Mozambique and Malawi trip report (Aug 2018)

Max & Tamara write:

We did a 4-week backpacking trip to southern Malawi and northern Mozambique.
We had both your guides for these countries with us and would like to share some remarks and comments with you.

This was our route : Lilongwe – Monkey Bay – Ilha Mozambique (route via Chiponde – Cuamba – Nampula) – Ibo – Pemba – Liwonde (route via Nampula – Cuamba – Interlagos) – Zomba – Mulanje – Majete – Blantyre,

We travelled from 1st to 28st August 2018,

Border crossings

To go from Malawi to Mozambique we used the Chiponde-Mandimba border post.

To go from Chiponde to Mandimba, you need a bike-taxi as it is a stretch between both cities. After bargaining hard we got offered 3500 K. However, once at the Mozambician border post (about half of the 7km no-mans land), the drivers told us that this price was only up to there and we had to bargain again so they would take us to Mandimba. Travellers should make sure the agreed fare is all the way to Mandimba.

Chapa Mandimba-Cuamba : on p 352 you write that this is a 3 hour trip ; this is impossible. We and other people we met all took 5 hours, almost without stops. We have to stress that this ride was the most unpleasant we ever had in all our travels : tightest, most crowded and most uncomfortable chappa we would have, and the road is terrible. We later met a couple finishing a one year trip around the world trip who also said this was the worst journey they experienced. Cost : 350 MET.
If you enter Malawi through Chiponde, it is possible to get a visa there.

To go back to Malawi, we learnd that the Lilongwe-Cuamba train was running again ! We therefore entered via the Interlagos-Naguchy border.

In both directions, the train runs twice a week and connects with the Cuamba-Nampula train, thus enabling you to make Lilongwe-Nampula (in either direction) in 2 days.
Ticket price Cuamba-Interlagos : 150 MET for executive class ; about 2,5 hours.
The train leaves Cuamba at 8,00 and arrives at about 10.30. The train in Naguchy leaves at 14.00. As we got through immigration in about 45 minutes, you’re in for a bit of a wait. There is no public transport leaving Naguchy, but we managed to get in (one of the few) cars that were leaving the station to get away quicker. To Nsanama : 1500 KW ; 1,5 hour,
We did not have our visa yet to re-enter Malawi, and learned that the post in Naguchy does not issue visas. We thus got a 7-days entry permit and were requested to go to immigration office in Zomba within that period to get a visa. The officer told us that usually people get sent to Chiponde, but as Zomba was on our route he made us a kind favour. In Zomba we got our visa very easily within less than an hour,

MOZAMBIQUE

Ilha do Mocambique

When we arrived by train in Nampula we took a taxi to Ilha Mozambique : 3500 MET ; 2,5 hours,
We stayed at Kero hotel mentioned in the guide. Double en-suite room for 700 MET ; it is decent value.
One good day excursion is a trip to Goa Island. We hired a boat for the day to do so for 1.3000 MET for the whole day (no motor – which can make the trip long when there is no wind ; with motor count about 2.500 MET), They also organized lunch on the island for an additional 250 MET pp.

Ibo Island

We wanted to get from Ilha Mozambique to Ibo in a day. We read that this is possible by public transport, yet tricky. Here’s a post from a traveller who explains how : https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293818-i9167-k7919507-Need_help_on_local_transport_for_Ilha_Moz_and_Ibo-Mozambique.html

It is thus possible, but we doubt that it is a sure shot,…

To book a private taxi, count about 15.000 MET.

If you miss the 1 public boat a day when you arrive there, a private one can be hired for 2.500 MET. Unlike the public boats, the private ones can go by low tide.

To go back, public boats leave with the first high tide of the day, which is anywhere between 5.30 and 11.30. When you arrive in Tandahangue, a chappa should be waiting. Going this way is a little quicker then coming from Ibo as the chappa does spend less time searching for additional customers (4,5 hours back for us). The ride is actually ok and less dramatic then described in the guide (p. 337).
We stayed at Karibune, mentioned in the guide : double room 500 MET, chalet 600 MET. Chalet are newer and seem brighter. No running water in the facilities,
Important notice to travellers, as many come here for diving : this is close to impossible if you are note staying at Ibo Lodge ! The lodge is the only diving centre but only has 2 dive masters. The lodge gives a priority to its guests for diving trips and only gives confirmation to non-residents the day before at 5 PM. We have met people who spent several days on the Island going back every day at 5,00 and being told there is no possibility for the next day,… Many therefore go to Pemba afterwards to go diving (see below).
Among popular activities : dhow safari of 1 ; 2 or 3 days. We did it in 1 day with Baobibo and it was tremendous. The tour takes you to corals for snorkelling , then snorkelling with dolphins, then to a sunken boat (amazing snorkelling spot!) ; on a sandbank until it disappears with the tide, to Matemo Island for lunch then back to Ibo,
Other popular activities also include walking tours to Quirimba Island,
We had dinner once at Benjamin (mentioned in the guide). For 350 MET we had an amazing set buffet with crab, prawns, matipa, fried maniok… Highly recommended ! His wife (the chef) also gives cooking classes (via Baobibo) ; and he also serves as a tour guide for Baobibo,
Baobibo is a very useful place for any information about the island, activities, places to eat.
There is now an ATM (BCI), but we were warned that it sometimes is empty and recharging takes days.

Pemba

Like other travellers, we went here mainly for a dive. Beside CI mentioned in the guide, there is a second dive centre located right next to Avani Lodge (although we think the centre is independent). The centre is managed by the very friendly and easy-going Brazilian Carlos (m= 84606 7776). It is also cheaper then CI : 50 $ for a dive ; 90 $ discovery dive ; 30 $ snorkelling,
We stayed at Russels place (400 MET pp camping), very nice place,

Cuamba

We stayed twice in Cuamba for a night between our trains.

Once we slept at Pensao Cariaco. Our room was 600 MET for a double with shared facilities. It was not one of our best hotels. Half of the rooms have no outside window, just one giving on the hallway, some just opposite the bathroom, which lacked cleanliness. The second time, we slept at a hotel not mentionned in the guide : Pensao Zambezia, located about 10 minutes froms the train station on 1 de Maio. Rooms are basic but clean, facilities without running water but ok. Double en suite room 500 MET. Very very friendly housekeeper.

 

MALAWI

Liwonde

We arrived in the late afternoon and thought about staying in town for the night before going to the reserve. We went to see Villa Liwonde, but the dam was under constructions so the whole area was not very inviting for a chill evening,
We thus went directly to the reserve at Safari Camp. It should be mentioned that even if the camp (like Bushmanns Baobab) are situated within the reserve fence, you do not need to pay the park fee to stay at the camp, but only when doing activities.
Safari camp is a great experience, with a lot of wildlife to see from the viewing spots. During dry season, elephants come to the place every evening.

Zomba

p.179 : you write that a lift up the plateau costs about 20$. This is way to much, The first prices we were offered were about 10,000 KW ; and we ended up going up for 6.000 KW without much bargaining; same to go back down.
We were told that Monford Cottage (p, 180) might not exist any more. We can’t confirm this, but both numbers referenced in the guide don’t exist any more.
We went to Trout farm. Your description and prices are still perfectly accurate. As it turns out, the place is very popular for weekend family day trips among asian expats living in Blantyre, and it has to be said that the place is rather beautiful. However, they seem not really to care about their accommodations,… You have the choice between the guest house (looks run down indeed) ant 2 large wooden bungalow that actually look pretty nice. However :

There are lights installed inside, but there is no electricity anywhere on the site ;
The cooking facility looks handy at first, until you are told that there is no gaz connection for it (fire place outside, wood for sale) ;
The candles were finished, and they didn’t have new ones to replace them ;
A window was broken, so it got pretty cold by night ;
Some brown mud comes out on the sink.

It could be stressed that there is nowhere (at least that we found), to buy water on the plateau, except the ridiculously expensive bar at the Forest Lodge, so buy ahead !
For hiking on the plateau, we have to say that it looked tricky for us to do it independently as maps we were given were unclear and there are close to no indications along the way.

