Earlier this year, Traveller24 asked whether I would be available to represent them on a whirlwind mission to Maputo.
The trip was hosted by Google Africa and brought journalists, bloggers and influencers from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria together to explore the Mozambican capital and share their experiences.
We were only there for about 48 hours, so really had to squeeze in A LOT. In some ways, however, this just added to the thrill of the adventure and really whet my appetite for a more extensive visit.
I loved the eclectic mix of Portuguese heritage and true African city bustle, the robust tropical vegetation and the way it seems to take over buildings that have been left unattended just a little too long.
Of course, it’s really difficult to get the feel of a place in just two days, but amid the sensory overload, I did manage to pick five favourite things:
One thing that really stood out to me about Maputo, is the city’s wealth of weird, wonderful and really beautiful buildings.
On the first day of our stay, we were treated to a fascinating sightseeing experience with Dana Tours, during which we got to marvel at quite a few of these architectural wonders.
There’s the Church of San Antonio de Maputo that resembles a lemon/orange squeezer; the beautifully dilapidated Vila Algarve that once housed the Portuguese Secret Police; Museu de Historia Natural with its ornamental Manueline lines on the outside and wealth of taxidermied species on the inside (super creepy!); and Casa de Ferro aka The Iron House, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel to serve as the residence of the Governor, but never used due to the fact that it basically became a little oven in Mozambique’s tropical climate.
My favourite, however, is the magnificent Central Railway Station with its mint green facade, copper dome and ornate balconies. It’s been beautifully preserved and still serves its original purpose linking the CFM Sul line to South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Indian Ocean sunrise/sunset
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence and my room had an epic view over Baía de Maputo. As I sleepily opened the curtains on the first morning, my heart almost leaped right out of my chest when I saw the sunrise.
A bright red ball hovered over the glassy Indian Ocean and seemed to make its way more lazily to its first position for the day than it does in other parts of the world. I was so taken by the sight, I quickly jumped into some clothes and ran across the road to snap a few pics from the promenade.
Amazingly, sunsets are equally impressive – a fact I discovered during a dhow cruise on our second (and last) evening.
Cruising to Xefina Island
Speaking of which… After our first full day of exploring the city, the Google team thought they’d treat us to some thorough relaxation, complete with loads of sun, sea and sand on the second day.
We set out for Ilhas Xefina on board Sanjeeda, the biggest dhow in the Indian Ocean, just after 8am. This small island is located just off the coast of Maputo and was once used as a prison, much like our very own Robben Island.
Even though it was still early, there was a definite party vibe on board Sanjeeda – a local DJ was pumping tunes, beers were being cracked, shandies mixed and wine poured. We finally reached the island a couple of hours later (it’s normally a quicker trip, we just had some engine trouble) and spent the whole afternoon lounging on our beach towels, playing volleyball and swimming.
Okay, I’ll just admit it: one of my favourite things to do while travelling is gift and memento shopping. Especially if there are cool local markets with beautiful crafts.
Maputo has plenty of shopping options, but we didn’t have too much time to explore this. We did, however, get to visit the Feima Market for about half-an-hour and I so wished I could have gone back! I particularly loved the colourful array of baskets, capulanas and wood carvings.
Garlic bread and beer
Last but not least, Maputo’s Portuguese-inspired cuisine had me constantly craving MORE good stuff. Think flame-grilled chicken, piri-piri prawns, fresh fish and loads of melt-in-the-mouth garlic bread. We also washed all of this down with either 2M beer or big jugs of sangria.
Take me back!
If you want to know a bit more about the nitty-gritty of travelling in Maputo, check out my guide on Traveller24. In the meantime, here are a few more pics: