Xai-Xai (pronounced ‘shy-shy’, and known during colonial times as João Belo) is a long town, stretching for several kilometres along the N1. It’s of little interest to travellers, but the nearby Xai-Xai Beach (Praia do Xai-Xai), about 10km from the town centre, has invigorating sea breezes, and is an agreeable overnight stop if you’re driving to/from points further north.
Just 7000 years ago – almost like yesterday in geological terms – Inhaca (Ilha de Inhaca) was part of the mainland. Today, this wayward chunk of Mozambican coastline lies about 40km offshore from Maputo, and is an enjoyable weekend getaway. It’s also an important marine research centre, known in particular for its offshore coral reefs.
About 40km south of Beira and just south of the Búzi River is the site of the ancient gold-trading port of Sofala, dating from at least the 9th century AD. Sofala’s importance lay in its role as the major link between the gold trade of the interior and the powerful sultanate at Kilwa in present-day Tanzania.
Mocimboa 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.
The bustling district capital of Massinga is a convenient stocking up point, with numerous shops, a petrol station and garage. There are several ATMs, including Millennium BIM and BCI, at the southern end of town. For accommodation, try Dalilo’s Hotel at the northern end of town, with meals at Dalilo’s Restaurant, just south of Dalilo’s Hotel.
Gorongosa National Park
About 170km northwest of Beira is Gorongosa National Park, which was gazetted in 1960 and soon made headlines as one of southern Africa’s premier wildlife parks. It was renowned for its large prides of lions, as well as for its elephants, hippos, buffaloes and rhinos. During the 1980s and early 1990s, hungry soldiers and poachers brought an end to this abundance.
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.