The Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo Region, comprising three provinces, occupies the southern portion of Mozambique roughly from the Save River southwards. Because of its closeness to South Africa, this region of Mozambique has been the first to be redeveloped for tourism, and resort hotels are comfortable and inexpensive.
At the southern end of this region lies the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, which has provincial status. This province lies adjacent to South Africa and Swaziland, and while the main highway to the former has been kept in good condition, the visitor can expect a second rate road surface to the latter. Maputo Province, overlooking Delagoa Bay, offers a variety of good hotels in the city, and offers a view of some of the Old Portuguese colonial architecture.
Bordering Maputo Prince to the north is Gaza Province, which is known as the granary of Mozambique. The fertile valleys of the Limpopo and its tributary, the Changane, were among the first to be resettled in the 1990s after peace returned to Mozambique following its civil war. There is widespread grain farming in the region. The capital of Gaza Province is Xai Xai, some two hundred kilometers from Maputo. Xai Xai is a popular destination harbouring several good hotels and restaurants, though many visitors prefer the nearby beach resort of Praia do Xai Xai.
Much of the coast of East Africa has a coral reef that runs parallel to the beach. The beaches are pristine white made up of tiny particles of coral that have been weathered by the Indian Ocean rollers. The waters inside the reef are normally shallow and clear and offer some fine snorkeling. Tourists can often purchase shellfish gathered by the locals from the reef at low tide. Inland from Xai Xai is the Banhine National Park, which is bordered north and south by the Changane and Limpopo rivers respectively. Moves are under way to link up this reserve to South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. This protected area is rich with wild life.
A little further north, and bordered on its northern side by the Save River, is Inhambane Province. Inhambane harbours what is arguably the most popular of Mozambique destinations, the Bazaruto Archipelago. The archipelago comprises four islands, Bazaruto, Magaruque, Benguera, and Santa Carolina, and each island has excellent hotels. Like Gaza Province to the south, Inhambane sports pristine white coral sands and an extensive barrier reef. The beaches are lined with coconut palms and Cashew trees, both of which are harvested by the locals. The archipelago was declared a National Park in 1977, and its crystal-clear waters support hundreds of tropical fish species. Other marine life that can be seen here include the humpback whale as well as humpback and bottlenose dolphins. Barracuda and marlin abound off the reef, as well as the endangered dugong.
To the north of Inhambane and bordered by the Save River is the Zinave National Park. It is planned that this park will one day join other parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe to form the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier National Park. If traveling to this region of Mozambique, it is essential to be aware of the several potential health hazards of the country and to take the necessary precautions. Malaria is widespread, but don’t rely on Chloroquine or Paludrine as these drugs are now ineffective against resistant strains of the disease. See your doctor before you travel. Avoid tap water if you can – bottled water is cheap and plentiful in the cities and resorts. If you’re going to places where bottled water is scarce, take a good water purification kit. HIV is common in Mozambique, so avoid unprotected sex. If you are concerned about the hygene of a restaurant, avoid it. Be sure to get all of your vaccine shots before you travel to Mozambique.