Heading back to Mozambique always comes with plenty of excitement, as for me personally, it’s one of my favourite destinations!
This visit however would be different, we were making our way down to Barra on the south coast of Mozambique to get married! Yes, that’s how much we love this part of the world. We wanted a beautiful location, and we wanted whale season, having been spoiled with sightings of these beautiful creatures in the past. But we had no idea that we were about to experience what many described as being the best whale season in 30 years.
We left Malawi and headed to Tete, where we overnighted with our good friends before heading further South. Tete is about 360km from Lilongwe and about a 5hr drive so a good stop-over point for the long drive down. We continued past Cahorra Bassa dam – a fantastic spot for Tiger Fishing – and then through Chimoio to Gorongosa National Park.
Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration stories. In 2008, the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation formed the “Gorongosa Project”, a 20-year partnership for the joint management of the park and for community projects for those living around the park boundaries. On 7th June 2018, the Government of Mozambique signed an extension of the management agreement of Gorongosa National Park for another 25 years.
We were very impressed with Gorongosa and everything happening there. The park has to be one of the most beautiful parks in Africa, offering incredible birdlife and fantastic diversity in antelope with an estimated over 80,000 waterbucks in the park. Lions and Wild Dogs have done exceptionally well, with an estimated 200 of each in the park and currently, 70 wild dog pups are accounted for. Leopard and Hyena are recent re-introductions, while elephants and buffalo numbers are strong.
We also had the pleasure of spending time with the pangolin rescue program, which was an eye-opening experience. Each year, the Gorongosa rangers rescue multiple pangolins from poachers and/or traffickers operating in Central Mozambique along border areas with Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. In most cases, these pangolins are still alive and require post-trauma treatment and rehabilitation, and in some severe cases require hospitalization. This led Gorongosa to establish Mozambique’s first pangolin rescue program and they have since rescued and treated over 60 pangolins.
We drove ourselves into camp on a beautiful road (the tar road into Gorongosa is terrible but only about 40km). We headed to Chitengo, which is the park headquarters and has plenty of budget accommodation and a basic restaurant. A unique aspect of Gorongosa is that self-driving is not allowed in Gorongosa past Chitengo, meaning the park is uncrowded and well preserved. So, we left our car at Chitengo and joined our guide Richard who drove us to Wild Camp. A beautiful and authentic eco-friendly bushcamp in a wild location. We loved our time here and were very impressed with the vehicles, guiding and delicious food at camp.
We also checked out the new and more upper market lodge, Muzimu Lodge which is a great option if you’re looking for a more luxurious stay.
From Gorongosa we took a detour to Buffalo Camp on the Save River. Buffalo Camp is the only accommodation in this part of Mozambique and is perfect for an overnight stop for a hearty meal and a good night’s sleep. A place to watch with another exciting conservation success story in the making…
From here we headed 3 hours south to Inhasorro, we had finally made it to the Mozambique coast. We stayed at Rio Azul, one of our favourite lodges in this part of the world. A breathtaking location on the end of the BD Peninsula, sunset facing and overlooking the mangrove swamps. A short walk in the opposite direction, over the sand dunes, takes you to a beautiful beach. We stayed in their luxurious villa, with a private pool, and exquisite views, a perfect option for a small family. Our time at Rio Azul was fantastic and as always, the visit to BD island sand bank was a highlight….
From here, we headed 5hrs south to Barra for our wedding week!
We based ourselves at Farol de Barra, as they had the most stunning location and plenty of well-kept, self-catering houses that could cater to our guests. 4×4 is necessary as you do have to drive through the dunes to access Farol de Barra. Leigh and her team at Farol de Barra were fantastic and the week was a huge success. There were whales EVERYWHERE and our guests were blown away by their numbers and the show they put on for us all each day.
We highly recommend the Tofo scuba-dive operators, with three excellent companies. We dived with Liquid Divers, Tofo Scuba and Peri Peri Divers. All are fantastic operators that practice safe procedures and care about the environment.
