One of the hottest and least expensive dive destinations, Mozambique, is rife with untrammeled and undiscovered sites. Giant mantas, dolphins, whales and whale sharks that prowl the Mozambique Channel (accessed from the town of Praia do Tofo) put this nation on the dive map, but then divers discovered the pristine Quirimba and Bazaruto Archipelagos. These low-lying, completely undeveloped islands harbor a rich seascape, including blue spotted lagoon rays, crocodile fish, an abundance of colorful tropicals such as anthias and basslets, massive potato cod, honeycomb eels, harlequin shrimp and 1,200 other species a haven for underwater photographers. The diversions above the water are untainted, sweeping African experiences. Start at Pemba and head south to Ponto do Ouro and check off most of your diving wish list.
When to go:
Diving is possible year-round, but the weather varies, with dry season from April to September, and rainy season from January until March.
Marine Life Seasons:
June to September is the time to see migrating humpback whales. Whale sharks can be seen during most of the year but the best time to see them is from October to March.
When to Get the Best Deals:
October to March.
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit or rash guard in summer; 5 mm wetsuit in winter with hood and gloves, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, comfortable shoes that can get wet for hiking, DAN card, long sleeved lightweight shirts, long trousers for cool nights, a light jacket for cool evenings, small medical kit..
Seasonal averages: 23°C/73°F in winter and 30°C/86°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 23°C/73°F in winter and 28°C/84°F in summer.
New Metical (MZN); Credit card use is sporadically available. US dollars widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
None required, but anti-malarial are recommended. Check with the CDC recommendations.
What to Eat:
The food of Mozambique is a blend of Portuguese, Indian and African cuisine. Seafood features prominently with fish, prawns, calamari, crabs and lobster readily available and fresh. Corn and cassava are typical sides, but rice, beans and potatoes are also common. A typical local dish is matata - a seafood and peanut stew with greens, often served over maize porridge. Many dishes are fiery, served with piri piri sauce made from a hot chili pepper. Definitely try some pãozinho (hot Portuguese-style bread rolls).
What to Drink:
Due to the Portuguese influence, madiera wine is very popular. The local beers include 2M, Laurentina, Manica, Raiz and Impala (which is made from local cassava). The local home brews are potent, so beware. Tipitento is that local rum that is usually mixed with a raspberry-flavored drink. Tea, or cha, is the most common drink, although you can find some wonderful local coffees.
Get a guide and tour the Gorongosa National Park; paddle the Quirimbas Archipelago; walk among the colonial buildings of Ilha de Mocambique; people watch at Maputo from the many sidewalk cafes; get to know the traditional cultures of Montes Chimianimani.
Customs and Culture:
Be careful touring the country on your own. It’s better to take a guided tour away from the larger tourist areas.
Electricity and Internet:
220 V/ 50Hz; Internet is sporadically available.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended.
Official language is Portuguese, but Swahili, Makhuwa and Sena are widely spoken. English is spoken in the tourist areas.
Amazing Marine Life
Weighing in at as much as 1,350 kilograms/three thousand pounds, these occasionally seen mammals looks something like a cross between a walrus and a pug dog.
While the "whale" reference in its name refers to its mammoth size (up to 12 meters/40 feet), this spotted goliath is actually the world’s largest fish.
These giants soar like winged flying carpets.
Sailfin Leaf fish:
Great photo subject once your sharp-eyed dive guide has found these stealthy fish.
Resembling a frilly praying mantis, this predatory shrimp grabs small fish with lightning speed.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
Several species, including Zambezi, tiger, great hammerhead, white-tip and black-tip reef, as well as leopard sharks all have found a home in these waters.
Distinctive bands of white and orange mark these fish, which are often found sheltering among the tentacles of an anemone.
Rare loggerhead and green sea turtles.
This large nudibranch will often "fly" off the reef in an elegant, undulating motion.
Top Dive Spots
This reef can only be reached in calm conditions when the outer ledge is accessible by boat. In addition to the eponymous manta, gathering here for the services of cleaning stations, watch for giant frogfish, painted frogfish, paperfish, flying gurnards, sea moths, bonded shrimp, Spanish dancers, long-nose hawkfish, marbled leopard grouper, crowned emperor shrimp, a dozen species of nudibranch, honeycomb eels, giant moray eels, and long-horned box cowfish. Pelagic visitors include whale sharks and other shark species.
A favorite with macro photographers, this lagoon shelters juvenile broad-barred and devil firefish, baby long-horn cowfish, emperor angelfish, paperfish, flounder, pipefish, seahorses, and the occasional rare dugong.
Marlin Pinnacle, Bazaruto Archipelago:
This pinnacle, rising 30 meters/100 feet from a sandy seafloor, attracts potato bass and shoals of pelagic fish, as well as manta rays, marlin, sailfish, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, Zambezi sharks, and tiger sharks. During the whale season, humpback whales can often be seen (and heard), and whale sharks are occasionally spotted as well.
The wall here teems with parrotfish, sea goodies, trumpetfish, devil fire fish, butterflyfish, angelfish, and shoaling natal moonies. Look in crevices for octopus, crayfish, and scorpionfish.
Two-Mile Reef, Bazuruto Archipelago:
This flat-topped reef is carved with swim-through gullies that curve out from the shallows toward the deeper areas. The reef boasts hard and soft corals, anemones and anemone fish, and schooling coachmen, fusilier, snapper, and surgeonfish. Visitors include potato bass, kingfish, barracuda, guitarfish, manta rays, and the occasional dugong.
Amazon, Manta Coast:
This deep reef wall hosts multitudes of reef fish, and frequent visitors include manta rays, leopard sharks, white-tip and black-tip reef sharks, and the occasional lemon shark. Two large caves gouged out of the wall house loggerhead and green turtles.
Cresh, Manta Coast:
This shallow, sunlit reef is an excellent site for photography. Look for swarms of juvenile fish, pufferfish, blue-spotted rays, octopus, pepper eels, stonefish, lizardfish, boxfish, and clown triggerfish, as well as staghorn coral, sea sponges, and anemones.
Grottos, Manta Coast:
This flat reef is riddled with large caverns with pinnacle-like rock formations inside. Look for greyspot guitarfish, honeycomb moray eels, pepper morays, nudibranchs, trumpetfish, flute-mouth fish, goldies, peacock rock cod, and parrotfish, as well as soft corals, sea urchins, brain coral, leather coral, and anemones.
Mavericks, Ponta do Ouro:
This deep (30-meter/100-foot) dive centers on a huge boulder with the reef growing around it. Look for goldies, black cheek moray, geometric moray, honeycomb moray, pipefish, nudibranch, mantis shrimp, sailfin leaf fish, garden eels, ribbon eels, and powder-blue surgeonfish, as well as soft corals, mushroom coral, cup sponges, lobed pore coral, table coral, and spiral coral.
Aquarium, Ponta do Ouro:
This site takes its name from a large boulder which has been hollowed out with "windows" allowing the diver to peer inside. Covered in turret coral and thistle soft coral, the reef is home to goldies, potato bass, garden eels, rockmover wrasse, cleaner shrimp, black-cheek eels, flounder, sailfin leaf fish, and old woman angelfish.