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Mozambique Safari

Mozambique History & Safari Information

Go to General Info section           Return to Map of Mozambique

Traditional dhows sailing of the coast of Mozambique

Mozambique was first populated by Bantu-speaking people whose ancestors arrived in the first century AD.  Arab traders set up posts along the coast and the Portuguese involvement in Mozambique began in around 1498 when Vasco da Gama landed at Ilha da Mozambique en route to India. The Portuguese interest arose from a need to establish supply points on the routes sailed between Europe and the East.  During the ensuing 200 years numerous other stations were set up along the coast with Ilha da Mozambique becoming the capital and by the mid sixteenth century, ivory had replaced gold as the main trading commodity.

In the seventeenth century the Portuguese strengthened their control in the country by establishing private agricultural lands granted by either the Portuguese crown or by conquest of African Chiefs.  By the eighteenth century slaves were being sold by the thousands through many of Mozambique’s ports.  During the eighteenth century major companies in Mozambique attempted to gain control of the Zambezi Valley by forming charter companies, the largest being the Zambezia Company.  Most failed at this attempt, but the Zambezia Company profited through forced labor abuses and forcing inhabitants of the area to live under harsh conditions.

This Portuguese colony was one of the most exploited on the African continent.  After plundering the country for gold, ivory and slaves, the Portuguese virtually turned Mozambique over to private companies that made profits by controlling transportation routes to neighboring landlocked countries and providing cheap (often forced) African labor for the mines and plantations of nearby British colonies.  Little attention was paid to the local economic infrastructure or the skills of the country's population.

In 1891 the British-Portuguese treaty was signed which set the boundaries of Portuguese East Africa (the former name for Mozambique).  Significant events in the early twentieth century include the large scale migration of labor forces from the southern regions of Mozambique to South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  Another equally important development was the economic growth of the southern part of the country as ties with South Africa strengthened.  In the late nineteenth century Lourenzo Marques (Maputo) became increasingly popular as a major export channel and was chosen as the country's new capital after being transferred from Ilha da Mozambique.

In the late 1920's Antonio Salazar came into power and he consolidated Portuguese control over Mozambique.  The introduction of agriculture followed, which boosted the economic growth.  Alas, conditions for Mozambicans worsened and only a handful of schools and hospitals existed, most of which were situated in cities and only available to the Portuguese and other white nationalities.  In 1960 an official meeting was held at Mueda in northern Mozambique where peaceful villagers protested against taxes.  Portuguese troops opened fire killing large numbers of demonstrators.  This fueled the i ndependence movement and it quickly gained momentum.

In 1962 the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, known as Frelimo, was formed. After more than a decade of civil war, Frelimo, led initially by the charismatic Eduardo Mondlane, finally succeeded in overthrowing the Portuguese regime.  However, when the Portuguese suddenly abandoned the country in 1975, they did so without preparing Mozambique for the change.  Frelimo became the new Mozambican government and decided to embrace socialism, establishing close ties with the Soviet Union.

The Portuguese had left the country in a state of chaos with few skilled professionals and very little infrastructure.  As a result, aims at teaching 100,000 people to read and write, the formation of banks, insurance companies and basic health services all collapsed and by 1983, a year which included a disastrous drought in Mozambique, the country became bankrupt and its money useless.  Frelimo opened Mozambique to the West for aid.  Socialism had failed miserably in Mozambique, and a group called Renamo (Mozambique National Resistance) launched a rebellion.

Renamo eventually had backing from the South African military and certain sectors in the West.  The movement had no ideology of its own and sought the sole destruction of social and communications infrastructures and the destabilization of the government.  During more than a decade of fighting, Renamo was never successful in overthrowing the government, but they did destroy a tremendous number of roads, schools, telephone lines and other elements of the nation's infrastructure.  Most villagers with any sort of skill were shot.

By the early 1990’s Frelimo had abandoned its Marxist ideology and announced a change-over to a market economy whereby state enterprises would be privatized and multi-party elections scheduled.  In October 1992 a formal peace agreement was arranged and a successful UN-monitored disarmament and demobilization campaign was established.  However, at this time, there was almost nothing left of the country.  Since the signing of the peace accords, Mozambique has moved forward in a quest for transforming military conflict into political competition.

