Vilanculos is a popular destination and the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of islands incorporated into Mozambique's stunning underwater national park. An on-day trip from Vilanculos, visitors can enjoy scuba diving and snorkelling; the archipelago's coral reefs and clear waters offer excellent diving. There are horse safaris and day rides along the long unspoiled beaches of the Vilanculos coast which are deservedly popular and afford riders wonderful views.
Another fun activity is a sailing trip around the archipelago in a traditional dhow, which is a great way to enjoy the azure waters, sandy beaches, palm trees and coral reefs of the islands. Vilanculos is also a great fishing area, ranked as the best Black Marlin destination in the eastern Indian Ocean.
Described as 'the next Goa', Tofo Beach is in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique. It has definitely become a hotspot for young travellers, with beautiful stretches of beach, a friendly laid-back atmosphere, good restaurants, an entertaining nightlife and some great diving and snorkelling sites.
There are many restaurants in Tofo, and there are also a number of beach bars and a bustling nightlife, though Dino's Bar and Restaurant and Fatima's Nest are the biggest hotspots. The main draw of Tofo is the natural beauty, with pristine beaches perfect for swimming, diving, and watersports like surfing, kitesurfing and bodyboarding. The area is a scuba diving hotspot, with popular sites like Manta Reef, and the chance to spot humpback whales, reef sharks, and whale sharks. Beware of jellyfish though, as giant Portuguese man-of-war float through in swarms.
The Quirimbas Archipelago is fast becoming Mozambique's new tourist hotspot. Quirimbas is soon to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This island is not only home to some fantastic sun-soaked beaches, incredible fishing opportunities, and world-class diving sites, but some truly fascinating cultural sites as well. Easily accessed from Pemba, the Quirimbas Islands should be one of the first destinations on any tourist's Mozambique travel itinerary.
Whether you choose to go diving or snorkelling from one of the 1,300-feett (400m) drop-off sites sprinkled around the archipelago, or you choose to hide away from the world in a wooden chalet on the resort-island of Medjumbe or rent a villa on the ultra-exclusive Vamizi Island; whether you decide to go exploring around historic Stone Town on Ibo Island or you choose to head to the mangrove-fringed Quirimbas National Park, you are sure to leave this little corner of paradise vowing to return. The fishing and scuba diving are extremely rewarding, and the islands make a wonderful honeymoon destination.
Ponta d'Ouro is a popular destination for divers and surfers, just south of Maputo along a sandy road. 'Surf's up' in Ponta d'Ouro, which is home to some of the most perfect waves in Africa, and swimming with dolphins is not to be missed, either way you choose, it can be a deeply rewarding, even life-changing experience. The white beaches stretch far into the distance, luring walkers, and the rock pools are full of colourful shells and corals.
Ponta is also a very popular scuba diving destination, offering spectacular dive sites and a wealth of exciting sea creatures to encounter underwater. Accommodation ranges from the rustic to the luxurious, with lovely campsites right on the beach.
Ponta d'Ouro is easily accessible from South Africa, making it a wonderful addition to any tourist tour of southern Africa.
Spanning an area of 42,000 square kilometres (10 million acres), the Niassa Game Reserve is the largest protected area in Mozambique, and one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the whole of Africa. Twice the size of South Africa's famed Kruger National Park (making it roughly the size of Denmark), the Niassa Reserve boasts a high concentration (if not massive variety) of wildlife, incredibly varied bird life, and absolutely stunning natural scenery. The park is special because it is essentially a wilderness area and relatively unexplored.
Visitors to the Niassa Game Reserve will be spellbound by the interesting and changing landscape, ranging from mountain forests to miombo forests and savanna grasslands, not to mention the high concentration of wild animals, including something like 13,000 elephants, 200 endangered wild dogs, lions, leopards and a huge assortment of birds. Another exciting feature of the park are the inselbergs, giant rock formations, the largest of which is the Mecula Mountain. Tourists are urged to visit between April and October, as this is the prime game viewing season. The best place to stay in the Niassa Reserve is definitely the world-class Lugenda Wilderness Camp, which offers visitors comfortable lodgings, game drives, hiking trails, rock climbing and incredible star-gazing opportunities.