We hired a guide from Zomba Guide Association, who are also very active for the preservation of the plateau’s forest. The association is run by Jonas (m:0994733305). A day hike cost us 10.000 KW.
In town we camped at Pakachere. Very nice place. Bike rental for 4.000 KW/day.
The map of the city p.172 probably needs some corrections. It is unclear as to where to located African Heritage Cafe (listing p. 174 says on C4 ; p. 175 says C2) ; and we could not find Always Tasty and Tasty Bites following the map (still exist?).

Mulanje

We checked the Kara O’Mula Lodge for camping (15 $ pp). It is not very inviting : the « campground » is basically a very hard and grassless parking ground. Instead we went to the golf club (10 $ pp), that is very welcoming to campers. Very good kitchen also (mains 3000 KW), with a surprisingly delicious vegetarian lasagne. Offers laundry service.
We did 2 day hikes. The first with a guide around the « crater mouth ». For the second we went on our own, following a route found in a booklet accessible online : Mulanje Hiking Guide : https://mcm438.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/hiking-guide-to-mount-mulanje.pdf, All the routes work with the « View Ranger » app where you can find their gps coordinates and route descriptions. We managed easily to find our way on our own and this is an option for small routes.

The route we made went to Mbyia Pools. From Mulanje you first have to take a car a chappa (500 KW) direction Mozambique for about 10 km until the unpaved road that leads to Ljublieri Tea Estate. The official start of the hike is Ndoanetsa Village, about 12 km from the tarmac road. At the junction, we were offered bicycle taxis. This ended up taking more then 2 hours and us walking every time the road went up… However, passing through the villages – with kids running towards us from everywhere – that surely don’t see a lot of tourists – plus the gorgeous scenery – was an amazing experience. From Ndaonetsa it is just a gentle 45 minutes hike to the pools that are quite stunning and offer the possibility for a very, very refreshing swim.
In town almost next to the people’s supermarket opened a new place called « Arts and Crafts ». Beside a very well furnished shop, they make great pizzas (3.800 – 5.000 KW).

Majete

To get to the national reserve, we took a chappe to Chikwawa, From there we managed to get a ride for 10.000 KW. The reserve itself offers also rides for 15 $ pp.
We camped at Ngona Lodge (15 $ pp). The place is nice, but be aware that it is open to day visitors and it can get crowded on weekends, so there goes the quietness… We self catered most of the time, but ate once at the restaurant. We both took a Mexican salad and unfortunately must say it was shockingly terrible (and cost 10 $…).
During high season, travellers should be warned that game drives in the parc in the early morning or late afternoon should be booked ahead. We also had the distinct impression that Thawala Camp has a system that guarantees its residents priority on those drives…(on both drives we did at these times, we were « called in » last minute after someone else cancelled, and both times the jeep was filled with Twawala residents…).

Blantyre

We had dinner at the Indian restaurant Veggi Delight (mains 2500-4500 KW) : we can only stress how great the food is there !

 

2019 Malawi/Mozambique trip report

Bas and Saskia write:

We just returned from a one-month trip to Malawi and Mozambique. We gratefully used your Bradt travel guides, both of which were very practical. We would like to give you some updates, these were very useful for us in planning our trip, and hopefully others will benefit from ours as well.

We traveled with a fully kitted 4×4 Toyota Hilux starting in Lilongwe. It was quite hard finding a car, Land & Lake Safaris seems the only option and this pushed up the price considerably. Expect to pay much more than e.g. in Botswana and Namibia.

Our itinerary in short:
Lilongwe – Majete NP – Mount Mulanje – Gurue – Nampula – Ilha de Mozambique – Murrebue – Marrupa – Niassa reserve – Lichinga – Metangula – Liwonde NP – Lilongwe

Most of the time we were the only tourists, one reason was that it was still (end of) rain season, and peak season hadn’t started yet, but in Malawi people also stayed away because of the elections.

Lilongwe-Majete: can only be done in 1 day if you leave early. Because we had to wait for our luggage we left at 12, and got stranded in Blantyre. We stayed at Pedro’s which was a nice place (but slightly overpriced)

Majete: stayed at the Majete Community Campsite, nice place, expect to have Pumba visitors at night

Mulanje: Likhubula Forest Lodge offers camping. There are no camping facilities, but they give you a key to the lodge where you can make use of the showers and toilets. We cooked ourselves, but the lodge managers can cook you a meal as well.
We went up mount Mulanje 1 night and stayed in the CCAP hut. They even made us a hot shower.

