Mozambique seeks to reawaken tourist industry

White beaches, blue skies, waving palm fronds, coloured fish—Quilalea could be any South Sea Island which Europeans dream of as they ponder another day with bad weather.

But Quilalea is not in the South Seas. It is off the north coast of Mozambique in a stretch of water in the Indian Ocean which has more varieties of sealife than almost anywhere in the world.

The island is the latest jewel in the young tourist industry of this country once wreaked by civil war. Ten years after the end of hostilities, the region lures with its untouched natural beauties.

After a decade of isolation, Mozambique is trying to polish up its image and aiming to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in southern Africa.
South Africans especially are re-discovering the attractions of their neighbouring country.

Mozambique has been attracting almost exclusively two classes of tourist: the back packer and the luxury tourist. Both appreciate the natural beauty of the coastal state which, with its 2 400-kilometre

coastline, idyllic bays, lonely islands and coral reefs is a popular destination for divers, snorkelers, adventurers and other globetrotters.

The island of Quilalea itself is tailored for the luxury end of the market. It’s just 35 hectares. It is malaria free and uninhabited, apart from hotel staff. This is what accounts for its Robinson Crusoe atmosphere—even if that comes with internet connection and satellite telephone.

Overnight accommodation begins at $450-a-night per

person, with everything that a modern day Robinson Crusoe needs, although the champagne comes only as an extra.

The island is part of the Quirimbas National Park, named after an island archipelago of the same name. The park consists of 7 500 square kilometres of islands, bays, and open sea. It has mountains,

jungles, swamps, rivers, sharks, whales, elephants, lions, eagles and flamingoes.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is one of the main partners in the national park project and actively supporting it.

The nearby Bazaruto Archipelago is one of the last refuges of the Dugong—sometimes called the sea cow—which is a threatened species.

Daily flights link Johannesburg and the mainland town of Vilankulo, the administrative centre of the archipelago. Once upon a time, this was the seaside playground of the Portuguese colonial masters.

Vilankulo is becoming increasingly popular because it provides access to the Bazaruto Archipelago and also because it itself has beaches, a hectic night life and and accommodation at a reasonable cost.

Once, Vilankulo meant the Donna Anna Hotel. The hotel is still there, even if in a somewhat dilapidated condition—but that makes it all the easier to reflect on what it must have been like in the

olden days.

Further down the coast is the centre of Xai-Xai, which suffered devastating damage during Mozambique’s flooding in 200 and 2001.

Most of the flood damage has been repaired. The Mozambican capital of Maputo is also attracting more and more tourists. It is easily accessible from Johannesburg by road (between five and six hours) and by air (one hour) and even by cruiseliner. The rail links between South Africa’s capital of Pretoria and Maputo are due to be improved and raised to the

standard where the legendary luxury Blue Train can run between the two cities. - Sapa-DPA

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