Guest Author - Dawn Denton
The largely unexplored Mozambique coastline stretches for 1,550 miles. It is one of the longest coastlines on the African continent. From the air one can see the wide rivers flowing through mangroves and emptying out into the turquoise Indian Ocean. The beaches are all creamy white and the coral reefs welcome a range of sea life including whales, blue-spotted moray eel, marlin, sailfish, dorado, tuna, king and queenfish. Manta rays, which can reach up to a twenty foot span, are the star attraction. Divers can explore the beauty of the ocean as deep as seventy foot down. Neptune’s Arm, in the Quirimbas Archipelago, which is only accessible from Vamizi Island, is the top diving spot in East Africa and in the top ten diving spots in the world.
For centuries the Indian Ocean Trade winds and the South Equatorial Current brought foreign explorers to trade for gold, ivory, amber, turtle shell, spices, fresh supplies and slaves. The Portuguese annexed the land in 1505 and set out to convert the people to Roman Catholicism. But the Arab slave traders refused to take Muslims, so many converted to Islam to keep themselves safe. Today more than ninety five per cent of the coastal population of Mozambique is Muslim.
On the beaches you will find local boys selling necklaces made from beads retrieved from ships wrecked along this coast over the centuries. They include glass beads from Venice and the Far East. They were so valuable in the past that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as little as a hundred beads could be exchanged for one slave.
The charm of this magical coastline lies in the fact that tourism still in its infancy. The largest group of tourists in 2013 came from neighbouring countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania, but increasingly tourists from further afield are discovering this stretch of Africa. The coast which not only holds natural beauty, it has a cultural heritage closely linked to the Arab, Indian and European communities that have lived here and passed through over the centuries.