africa. It is a wonderland of flowers, including ground orchids, proteas, irises, and is home to vast herds of eland, the largest of the antelope. Horseback safaris are offered here, and there is no thrill like that of riding through a herd of zebra or roan antelope. The eastern edge of the plateau forms the wall of the Great Rift Valley where visitors may hire a mountain bike or hike all the way down to Livingstonia, which is the best way to appreciate Nyika’s scale without overlooking its exquisite detail.
Located within a cluster of forested hills high up against the plateau of central Malawi is the richest concentration of Chongoni rock art in Central Africa. This tradition of farmer rock art, as well as paintings by BaTwa hunter-gatherers who inhabited the area from the late Stone Age can be found in where Chewa agriculturalists’ ancestors lived here from the late Iron Age and practiced rock painting well into the 20th century.
Lying east of Blantyre are the bare rock flanks of the mountain tower known as Mount Mulanje. There is plenty of wildlife, from the klipspringer a tiny antelope to various other small mammals and, of course, a large variety of birds. Visitors can drive around the entire foot of the mountain in a day or experience it more intimately by climbing and camping on the slopes, taking comparatively gentle walks or attempting some more demanding climbs. Camping equipment and the services of a guide can be hired.
Getting to Mozambique
For those beginning their Southern Africa holiday in Mozambique, many of the large airlines fly into the country, including South African Airways, Qatar Airways, TAP Portugal, Ethiopian Airlines, and United Airlines. Maputo International Airport is the largest airport in the country located in the capital city of Maputo and is a hub for LAM Mozambique Airlines and Kaya Airlines. Traveling from country to country other than via air is possible via busses, car, and in some cases, depending on the location, by boat.
The Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) institution responsible for tourism growth and development. In part, the aims of RETOSA are to increase tourist arrivals to the region through sustainable development initiatives, improved regional competitiveness, and effective destination marketing. The organization works together with Member States’ tourism ministries, tourism boards, and private sector partners. For more information about RETOSA, go to www.retosa.co.za