Gurue: no camping facilities, we stayed in Hospedaria Januario, which is not in the guide. They are on booking: http://www.booking.com/Share-xy6Iq5. It is a very nice and clean place, in a lively neighborhood. We ordered food and they made us a great chicken piri piri with salad, all very hygienically prepared. Very affordable as well.

Nampula: we stayed at Complexo Turistico Montes Nairucu: I wouldn’t call the ablution blocks clean, but it is a nice place and the showers were warm.

Ilha de Mozambique: no camping on the island available, and Casuarina didn’t look very attractive. We stayed at Mooxeleliya, which is indeed good value.

Pemba: Pemba Magic Lodge doesn’t offer ocean view, and overall Pemba doesn’t really look attractive, so we switched to Nzuwa Lodge in Murrebue. The best camping spots under the trees with ocean view are unfortunately not accessible to overlanders. Toilets and shower (just one) are located at the bar, and the last lacked any form of drainage so I hope it never gets crowded with camping guests. But the place is beautiful, you can see many fishermen and also children trying to catch fish with sandworms.

To Niassa Reserve via Marrupa: Because we wanted to visit Niassa Reserve we left Murrebue early. Until Balama the road is tarred, but thereafter the Chinese are working on the sandroad, and this makes it for the time being more time-consuming to travel to Marrupa. And as you write it is very remote here. We had to get off the road several times and first got lost and then stuck in the mud. Fortunately locals helped us out and let us camp in their village called Mecuti. The local chief invited us to stay at his place. Everyone was very friendly and looking back this was one of the highlights of the trip.

The second part of the road to Marrupa was again difficult to drive, we saw lots of cars and trucks that got stuck and because we would need c 3,5 hours to drive to the gate of the reserve we had to stay in Marrupa. There is a farmers campsite, but there are absolutely no facilities over there and they tried to charge us the price of a hotel room.
A friendly policewoman took us to Residencial Triangulo. We payed around 20 USD for a double room with hot shower (but why are the toilet pots leaking everywhere in Mozambique?). Although we didn’t eat there ourselves, we found out that the bar which is located in between the bank (with ATM) and the car repair shop, and which is owned by a Portugese guy, offers food as well.

Niassa Reserve: again no official camping. We stayed at Maputo Camp, the headquarter of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Although they apologized for the poor facilities and made us pay only a very small fee we loved the place. There are hot showers, you can book for the evening meals and in the evening everyone gathers at the campfire. We didn’t see any large animals, because the grasses were still too high but it was not the main reason to visit the park. The last evening they took us to a bush camp site with no facilities but with a stunning view which made you realize what a great remote place Niassa is.

Lichinga: a necessary stopover because our car had technical problems. Fortunately there is a very good Toyota garage near the secondary school in the city centre. No camping, we stayed at Bendiak, and loved to walk around in the evening. There is a new restaurant next to the cinema, but we went to Kelucha mentioned in the guide. Officially it is just a take-away/bar and no restaurant but the very friendly owner had a meal made for us anyway.

Metangula: we tried to find a nice and affordable place at Lake Malawi, but that wasn’t easy. House of Chambo is only accessible by boat and we didn’t want to leave our car unattended. NTendele Lodge apparently doesn’t exist anymore. We tried to contact them in various ways but with no results. The tel no. mentioned in the guide is not working. In the end we went to Residencial Mario, which is much better known in the village as Madeleines (she is the current owner). I wouldn’t call it a clean place, the bathrooms are partly collapsed, and there is no running water. Every morning they bring a barrel of water from the lake, to flush the toilet and to wash yourself. All food is also prepared with this water (…). But the employees are very friendly, you get a copious breakfast and they prepare delicious chambo. On the last evening a piglet was slaughtered before our eyes and grilled on the wood fire.

The road to the Chiponde border is being asphalted by the Chinese as well. It took us about 4 hours to drive from Lichinga to the border and once arrived it was hard to find the border post, but getting to Malawi went smoothly.

