Tag Archives: Mozambique

Maputo Blues

Chris Harvie goes looking for music in Mozambique

The Mozambiquan capital is well-known for its fabulous nightlife and particularly its jazz clubs, which I had never plucked up the courage to investigate. I had therefore launched a plan to indulge in the inevitable prawn fest on the Saturday evening, then head out to discover those famous clubs and investigate the local marrabenta music, said to be an exotic melange of Portuguese fado folk music, church music and local rhythms. It promised to be a musical feast.

Booking into the city’s newest hotel, the Radisson Blu, a note was thrust into my hand, clarifying that we were to be guests during a period of “soft opening”, which, it pointed out, explained the lower rate. I hadn’t known this, but apart from a few unfinished finishes, there didn’t seem to be anything soft about the place at all. In fact, it would be hard to beat.

The welcome was as polished as the stainless steel décor. The 12-storey building consists of a hollow triangular tower of glass focussed around a red, green and blue light-streaked staircase. All the rooms offer a sea view of some kind or other; all are modern and light with all the trappings of a five-star hotel and service to match.

Our room looked out to the west along the coast and down the estuary into the port. High up on the right, we could see the newly-refurbished Polana Hotel and below us, the Avenida Marginal promenade bustled with evening revellers, on route for their Saturday night entertainment.

I had written in advance to the hotel for advice on music venues and received a very detailed reply from Ivan Laranjeira, the Guest Relations Manager, offering numerous options for a Saturday night. He particularly recommended the Kamfumo Bistro, also known as Chez Rangel, in Maputo’s signature railway station, and Modas Kavalu, on top of the Teatro Avenida, which was, he said, quickly repositioning itself as one of the most influential venues on the Maputo musical scene.

On check-in, we asked how we should get to Kamfumo, only to be informed that it was closed, so we opted for the second suggestion. But that was closed too. Ivan’s third choice, the Gil Vicente Café Bar, promised lively jam sessions and ‘karaoke’, so we decided against that and threw ourselves into the search for crustaceans instead, discovering in the process that yet another Maputo landmark, the Marginal’s Costa do Sol restaurant, was also currently not functioning, although it is still unclear why. There was a rumour that the old icon is to be turned into a hotel school but, on investigation, the sign on the fence merely said it was being refurbished.

Defeated at every turn, we decided to beat a thirsty retreat to our hotel bar and then dine in-house.  It would turn out to be a very wise plan.

I have never been a big barracuda enthusiast, always finding it to be dry and rather tasteless, but at the blue-lighted Filini Restaurant I underwent a Damascene moment. In Carpaccio form, barracuda takes a lot of beating; it is soft, juicy and with the mild zing attributed to it by the chef, it was somehow reminiscent of South American ceviche. With it, in the mixed hors d’oeuvres, were four stupendous prawns, roasted peppers, a shrimp salad, grilled calamari and some clams.

My colleague Kevin followed his enthusiastic attack on the starter with another ten prawns, whilst I went for a crab pasta, topped with half a crab, a garnish that was almost a meal in itself. Kevin then braved a crème brulée, which impressed a keen dessert critic.

Withdrawing to the balcony for a nightcap, sheltered from the on-going drizzle, we watched and heard Maputo at play. It might not have been the sound of a jazz band but it was lively enough – the hum of vehicles enveloped by soft rain, the swaying of the palm trees in the wind and a gentle pulse of African rhythms from the surrounding restaurants.

Sunday morning’s breakfast was a six-star affair and sported more berries, pastries, juices and seeds than you could throw a stick at, followed by the perfect scrambled egg. We had nothing planned, so took a drive into the downtown Baixa area for a forlorn look through the closed glass doors of the station’s Kamfumo Bistro which would certainly be an impressive venue when open, before turning our attention to the city’s other landmarks: the Botanical Gardens, the Iron House and the Municipal Market. Like almost everything else (apart from the potholed streets) theMercado was under reconstruction.

We lunched in the rain at the Polana, made our way through more rain to the Marés shopping centre where we took coffee at Beatles after a rowdy game of ten-pin bowling with the local Sunday crowd, ending up some hours later at Miramar, opposite the Radisson, for a few 2Ms with prawn cakes and seafood samosas. Miramar was already rivalling Costa do Sol when the former was still open. Now it seems to be cementing its position and proved another highlight of a wet weekend.

Maputo is a refreshing break away from home but be sure to check what’s operating before you make too many plans or you, too, might end up ten-pin bowling instead of tapping your foot to some lively African rhythms in a splendid art deco bar.

