Bustling Metangula is the capital of the lake district, the largest Mozambican town along the lakeshore, and the site of a small naval base. The town is divided into two areas: the staid administrative quarters perched on a small escarpment with wide views over the lake, and the lower lying residential areas along the lake shore.
The closest beach to Quelimane is Zalala Beach, about 30km northeast of town. Long and wide, with a row of fringing palms and a large village nearby, it’s an ideal day excursion for getting a taste of local Zambézian life. The drive out from Quelimane is bumpy and scenic, through extensive coconut plantations formerly owned by Companhia da Zambézia.
The mountainous Penha Longa area straddles the border with Zimbabwe, beginning about 20km north of Manica. It’s cool and scenic and offers many walks, all of which can be easily undertaken from Casa Gaswa or Quinta da Fronteira. The area is also home to the Shona people and you’ll see their traditional painted dwelling compounds dotting the hillsides.
Milange is a busy town with more than its share of hustlers, about 3km from the border (Melosa) with southeastern Malawi. Millennium BIM has an ATM. Pensão Reis, with hot running water, and Pensão Lili are both centrally located and have been recommended as safe, although it’s better to push on if possible and stay in either Mocuba or over the border in Mulanje (Malawi).
Marromeu is an old sugar-growing centre beside the Zambezi River, dating back to the late-19th century when the Portuguese Sugar Society of East Africa built a plantation and sugar factory here. After many years of neglect, the factory has been rehabilitated under Mauritian ownership, and is now Mozambique’s largest sugar processing mill.
About 60km further downstream from Sena and Mutarara is Caia, the main north–south crossing point. There’s no decent accommodation in Caia itself, but in Catapu, 32km south of Caia along the main road, is the very good M’phingwe Camp, with six rustic but spotless double cabins sharing facilities, plus one with its own bathroom. There is no camping.
Perhaps the most stunning of the beaches strung along the lagoon-studded coast north and south of Xai-Xai. Like the rest, Chidenguele is quiet, except during South African school holidays. The area is particularly suited to travellers with their own vehicle, as many of the lodges are located well off the N1, although some offer transfers.
Chocas, Cabaceira Pequena & Cabaceira Grande
North of Mozambique Island and across Mossuril Bay is the old Portuguese holiday town of Chocas. The town itself is of minimal interest, but just south along a sandy track roughly paralleling the beach is Cabaceira Pequena, with a long, beautiful white-sand beach and views across the bay to Mozambique Island.