Liwonde safari Camp: we stayed at the camsite. it is a great place. Although located at the border of the National Park they receive a lot of wildlife. We had elephants near our tent and the evening before we arrived a group of lions spent the night under the observation deck next to our car.

Lilongwe: we stayed in the woodlands campsite which is really nice. The ablution block is simple but has great warm showers.

Important news re: visas, domestic flights & the road to Ponta do Ouro

Krishnan writes:

You have done Mozambique a great service with your guide and have shone light on a heretofore less known travel destination.

Some updates:

The new Maputo-Katembe Bridge was inaugurated on November 10 2018 and the accompanying road extension to Kosi Bay border point with KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa is in very good condition, almost like tarmac. Driving time from Maputo to Kosi/Ponta do Ouro is thus reduced from more than 5 hours to less than 2 hours. See https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/new-maputo-bridge-opens-up-a-whole-range-of-opportunities-18145350

All Mozambique tourist visas can be used for two entries. Makes it ideal for a quick crossing to eSwatini (Swaziland) or Malawi.

Ethiopian Airlines and FastJet now operate both international and domestic routes within Mozambique. AS of 1 December 2018, Ethiopian Airlines is serving 8 domestic airports i.e. Maputo, Nampula, Tete, Pemba, Beira, Nacala, Quelimane and Chimoio. See https://clubofmozambique.com/news/ethiopian-mozambique-airlines-launches-domestic-flights/

 

Dar Diwani, Ilha de Moçambique

Agnes Broda, cofounder of Dar Diwani writes:

Dar Diwani is a new exclusive bed-and-breakfast exclusive/luxury guesthouse in Mozambique Island founded by myself (a Swiss citizen) and my Greek husband. It comprises an old colonial house that has been renovated with local artisans over two year , and is will officially open next month. Its name derives from the Arabic “Diwan” , which means the room of the house which is always open to guests. With only three bedrooms en-suite with king-sized beds (ac, fan and wifi), as well as internal courtyard, palm garden with private swimming-pool and sea view roof-top, it feels more like a stylish boutique home than a hotel. It is set in an magnificent old building one step to the beach. The house (which has a full equipped chef kitchen with expert wine cooler) can be rented in exclusivity.
This is the kind of place you find in interior decorating magazines. Everything looks smooth and natural. The feeling is however very easy-going and peaceful.

Rates are USD 150/200/250 sgl/dbl/tpl B&B. Or USD 300/500 B&B to rent the house exclusively.

Contact details are:

Rua dos Trabalhadores, Ilha de Moçambique
+ 258 87 775 9692
info@dardiwani.com
www.dardiwani.com

 

Tofo updates

Geri writes:

  • Baia Sonamula:  Stayed there 4 nights.  Delicious breakfast.  Staff the best in Tofo; seemed to really want you to enjoy your stay, friendly without being in the way, there when you needed them and not when you didn’t, extremely helpful and pleasant, seemed to enjoy their work and work well as a team.  I reviewed it on Trip Advisor.
  • Turtle Cove: I spent a night there and I’d agree it’s a good choice, based on my experience and what others say.  Haven’t seen the dorm though so can’t comment on that bit.

Restaurants

  • Zanzi Beach: opened in December.  On the beach 50 metres from the market.  Owner-managed.  Excellent café and fish restaurant with relaxed ambience.  Choose between sofa with low table or normal dining table.  Great food e.g. ceviche (is that what raw fish and salad on toast is called?), clams, oysters, squid stew, seafood risotto.  At least one vegetarian option always available.  Coconut water flavoured with ginger, lime etc goes well with the seafood.  I think this will soon be recognised as the best – and only really good – seafood restaurant in Tofo.  Closed Sundays.
  • Casa de Comer: I agree with the Bradt write-up.  They’ve also just started doing great pizza.
  • What U Want: The pizza is good but the pasta was overcooked and swimming in oil.
  • Dathonga: This is an art gallery, café and bar.  It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The food is excellent; the best in Tofo in my opinion after Zanzi Beach though I haven’t eaten everywhere.  Run by a delightful Irish/Mozambique couple; friendly, relaxed feel.  Live music every Sunday from 5pm.  The art gallery is currently exhibiting work by Goncalo Mubunba – who I first came across in the British Museum – so world class art!