So, musically I guess we blew it. No jazz, no blues. But our stay at the Radisson Blu blew us away.  Especially the blue-lighted restaurant.



About the Radisson Blu


Radisson Blu, Avenida Marginal Maputo, Mozambique.

Tel: +258 21 24 24 00 (Pre-Opening Office)
Fax: +258 21 24 24 01(Pre-Opening Office)
Email: info.maputo@radissonblu.com Website: www.radissonblu.com/hotel-maputo


154 exceptionally well-appointed rooms and suites. Free WiFi. Swimming Pool. The superb Filini restaurant is a highlight. The Palmeira lounge serves light meals and the Oceano Bar is open as late as 2am when the hotel is busy.


The hotel offers a wide range of special deals for weekends, long stays and even Valentine’s Day, so send an email and see what they can do.

A load of boules

The seas around Ibo may be short of fish, but the coral is fun to play with – and there’s Rhino

We were having a little trouble with the man. In his early 20s, he sported an unlikely red T-shirt, emblazoned with the name of the faraway CAFÉ DE PARIS ANNECY, and he’d obviously been at the local Rhino Gin with some enthusiasm.

Rhino, it says on the bottle, is ‘suave and smooth’ but it seems to render its Mozambiquan imbiber the very opposite of those two adjectives.

Somewhat rattled and edgy, therefore, our would-be car-guard was showing a mild tendency towards aggression, which would have been alarming had he not been unarmed and incapable of standing up unassisted.

He had scraped, unasked, all the mud off the bakkie’s running boards and was demanding payment for the task. It had, we pointed out, taken us many thousands of kilometres and not a little patience to accumulate the vehicle’s crusty coating of dust, much of it on the treacherous and most recent almost-underwater stretch to this dhow launch spot for Ibo Island, and we asked him politely to put it back.

Now he saw the funny side. But you’d see the funny side of anything after large glass – or a crash, maybe? – of Rhino.

Charity was our negotiator. A pretty Zimbabwean with a smattering of Portuguese and Kiswahili and a father on the island whom she was keen to see, she found us a reasonably-priced dhow for which we inevitably paid double the agreed amount and which promptly filled up with non-paying locals.

Teetering through the mangroves on the slimy shore, Rhino man helped carry our kit to the boat, which the Captain then steered across the strait to the island, the motor giving way to a pole in the shallower channels.

Next morning, strolling along the beach in search of intact cowries, we had soon to concede that the place was a marine graveyard despite its National Park status. The reef had smashed every shell into shards; passing speargun-toting fishermen held aloft substantial catches of rock cod. Nothing un-human moved.

In search of something whole or alive, we commandeered Captain and dhow to take us snorkelling on the sandbar. The craft was soon predictably crammed with freeloading would-be fishermen and we set sail for the open sea.

Reaching the cay, we donned masks and fins, but goggling not a single fish and only a small smattering of conches, with the only cowrie the size of a fingernail, we turned exasperated to alternative sandbar entertainment.

We launched a boules competition.

The jack was a sea-potato and a range of variously-sized and -shaped lumps of coral passed for balls. Such were our enthusiastic yells and flipper-tripping leaps up and down that the crew soon abandoned the dhow and their limp untouched lines to join in.

And thus was France’s national game introduced to the Quirimbas, although to our dismay, the Captain won the tournament on a tie-breaker.

When we tried to present him with the unblemished cowrie as the trophy – the shells were once used as currency here, after all – he looked unimpressed. Maybe it was the latent conservationist in him. Instead, in addition to the $65 we had already paid him to subsidise this unsuccessful fishing charter, we ended up shelling out an additional cash prize of 200 meticais.

The mud had not been re-plastered onto the vehicle on our return to the mainland, but Rhino man was cheerfully waiting and we gave him a chunk of our meagre budget for his troubles. We couldn’t afford much but it would have bought him a decent Russian vodka at the Café de Paris, if he could find a subsidised dhow to carry him there.

Thank Heavens, it’s Friday

Chris Harvie goes beyond Mozambique’s beach chaos and sports bars for a true ‘Robinson Crusoe” time

“Watch out – the mosquitoes come out early here,” warned manager Lloyd, squashing an example the size of a small bird between his fingers.

He was right. There was something of a plague in the early evening and they appeared immune to any lotions and potions we might apply. Having said that, they were the only blight on an otherwise perfect seaside camp.

The route from Bilene to Vilankulo is liberally smattered with “beach paradises” but whenever a new paradise is unearthed it is promptly rendered hellish by new developments, quad bikes and illegal bakkies stuck in the beach sand.

