Vibrant, pulsating, other-worldly. These are a few of the words visitors use to describe Mozambique, the soon-to-be-discovered gem of Africa. Whether you are looking to snorkel through crystal-clear waters, stroll past colonial-era buildings or brave a safari, this country has activities for everyone.
Choosing a gap year experience is a very personal thing depending on an individual's likes and needs. Mozambique is a poor country looking to build and grow, making it a great location for individuals looking to volunteer with human rights and economic development. With the wide variety of animal life, Mozambique is also perfect for wildlife volunteering whether it be on sea or land. And of course, for those looking to explore the entire year, Mozambique has plenty of nature reserves, beaches, islands, safaris, and cities with both old-fashioned charm and growing modernization for the gap year backpacker.
Human Activist Volunteering:
Since the end of the civil war in 1992 Mozambique has been making economic advances, but it is still one of the poorest countries in the world. There are numerous volunteer opportunities to suit every interest such working with orphans, assisting individuals with HIV/AIDS or building community infrastructure. KULIMA is an organization aimed at raising the quality of living in poor communities, promoting sustainable environmental practices and leading health education. Contact KULIMA here about your interest in volunteering. United Planet also has multiple volunteer options including educating youth, HIV/AIDS assistance, and training promising young Mozambican artists. Check out this great compilation on Go Overseas for even more options.
Many wildlife volunteer programs in Mozambique last from 4 to 6 weeks allowing "gappers" to visit multiple locations, take breaks in between programs and help a wide array of animals.
Humble Africa gives volunteers the chance to swim in the beautiful Indian Ocean and work with sea turtles and dolphin populations. Twin Work & Volunteer has a 5-week Living with Lions program where volunteers maintain the habitat of and feed lions, hyenas, meerkats, and cheetahs.
Adventure Travel/ Backpacking
With the growing number of tourism programs, backpackers and travelers will find plenty to keep them busy during a gap year in Mozambique. Starting on the northern coast, Pemba is a shabby port city with towering baobab trees, old-fashioned Portuguese architecture, colorful markets and the perfect jump off point to the pristine Quirimbas Archipelago of about 30 islands. Also found in the north, the Niassa Nature reserve is remote and less visited by tourists allowing for an authentic experience and some beautiful big animal sightings. Moving south, Vilanculos is a quaint coastal city with horseback riding, beaches and nearby reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. Travelers can once again leave shore for the Bazaruto Marine Park housing the Bazaruto Archipelago, five pristine and remote islands filled with lazy days and plenty of fishing. Those looking for even more ocean wildlife should move on to Inhambane where it is not uncommon for swimmers to find themselves among manta rays and whale sharks. To top everything off, travelers can explore the capitol Maputo with its delicious seafood and colorful nightlife.
Planning Your Trip
As with all gap year planning, the best place to start is by assessing what you really want to do and see. Do you want to spend every day by the crystal blue ocean or roam with wildlife on nature reserves? Do you want to volunteer your time or spend the year for yourself? How much are you able to spend? Assessing these factors will help guide where you should go, what you should do and what kinds of activities you can afford.
Cost of Living in Mozambique
Numbeo is a great resource for checking the cost of living in another country.
Culture and Etiquette in Mozambique
Men and women are deemed equal under the Mozambique constitution, but as a whole, cultural norms dictate women stay at home to perform domestic tasks. For women, dressing conservatively is important as Western style of dress is only slowly making its way to larger cities. Greetings can be quite long with individuals usually close and affectionate.
Health and Safety in Ecuador:
In Mozambique individuals should only drink bottled water and wash hands before all meals. It is recommended that travelers do not bathe in any fresh water such as rivers or lakes nor walk barefoot due to possible parasitic infection. Malaria is prevalent throughout the country and a moderate risk to visitors.
Tuberculosis, Meningitus, HIV/AIDS and cases of Cholera have also been found in substantial numbers. Medical facilities are rudimentary, medicines are not always available and usually cash payment is required for services. Foreigners should take necessary precautions and consult with a doctor before traveling to Mozambique to discuss vaccinations for diseases such as Malaria and Tuberculosis.
High levels of violent crime such as armed robbery and carjacking are found in Maputo and Beira as struggling young men come into the cities looking for work but are not always able to find it. Kidnapping levels rose significantly in 2013. Avoid displaying signs of affluence and be hyper-vigilant of your surroundings.
Pickpocketing and mugging are common in Maputo even during the daytime. Exercise an even higher level of caution if traveling at night or avoid it if possible.
Always carry your passport and travel documentation since police can ask for it to be presented at any time.
Contributed by Alecia Weaver
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