Crescent-shaped Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique) measures only 3km in length and barely 500m in width at its widest section. Yet it has played a larger-than-life role in East African coastal life over the centuries, and today is one of the region’s most fascinating destinations – part slowly reawakening ghost town, part lively fishing community.
The large fishing village of Palma lies nestled among the coconut groves about 45km south of the Tanzania border. It’s a centre for basketry and mat weaving (though most of this is done in the outlying villages) and for boat making, and it is fascinating to watch craftspeople using centuries-old techniques.
Niassa’s capital is pretty, low-key Lichinga (formerly Vila Cabral), which sits at about 1300m altitude, with an invigorating, cool climate and quiet, jacaranda-lined streets. It’s worth a day or two in its own right and is also the best jumping-off point for exploring the Lake Niassa.
Moçimboa da Praia
This bustling outpost is the last major town before the Rovuma River and the Tanzanian border. Most local residents are Mwani (‘People of the Sea’) – a Swahili, and hence Muslim, people known for their textiles and silver craftsmanship, as well as for their rich song and dance traditions.
About 160km northeast of Lichinga on the Tanzanian border is the Niassa Reserve, a vast tract of wilderness with the largest wildlife populations in Mozambique, although the animals are often difficult (or impossible) to spot. Wildlife includes elephants (estimated to number about 16,000), sable antelopes (14,000), lions (800), buffaloes and zebras.
Ibo, the best-known of the Quirimbas islands, is an enchanting place. Its quiet streets are lined with dilapidated villas and crumbling, moss-covered buildings, and echo with the silent, hollow footsteps of bygone centuries. Architecturally it is more open than Mozambique Island, although its ambience is more insulated and its pace more subdued.
Apart from Chocas, the closest major village in the area is Mossuril, which you’ll pass en route when travelling to Chocas by road, and which hosts a lively Saturday market. Pensão-Restaurant Sunset Boulevard is in the São João area of Mossuril, about 800m from the Mossuril Governo building, and a good half-hour walk from the main Mossuril village transport junction.
Until recently, tiny Quilaluia was inhabited only by seasonal fishing communities. Now it’s a protected marine sanctuary and home to Quilálea, a luxurious private resort with nine sea-facing villas. The surrounding waters offer prime diving and snorkelling immediately offshore.