Between Vilankulo and the spectacular Save river bridge the road is admittedly in bad shape, as is the section of the EN6 between Inchope and Beira but they are gauntlets worth running for the pleasure of a beer in Beira, Mozambique’s gangster city, followed by a few nights up the coast at the spectacular Rio Savane camp.

The camp cannot be reached by road. Instead, when a vehicle pulls into the parking area, a flag is hoisted, bringing a motorised dhow scuttling across the creek to rescue arriving guests and ferry them and their belongings across the water.

By crossing the Savane river, you seem finally to escape the South African colonies of beach chaos and sports bars. The dhow ripples gently through the mangroves beset with one-pincered crabs and colourful birds. Safely deposited on the northern riverbank, this extraordinary hideaway then opens its face to the visitor with a broad swathe of palm-strewn level sands.

At the heart is a spacious campsite with shady pitches and generous-sized ablution blocks. On the perimeter stand a number of cabanas and machesas – reed-thatch huts with mosquito nets and shelving but no other furnishings. Bring your own camping kit and settle in. Outside, you are provided with a table, benches and a braai.

Along the riverfront are four rooms with a few more facilities although they are in different states of almost-charming dilapidation. This is, after all, definitely a camp, not a lodge, with the basics covered and the shortcomings more than made up for by the position.

The wind rustles through the swaying coconut palms and the sea crashes thunderously onto the dunes beyond the camp. It is so idyllic it almost a cliché.

A morning walk along the beach to the north of the peninsula allows a friendly glimpse into the local community and, on a good day, the fishermen will sell their catch for your evening braai.

The sea is invitingly warm with good surf for swimming and a lesser swell than the problematic pulls of the sea further down the coastline.

New managers, Lloyd and Debbie, have come in from Zimbabwe and are setting about an update of the property with gusto. They have, however, promised not to kill off its ineffable rustic charm by tarting it up too much.

There’s something marvellously relaxing about having to order your dinner in the restaurant by 5pm if you want to eat it by 7pm. The food is delicious and the beers are many and cold.

The menu consists of whatever is available. Our grouper steaks, for example, were small cuts off a very sizeable 25kg fish and served with chips and shredded cabbage. It was tender, tasty and ideal. On the second night, they rustled up a magnificent crab curry and some fine prawns.

Rio Savane’s charm is untouched by the depredations of human encroachment now endemic on almost every dune in Southern Mozambique.

It is still how you imagine a castaway’s desert island: you half-expect to hear drums in the interior and for a dusky maiden in a grass skirt to shimmy up with a rum and pineapple juice in a coconut shell.

They may have promised not to ruin it but don’t take any chances. If you are up for a remote and basic getaway with all the essentials provided, it’s only a short boat ride away from reality. Enjoy it while you still can.


Where it is: Across the Savane River to the 34km to the north of Beira in Mozambique

Why go there: For a Robinson Crusoe moment, with Man Friday already laid on for the cooking.

What it has: Camping, cabanas, machesas and four basic chalets. Carry all your equipment across the creek on the boat with you and don’t be shy. There’s plenty of space in the dhow and there are porters at both ends. You will regret leaving your extra comforts behind (although you can always go back and fetch them). The cabanas, machesas and campsites are unfurnished, so take your own campbeds, camping chairs and sleeping bags. Everything. And loads of mosquito repellent. There is a generator for lighting from 17.30 to 22.00. The water is drinkable and there is cold beer. You can keep your food in the camp’s fridges.

What there is to do: Boat trips up the river, birding (chestnut fronted helmet shrike, blue quail), sea and river fishing, swimming in the sea, long walks on the beach, rare blue and red duiker, bushpig and hippos. Take a day trip to Beira, Mozambique’s second city.

And the food: You can take it with you or rely on Simala, the chef, to come up with something interesting for you from the day’s catch. He will also cook your own food for you if you prefer not to do it yourself.

Rates: Camping $12 per adult and $6 per child. Cabanas and Machesas an additional $15 and $13 respectively. The fully-equipped (but basic) self-catering units sleep 4 from $120 with a charge of $12 for each additional person. No meals or activities included. Ice, firewood and coconuts for sale!

Getting there: Entering Beira on the EN1 from the East, take the Dondo turning, on the left, 1km before the airport exit. Marked by a rusted blue board in a busy market, this road leads to Rio Savane. Allow at least an hour for this hard and sometimes bumpy road to the car park where you leave your vehicle and continue by dhow. The vehicle is guarded and completely safe. 4×4 recommended but not necessarily essential in the dry season.