Ilha de Mozambique (Mozambique Island) is an island in the Nampula Province in Northern Mozambique, up the coast from Beira, with a fascinating historical heritage. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly four centuries under Portuguese rule before the move to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), and was used as a base for Arab traders long before that. It is not only a wonderful tourist destination in Mozambique, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is an exquisite mix of Old Portuguese and Muslim architecture, dividing the old Stone Town in the north and the Reed Town in the south. There is a great museum in the form of the Palacio Govierno, a big red building in Stone Town. Also worth seeing is the fort at the northern tip of the island, home to the Church of Nossa Senhora Baluarte, quite possibly the oldest surviving European building in the southern hemisphere, dating back to 1522. At the northern end of the island there is a dive centre, situated on a beach from where visitors can take boat trips or else just laze on the sand. For the more adventurous, a dhow can be taken to Chaga or Mossuril on the mainland to explore the coast. Requilias and Escondidino are two popular restaurants in Stone Town and there are a number of local places serving fish and rice, or chima. One of the best options for accommodation is the campsite on the mainland, next to the bridge.
Often referred to as 'the place where Noah parked his Ark', Gorongosa National Park was a playground for the rich and famous back in the 1960s, lured by the abundance of wildlife in the area. The subsequent years of war and poaching decimated the wildlife count but programmes have since been put in place to restore the park's previous status as one of the richest wildlife refuges in the world. The park now includes the verdant Mount Gorongosa, which has lush rainforest on its summit and slopes and is the source of the life-sustaining rivers that traverse the reserve. The mountain is sacred to the local people and features prominently in folklore.
The park contains a variety of terrain but is dominated by savanna and grassland, with some woodland and interesting limestone gorges. Even after being ravaged by 17 years of civil war and extensive poaching, Gorongosa National Park supports astounding biodiversity, with 398 bird species, 122 mammals, 34 reptiles and 43 amphibians that have been documented. Highlights for visitors include elephants, buffalo, lions, crocodiles and zebra. There are traversable roads to the park from both Beira and Maputo, and comfortable lodgings are available.
Situated in the Tete Province in Mozambique, the Cahora Bassa Lake is by far Africa's second-largest artificial lake. The Cahora Bassa Dam system is the largest hydroelectric scheme in southern Africa and it is one of the three major dams on the Zambezi river system, the others being Kariba and Itezhi-Tezhi. The nearest town is called Songo, established in 1969 to house the workers for the construction of the dam. Ugezi Tiger Lodge is quite close to Songo and has an à la carte restaurant, as well as a campsite with floodlights and security.
There are a number of other lodges and camps where tourists can stay. Great fishing is the biggest drawcard of the dam and fishing trips are very popular, as the vast stretch of water contains Tiger Fish, Sharptooth Catfish, Vundu, Bream, Longfin Eels, Zambezi Parrotfish and much more. Boat cruises and water-skiing are other attractions of the area. The lake and surrounding landscapes are very picturesque, with lush vegetation and dramatic mountainous scenery.
Benguerra is the second largest island of the Bazaruto Archipelago, less than half a mile (1km) south of Bazaruto and like its neighbour, has stunning beaches, large sand dunes and freshwater lakes. Its forest and wetland areas attract a huge variety of birds and animals, while its surrounding reefs offer some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities on the African continent. Two-Mile Reef is to the east of Benguerra, and its protected lagoon, known aptly as the Aquarium, is an underwater paradise with beautiful corals and a wealth of tropical fish, popular with both divers and snorkellers.
On the sandbanks to the north of the island the famous Pansy shells can be found. Most visitors come to Benguerra for the big game fishing though, as its deep waters teem with the likes of marlin and barracuda, and the area is world-renowned as a sport fishing destination. There is plenty of accommodation on the island and tourist facilities are good, with a number of upmarket lodges and exclusive resorts geared towards luxury tourism. Benguerra is a popular honeymoon destination and remains an unspoiled natural paradise which is fast becoming one of the best luxury beach destinations in Africa.
The largest island in the archipelago, Bazaruto Island is about 23 miles (37km) long and four miles (7km) wide, surrounded by magnificent stretches of white sand. Enormous sand dunes comprise the eastern strip, while the interior contains large freshwater lakes frequented by a wide variety of water birds such as flamingos, and is inhabited by crocodiles. On the northern tip of the island is a lighthouse built by the Portuguese over 100 years ago, which signals to the large number of ships travelling the historic Mozambique Channel and affords spectacular views from its tower.
World famous for its large game fishing, Bazaruto is also well known as a popular diving destination, with a rich variety of marine life surrounding the island. The Bazaruto Marine National Park offers coral reefs, crystal-clear waters and diverse underwater life. Reef sharks, dolphins, manta rays and even turtles are regular visitors to these waters, and the turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of the island. Humpback whales can be found between August and October, and whale sharks between April and July. Tourist facilities, upmarket lodges and exclusive resorts dot the island and are geared towards luxury tourism.