In 1994 the country held its first free elections in years.  Frelimo won, but only by a narrow margin, with Renamo securing almost half the votes.  A free-market economy has replaced the old socialist programs, and foreign aid has been generous.  But for all its evident regeneration, Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world.  Many of its modest successes have been negated by droughts, famine and, most recently, floods. Although it will undoubtedly be a few years before substantial tourism begins in Mozambique, the tide is turning.

In December 2004, Mozambique underwent a delicate transition as Joaquim CHISSANO stepped down after 18 years in office. His newly elected successor, Armando Emilio GUEBUZA, has promised to continue the sound economic policies that have encouraged foreign investment.

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Mozambique covers an area of about 800,000 sq km’s and has a coastline of more than 2,500km’s.  It has an extensive coastal plain which varies from 100 – 2,000 km’s wide in the south. The north of the country is dominated by plateaus and mountainous terrain where towering granite outcrops called inselbergs occur.  While the south coast is edged with barrier lakes, the Zambezi River Valley is situated in the central regions of Mozambique and creates an extensive delta region towards the coast.  Mount Binga is Mozambique's highest peak at 2,436m, situated in the Chimanimani Mountains on the Zimbabwean border.  Other important rivers which flow through the country are the Limpopo River, the Save River and the Rovuma River (the border between Mozambique and Tanzania in the north).

Mozambique has a diverse ecosystem with extensive wetlands, mangrove forests, off-shore marine habitats and montane habitats including the Chimanimani Mountains and the Gorongosa Massif in central Mozambique.  A lack of official regulations and structures continue to hamper the conservation of many areas.  Even when boundaries have been set, much of Mozambique’s natural resources are being ignored or squandered.  Timber trade in the northern parts of Mozambique is an example of how over-utilization and inappropriate logging practices are being pulled off with large scale damage to the surrounding environment as neither replanting nor sustainable harvesting has been implemented.  There are however a number of small projects which focus on the promotion of sustainable development and community resource management.

The main dry season runs from April to November and during this time, daytime temperatures average 24°C.  The rainy season is from November to March and temperatures average 27°C.  The country’s highest temperatures occur in the north around Pemba and west towards Tete.  Rainfall averages 850mm per annum along the coast while during intense rainfall periods, up to 2,200mm can be recorded.

Benguerra Island & Coastal Weather
Month Weather Notes
January Hot, 28 – 35° C. Rainy season.
February Hot, 28 – 38° C. Rainy season, mostly storms in afternoon.
March Cooling down, 25 – 30° C. Rains less frequent.
April Weather settled, 25 – 30° C. Very little rain.
May Lovely month, weather settled, 20 – 28° C. No rain.
June Fine, settled weather, 18 – 27° C. No rain.
July Winter months, but warm, 15 – 25° C. Long sleeve shirts may be needed in the evenings. No rain.
September Warming up again, nice month, 18 – 28° C. Rain unlikely.
October Getting hot again, 23 – 30° C. Rains unlikely.
November Hot, 22 – 33° C. Rains could start.
December Hot, 23 – 36° C. Could rain, usually short showers.

Flora includes some 5,600 species, of which an estimated 250 are endemic.  Two areas of notably high biodiversity are those of the Chimanimani Mountains and the Maputoland Center of Plant Diversity along the South African border.  The latter area is considered a site of global botanical significance with coastal forests and some 2,500 species of vascular plants.  Common species which occur throughout most of Mozambique include various types of Brachystegia (Miombo) and the tall Mopane tree.  Mangrove swamps are a common feature along Mozambique’s central and northern coastline and cover an approximate area of 400,000ha.

Although most large mammal populations were exterminated during the war period, some 200 mammal species, 170 reptile and 40 amphibian species occur.  In most places recovery of animal populations is slow at best; an example of which being the drastically reduced Elephant numbers in the Gorongoza National Park, where 3,000 animals occurred before the war compared to 120 that occur there now.  Similar are the Buffalo population numbers which were 14,000 strong before the war and reduced to zero by 1994.

Approximately 600 bird species have been identified in Mozambique with efforts under way to fully document the numbers.  As for marine life, mammals include the Spinner, Bottlenose, Humpback and Striped dolphins plus the endangered Dugong.  Leatherbacked, Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles occur along the coastline and whales such as the Humpback use the calm waters as breeding grounds during the winter months.  Endangered species include the Black Rhino, Giraffe, Tsessebe, Roan antelope and African Wild Dog.  Additional notables include the African Rock python, the Wattled Crane and most notably, the Dugong, which occurs in marine estuarine habitats.

National Parks
Three mainland national parks occur in Mozambique, namely the Gorongoza, the Zinave and the Banhine.  Bazaruto National Park is situated off-shore and, at present, is the main attraction for visitors to the country.  Both Zinave and Banine parks are still closed, while the infrastructure of the reopened Gorongoza National Park is extremely limited.  Five wildlife reserves occur, namely Niassa, Marromeu, Pomene, Maputo and Gile.  Only the Niassa and Maputo Elephant Reserve are open to tourists.  Various other Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA’s), which will include the use and management of local communities, are in the pipeline to be opened.  Such areas include linking the Maputo Elephant Reserve with South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Reserve, the Chimanimani National Park incorporating Zimbabwe, and the Gaza TFCA, which encompasses South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park.

People, Education and Language
Mozambique’s population is are concentrated in the north (53%) and 80% live in rural areas. There are 16 main ethnic groups, most notably the Makua (largest group), Makonde, Sena, Ronga and the Shangaan.  Roughly 1% of the population is Portuguese and there are small numbers of European and Asian residents.

There are two levels of primary education (EP1 and EP2), followed by two levels of secondary education (ESG1 and ESG2).  There are universities or tertiary education institutes in Maputo, Beira, Nampula and Cuamba.  Portuguese is the official language and is widely spoken in larger towns.  Of the numerous African languages, the most common is the Makua-Lomwe language.  Sena-Nyanja is spoken in the central regions and Tsonga is predominant in the south.

The population of Mozambique is estimated at 21.3 million (July 2008).  Note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected; the 1997 Mozambican census reported a population of 16.1 million.  It is estimated that 12.2% of the population (1.3 million) are living with HIV/AIDS (2003 est) and that 110,000 per year die from the disease.

Mozambique is an emerging democracy with a directly elected President and an independent unicameral Assembly of the Republic or Assembleia da Republica (250 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote on a secret ballot to serve five-year terms).

Chief of state: President Armando GUEBUZA (since 2 February 2005).
Head of government: Prime Minister Luisa DIOGO (since 17 February 2004) appointed by the president.
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 1-2 December 2004 (next to be held in December 2009); prime minister appointed by the president.
Election results: percent of vote by party - FRELIMO 62%, RENAMO 29.7%; seats by party - FRELIMO 160, RENAMO 90

The Flag
Mozambique flagThree equal horizontal bands of green (top), black, and yellow with a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; the black band is edged in white; centered in the triangle is a yellow five-pointed star bearing a crossed rifle and hoe in black superimposed on an open white book.

At independence in 1975, Mozambique was one of the world's poorest countries. Socialist mismanagement and a brutal civil war from 1977-1992 exacerbated the situation.  In 1987 the government embarked on a series of macroeconomic reforms designed to stabilize the economy. These steps, combined with donor assistance and with political stability since the multi-party elections in 1994, have led to dramatic improvements in the country's growth rate. Inflation was reduced to single digits during the late 1990s although it returned to double digits in 2000-2003.  Fiscal reforms, including the introduction of a value-added tax and reform of the customs service, have improved the government's revenue collection abilities.

In spite of these gains, Mozambique remains dependent upon foreign assistance for much of its annual budget, and the majority of the population remains below the poverty line. Subsistence agriculture continues to employ the vast majority of the country's work force. A substantial trade imbalance persists although the opening of the Mozal aluminum smelter, the country's largest foreign investment project to date, has increased export earnings.

At the end of 2007, and after years of negotiations, the government took over Portugal's majority share of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectricity (HCB) company, a dam that was not transferred to Mozambique at independence because of the ensuing civil war and unpaid debts. More power is needed for additional investment projects in titanium extraction and processing and garment manufacturing that could further close the import/export gap. Mozambique's once substantial foreign debt has been reduced through forgiveness and rescheduling under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Enhanced HIPC initiatives, and is now at a manageable level. In July 2007 the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a Compact with Mozambique; the Mozambican government moved rapidly to ratify the Compact and propose a plan for funding.

The currency is the Mozambique Metical. Recent historical exchange rates are as follows: Meticals per US dollar - 24,990 (12/31/2008); 23,560 (12/31/2007); 25,250 (12/31/2006); 23,720 (12/31/2005); 18,515 (12/31/2004); 23,215 (12/31/2003); 24,100 (12/31/2002); 22,890 (12/31/2001); 17,400 (12/31/2000); 13,293 (12/31/1999); 12,368 (12/31/1998); 11,633 (12/31/1997).

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