Contact Rio Savane. Telephone: +258 82 598 9751. Email: brdinv@gmail.com. GPS co-ordinates S19 40.495˚ / E035˚ 07.765

Hair, There and Everywhere

Seeking a bald man in a nature reserve is like hunting a black cat in a coal cellar, as Chris Harvie discovers

They told us that Eric was in charge.

Nobody seemed clear whether he was French or Italian but they all agreed that he was bald and we’d never find him in the 2100 square kilometre Gili Reserve. Never. So we’d better not get stuck.

The Mozambique rain was coming down in sheets but the road should be fine, they said, even after all the cyclones. Bob went through three times a week, they said, although no one seemed quite clear exactly who Bob was …

The wind lashed through the trees and the downpour grew in vigour. Trees crashed to the ground around us.

Passing mysterious villages, fording raging torrents and balancing on precarious beam bridges, we asked the locals for directions. Gili? Gili?

They looked completely bemused and pointed randomly. The road fizzled out and we slurped through a rank gassy marsh, where, in the nick of time, the lost GPS suddenly focused and tracked down a road. We followed it.

A gate and three men, rolling with laughter in Portuguese. We were funny.

Entrar” we said. “Traversar to Alto Molòcué?” We have little Portuguese.

It was obvious we were a rarity. The previous vehicle had entered three weeks earlier. Maybe it had never come out. Four other names appeared in the interim. Mode of Transport: Velopede. Bicycle. Reason for entering: Visitar a familia.

No tourists. No sign of Eric, either. Or Bob, for that matter.

We signed in. The senior ranger wrote a note for the exit gate-guard. It appeared to say:


We don’t know why they thought we were priests. My balding pate, maybe?

The pole raised; we splashed onwards. A red duiker ducked. Shrikes shrieked in the branches. Baboons bobbed about in the blustery bush.

Smashed trees lay all around us. We manoeuvred around them, avoiding any lingering land mines and, six bone-rattling and confused hours later, emerged from a river to find the muddy track blocked by a vast brachstyegia. No way around.

A bakkie screamed up. Six men in green fatigues. Five armed with AK47s, one with a chain saw. The five surrounded us. One set about the tree.

The driver jumped out into the deluge. A bald man. A priest maybe, with an armed escort? No, wait … Eric?

And elusive Eric it was, contrary to all predictions. Impressed by our fortitude he wished us luck en route to the gate we’d probably never reach where four equally astonished faces let us out to continue the final 300-kilometre vehicle-scrunching journey.

Passing drenched missions and cathedrals, we slid up onto the teabush-dressed mountains of Guruè, where we stopped for the night at the only accommodation in town, the Catholic Mission.

The rain stopped momentarily and the greeting was curt. A bald man. A priest, presumably. We could stay. Pay the missionary in the morning. He would also be a bald man, we thought.

It rained all night but the clouds cleared at dawn. We met the bald man from the night before. He cheerfully offered us coffee, dates and pistachio sweetcakes for breakfast. He was a road-builder from Jordan. A Muslim.

He was no more a priest than we were. Or Eric. We didn’t know about Bob, of course. And perversely the mission priest, when we met him, wasn’t bald at all.

On the road, things are never quite as they seem. Not everyone who looks like a priest turns out to be one.

But everything’s certainly a bit of a mission.

Mozambique: A Little Peek

In just five days, Chris Harvie discovers the many cheap and cheerful treasures of southern Mozambique

Maputo was washing away under a deluge of rain. Rivers poured through the streets, running with litter and all manner of floating debris. The lines of new cars in the Toyota depot lay in a vast temporary lake at the bottom of Avenida 24 de Julho; the bulls of yore could never have kept up with the flood rushing past Matadoro, their now-defunct bullring.

Suddenly, the downpour stopped, the skies cleared and the city was fresh, sprightly and bathed in sunlight.

Splashing through the treacherous water-filled potholes, we drove gingerly into the Baixa, the business heart of the city, to visit the market and Eiffel’s station before heading for lunch at the eternally delicious Costa do Sol restaurant. As the menu proudly boasts, they have “hosted such dignitaries as singer Tom Jones and the Swazi Royal Family”. I am fairly sure Leonardo went there too (Di Caprio not Da Vinci), but they don’t mention that. Quite right too.

We had only five days in Mozambique. Avoiding the chaos of the Lebombo border post, we had entered through the modern and efficient Lomahasha post from Swaziland, bringing us in at the appealing little town of Namaacha, with its dilapidated but attractive tiled-roof villas, manicured trees and public gardens.

It was dark by the time we followed the EN1 northwards from Maputo, through the still-bustling crowds at the street-side stalls, swerving among the minibus taxis, called chapas, the carts and the pedestrians lurching in and out of the gloom.

