Situated on the east coast of Southern Africa, Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most desirable holiday destinations. Expect a 2 700km coastline of white silky beaches, pristine coral reefs teeming with marine life, quirky towns, a famous game reserve, a rich history that goes back hundreds of years, and a capital city with a cosmopolitan vibe and great food.

With one of the longest coastlines in Africa, Mozambique is both a beach-lover’s paradise and a marine mecca for water sports. Its uncrowded beaches are safe for swimming while the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean offer some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkelling.

The popular Bazaruto Archipelago and the Bazaruto Marine Park lie just 20km off the coast in southern Mozambique between the historic port of Beira and Mozambique’s lively capital, Maputo.

Get active and swim, snorkel, dive, kayak, go sailing or waterskiing, or just laze on the beach. The spectacular marine life hosts brightly coloured tropical fish, manta rays, five species of marine turtle, dolphins, humpback whales, and the rare dugong, the origin of the mermaid myth.

A manta ray.

A manta ray.

(Image: Elias Levy)

The southern tourist hub is the busy little fishing village of Vilankulo – a visit to the local market is a must for photo opportunities – with a small state-of-the-art international airport.

Pemba in the north, the third largest bay in the world and notable for its Portuguese colonial architecture, has one of the world’s biggest semi-enclosed harbours. It’s the jumping-off point for one of Mozambique’s top natural attractions – the Quirimbas archipelago of more than 30 islands, nominated as a World Heritage Site. Further south is the Ilha de Moçambique, a World Heritage Site.

Mozambique is steeped in history: Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed here in 1498 after his long sea voyage from the western tip of Europe; central Mozambique is alleged to be the legendary site of King Solomon’s mines; and Ilha de Moçambique was a major trading port for Arab traders long before the arrival of the Portuguese settlers, and its capital for nearly 400 years.

Visit historic Ibo Island, where the 18th-century Portuguese fort of São João looks out to sea past the old cannons and where local silversmiths, using ancient tools and traditional methods, still make exquisite silver jewellery under the cool stone roof at the fort’s entrance.

In the centre of the country, once accessed by Indian and Indonesian traders searching for gold, is Gorongosa National Park. Just 80km from the port of Beira, the park is a biodiversity hot spot, with approximately 4 000km2 of savannah, woodlands and rainforest that are home to lions, buffalo, elephant, zebra, warthog, hippos, an abundance of antelope, and over 200 species of birds.

You’ll find accommodation in Mozambique to suit all pockets, including thatched beach villas; swanky upmarket resorts and legendary hotels like Maputo’s grande dame, the Polana Serena Hotel; exclusive, sophisticated chalets in the islands just a few steps from the sea; simple beach cottages; self-catering villas; and beach camping sites.

You’ll find Mozambican people warm and friendly, and although Portuguese is the main language, Swahili is also spoken in most of the northern provinces, and you’ll find many people speak English, especially in the tourist areas.

As you might expect, with such a long coastline, seafood rules the menu. The cuisine reflects the country’s long history and is literally a melting pot of Portuguese, Chinese, Arab, Indian and European influences.

There’s no doubt that the country’s natural beauty, gorgeous beaches, marine life, thriving game and historic heritage all combine to make Mozambique one of the gems of the African continent.