#AfriTravel: Why not go to Maputo?

Curious travellers on a budget looking for an escape may find the richness of our neighbouring countries a good place to start.

Mozambique in particular has a great deal to offer.

As soon as we disembarked from our SAA-sponsored flight to Mozambique a rush of porters surrounded us in the hope of making a quick buck.

A mere 10 minutes’ car ride later, and we were in the lobby of Southern Sun’s glamourous four-star Maputo hotel – the host of our three-night stay.

Photo: Supplied

We were greeted with caiparinhas and delectable seafood canapés. One cannot go without sampling Mozambique’s signature drink, tipo tinto, or rum and raspberry.

Sitting under the hotel’s 150-year-old fig tree was definitely a highlight, which our host’s Phil Baker tells us is revered as an unofficial heritage site.

When locals got together to protest against chopping it down during the hotel’s expansion, Tsogo Sun decided to rather build around it, sacrificing nine sea-facing rooms. “This is a R1 million a year tree,” he says. Now guests can enjoy a night cap or supper as they overlook the moon-bathed ocean, their tables lit by large chandeliers hanging from the fig tree’s branches.

Photo: Supplied

The hotel, which recently underwent a R30 million renovation, provides comfort and style in its modern design, while keeping an authentic Mozambican feel.

My room had a choice between two double beds for my three-night stay, a minibar stocked with the usual soft drinks and water, a bath I indulged in and a shower that took some dancing around in to get wet.

Less than an hour to paradise

Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city and port to the Indian ocean is as rich in its history as it is in its culture. I couldn’t get over the short flight, less than an hour for my feet to touch Mozambique’s soil!

And it would be absolute blasphemy if I didn’t mention the popular Mozambican seafood that we indulged in every day. Prawns as large as the size of a grilled hake back home!

Drinks and food aside, a visit to the Eduardo Mondlane University proved to be a rich historical trip, where we were told that South African anti-apartheid activist Ruth First – who was a lecturer at the university – was assassinated. A large boulder dedicated to her now stands in the university grounds.

Maputo-born sculptor Gonçalo Mabunda has received critical acclaim the world over for his sculptures, which are made out of old war-time weaponry including AK-47’s and bullet pieces. When we visited his home and workspace, we were surrounded by works that now serve a more appealing purpose than aiding in Mozambique’s civil war.

Photos: Avantika Seeth

Colonial ties

The ties that South Africa and Mozambique share go back as far as 1923, when the country – which was still under colonialist Portuguese rule – entered into trade agreements with apartheid South Africa for labour and resources. A trip to the Maputo railway station demonstrates the strong colonial heritage of the country, where the white and green architecture stands proudly in front of the local taxi market.

A pinnacle moment for me was when we visited the now defunct building of the former head quarters for state security, Vila Algarve. Here, many members of the resistance were held and tortured, much like in John Vorster Square in Joburg.

During our final night at the hotel we were treated to a visit by famed Mozambican jazz sensation Moreira Chonguica, who has strong ties with the University of Cape Town’s South African College of Music where he completed his degree in jazz performance.

Easy breezy

Today Mozambique accepts the dollar, rand and Mozambican metical in exchange for some of the richly coloured fabrics and locally made artworks and sculptures. It’s a good idea to exchange some of your rands or dollars for local currency though, as negotiating prices becomes tricky when the local traders don’t have change to give you.

Maputo is a city rich in art, culture, food and fun, and Mozambique has not seen the last of me.

* Seeth was flown into Maputo courtesy of SAA and her stay was courtesy of Southern Sun Maputo. For night and day tours, contact Dana Tours at danatours.com

 If you go:

Thompsons Holidays, Southern Sun Maputo and SAA are offering a steal of a package for a Maputo holiday, running until March 31 2018.
For R6 409 per person sharing you get:
. Return flights from Joburg to Maputo, including airline levy on SAA
. Three nights’ accommodation at the four-star Southern Sun Maputo
. Breakfast daily
. Complimentary Wi-Fi
. Complimentary return airport-to-hotel transfers
. Added value: Two kids under 18 years stay free when sharing with parents (pay for flights, taxes and transfers)

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