With some relief, we pulled in an hour after sunset at Bruce Buckland’s Casa Lisa, 40km north of the capital. The lodge is 1km from the main road among the pineapples and set about with swaying palms. The setting complicated one of our chosen activities – kite-flying for a 6-year-old – but was perfect in every other way.

The reed-walled and reed-roofed rooms have no window panes, allowing the cooling breeze to billow around in the interior. The word “rustic” springs to mind, but springs out again just as quickly. There are flushing toilets, hot showers and comfortable beds. The bar is ideal for a kuier with passing travellers and justifiably famous for Casa Lisa’s chicken supper.

With our two-night stay around the capital behind us and a length of kite-string forever wound around a palm tree at Casa Lisa, we moved on up the EN1 to Xai-Xai, where it had also rained. Sloshing in and out of the Mercado, we found coffee, tea, eggs and fresh vegetables. There was no meat, but there would be fish where we were going.

The road north of Xai-Xai was under repair but, no thanks to a confused GPS, we found the right tree for the turn-off and followed the sandy road for 20km to the beach. I have been visiting Nascer do Sol for many years and, from a couple of affordable cabins in the dunes, it has developed – very carefully – into quite a number of affordable cabins in the dunes, each with several bedrooms, hot water, electricity and a well kitted kitchen. There’s a bar and seafood restaurant down on the beach.

Besides a huge quantity of sand, there is swimming protected by a reef, good fishing and, by a quirk of geography, on a long summer’s day you can see both sunrise and sunset over the sea. There is some low vegetation, but no palm trees, so to celebrate we got out the kite. To the delight of the 6-year-old (and a growing crowd of onlookers), it was bombed by a real ornithological kite of about the same size, for a full hour of circling, rising and falling. Magic. And it only rained some of the time.

A couple of sea-soaked days later, we found the route from the coast to Massingir and the Limpopo National Park badly pot-holed but lined with lively towns and attractive churches and monuments. The infrastructure is under repair, bridges have been rebuilt and road-side stores are opening up.

Crossing the impressively long wall, we could look over the vast expanse of Massingir Dam on one side and down the Olifants River on the other, as it heads for its confluence with the Limpopo. The national park is well organised but unusual from a South African perspective in that it still has a human as well as a wildlife population.

The gate guard told me the plan was that the people would move out, although the people seem fairly determined that this is not their plan. Few in Mozambique have such good water (and arguably meat) supplies as the communities along the shores of the dam and the Limpopo. My guess is that they are in no rush to be relocated to the dusty interior.

Booking confirmations from the park state that the game-viewing is “not great at present” but the accommodation at Aguia Pesqueira (Fish Eagle), the flagship camp, is excellent. The clouds cleared just in time for sundowners on the deck of one of the cabins overlooking the dam. The sporadic cry of a fish eagle pierces the silence, the hippos grunt and good birdlife flits in and out of the mopani. But no kites.

Next morning, we took the slow road towards the Giriyondo Gate border, near Letaba. It is heavily rutted, which is more than can be said of the impala. We saw five in 80km. They’ll need to rut a lot more if they are going to keep up with demand. The game is, indeed, not great but the facilities are excellent. I’d have liked a couple more nights there.

The buzz of the city, the thrill of the waves and the quiet of the bush. All in five days. You’ve got to love Mozambique, even when it’s raining. After all, most kites are waterproof.

If you go

Pack your vehicle registration papers and, if applicable, permission from the financing bank to take the vehicle into Mozambique. Proof of insurance may be required. Mozambican third-party insurance must be purchased at the border. South African passport holders do not require a visa for Mozambique.


* Casa Lisa Lodge, 40km outside Maputo. Phone +258 8230 41990 or e-mail buckland@teledata.mz. Chalets from about R130 per person per night; camping R65. Breakfast R50. Dinner R100. Cash payment only.
* Nascer do Sol, Praia de Chizavane. Phone +258 2826 4500; e-mail nascerlodge@gmail.com or visit www.nascer.co.za. The bigger and fuller the chalet, the cheaper it gets. Smaller chalets from R935 for two to four people, A-frame from R545, camping from R95pp.
* Aguia Pesquira, Limpopo National Park. Phone 072 447 4270 or e-mail limpopo@wol.co.za It has three sections – one for overlanders and big camping groups, another for individual campers and, lastly, the most exclusive section consists of four wooden chalets with beds, linen, kitchen, bathroom and a covered deck overlooking the dam. Chalets R370. Camping R50 per person. Park entrance fees (R50 pp and R50 per vehicle) also apply.