Our sightings were off the chart with whales and dolphins greeting us at the boat, snorkeling with whale sharks and excellent underwater life for non-divers, with humpback whales breaching everywhere and plenty of their babies around!
While in Barra, we made the best of the location and I was treated to an afternoon on the Island Dance party boat for my bachelor party! What a fun day, and a perfect treat for larger groups wanting something different. The good news was we had a blast, and met the bachelorette party at Neptune, a fun beach bar with exceptional food, to dance our way into the evening…
The bad news was we had to move the wedding forward a day due to weather… meaning our wedding day was the day after our bachelor and bachelorette parties… It was a tough start to the day for everyone but the African sunshine and sea breeze soon helped us to raise our game and we had a truly incredible wedding day, surrounded by our closest friends and family and an audience of humpback whales in the background.
Another hit with our crowd of guests was The Green Turtle restaurant in Barra, widely regarded as the best restaurant in Mozambique! French-owned with exceptional cuisine, delicious cocktails and breathtaking views over the ocean and yes, more whales.
Soon the festivities were over and we moved on solo to start our honeymoon. After Barra, we spent a few nights cooling our jets at Sava Dunes, which is an upmarket eco-friendly lodge just around the corner. As the name indicates this piece of paradise is set in the impressive sand dunes with stunning views of the ocean where we enjoyed whale and dolphin watching and an excellent menu.
After our short breather, we headed through to Tofo to join some friends at Spinosa for a few days. Spinosa is a beautiful self-catering house in a prime location, right next door to Tofo Scuba! Another great discovery….
Tofo is spoiled for choice with some fantastic dining options. We enjoyed What U Want restaurant for delicious Italian cuisine from a menu carefully curated by the Italian owner. We also had some amazing meals at Sumi, a Japanese restaurant. Tofo Scuba’s in-house beach bar and restaurant, 23 Degrees South, does amazing seafood and is another beautiful location, as is Liquid Diver’s in-house café-restaurant “Happi”. Brancos is one of many small local restaurants along the promenade, which all do local cuisine well. Zanzi’s is another lovely café that is worth checking out for lunch.
Another new “eco and yoga lodge” in Tofo is Kumba Lodge! A great value option with stunning views. Kumba can cater for bigger groups especially those looking for a yoga retreat. They cater incredibly well for vegans as well. Kumba Lodge is a sanctuary for conscious adventurers, a lodge right on the stunning Tofo beachfront where you can indulge in an ideal mix of nature, movement, relaxation, food and community. The lodge was built in 2021 and is the perfect place to take a break and explore wide open spaces.
Next up, we moved south to check out another up-and-coming eco-lodge, Travessia based in Massinga. Travessia is an Eco Beach Lodge that is all about understated barefoot luxury, tasty food and wide-open spaces. Sophisticated whilst down to earth, with no one around for miles, Travessia is for families, individual travellers and couples alike. We did a few dives with Peri Peri in Morrungulo but bear in mind this is about a 1hr drive.
About 15 minutes down the road is Massinga Beach Lodge, which we stayed at last year but sadly did not have time this year. A bigger lodge in a beautiful location with spectacular suites and views.
We spent our last few days of the trip based at Peri-Peri Divers in Morrungulo. The diving here really is incredible, as is the setting! Steve and Martina are co-owners of the Peri Peri operation (Tofo and Morrungulo) and are incredible hosts. The rooms have amazing views and are modern, clean and comfortable. The food is exceptional and the staff friendly, and all speak good English.
The diving is world class, and many of the dive sights are recently discovered so are in pristine condition and rich with sea life. We swam with whales every day and had some good encounters with dolphins too. However, it is worth noting that they currently do not offer Ocean Safaris and Tofo is a better option for families who want ocean safaris, and especially for those who are looking for whale shark sightings.
This was the perfect end to an incredible trip, and as all good things come to an end, we headed back to our magical Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa.