Places with photo galleries in Africa
The Mozambicans really are a friendly bunch. They are chilled, patient, and good humoured. Even more endaring is their honesty - something you even can expect from bus boys and taxi drivers, though there are a few exceptions. Wherever you go, you will (if you are a man) shake hands (African way of course, if you don't know they will teach you) and exchange names and formalities. Even in small places where you constantly bump into the same people, greeting is still performed like you were meeting up as long lost friends. So the helpful Mozambicans certainly make it easier to endure another full day journey in a rattling, overpacked minibus.
Mozambique Island is the cradle of African colonialism and so soaked in history that it's deserved a UNESCO site. First came Arabian traders, and later the Portuguese. It became one of the central ports for the slave trade and was for a long time the capital of Portuguese East Africa, leaving the island with a density of colonial buildings not matched by many other places in Africa. What makes Mozambique Island further unique today, is that people are living in and among these decayed mansions, giving the island an almost squatter feel. Most of the historical sites are at the northern end, where the once cobbled streets are now sandy and potholed and the crumbling once-grand buildings stand neglected among bushes and shady trees. The southern end of the island is a densely populated shack town with easy going people. There are also several beaches around Mozambique Island, but they are mostly used by playing children and fishermen fixing their boats, but local guys will be happy to do boat tours to nearby islands. However, Mozambique Island's charm is the old houses and laid back atmosphere.
Nampula is not as worse as some might say. Sure, it's a gritty town without any attractions and people seem to have more edge here than elsewhere in Mozambique. Even the police seems to be on the lookout for easy money by checking travellers' papers frequently. But since Nampula is the traffic hub for the west bound trains towards Malawi, the north-south route, and for catching a minibus out to charming Mozambique Island, it might be hard to avoid a stay here. In that case, try to get out to the spectacular lush countryside where odd granite domes rise abrupt from the otherwise flat landscape of villages, scrubs and baobab trees.
Tofo beach is THE beach for backpackers, overlanders and whoever likes a bit of party and cool beach vibe in Mozambique. The sea is azure and the crescent shaped beach is long - though not palm fringed. Tall sand dunes stretch right to the edge of the sea in the north end, while the middle and south sections have most of the accommodations. Diving is popular and the surfing can apparently also be good, but else there isn't much more to do besides eating seafood, chilling and maybe a football match with the beach boys in the afternoon. The adorable town of Inhambane is just a chapa (minibus) ride away, making it a perfect day trip from Tofo.
The white beach at Vilankulo seems almost never ending and slides into the clear turquoise sea with views of the gorgeous Bazaruto Islands. Dhows are anchored up in the shallow water before they sweep out to sea for fishing, only to return in the afternoon to unload their catch to the waiting fishmongers. At low tide, the beach becomes so wide, it gives you the impression that you could wade right out to the islands, but don't try. Instead go on a dhow safari for some chilling and snorkeling at the islands, which otherwise are reserved for luxury resorts. Accommodations in Vilankulo are spread out along the shore and lie among the small huts and houses that make up the town. This means there is a lot local life, both on the beach and in the sandy back alleys, giving Vilankulo lots of local flavour, but also at times a rough vibe.
Though Pilanesberg National Park is both smaller and less famous than Kruger, it's an equally good big game reserve - some think it's even better. All of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino) are here along with giraffe, zebra, hippo, baboon, hyena, wild dog and a long list of antelopes and birds. You can drive in your own car along a network of tar and gravel roads, and there are both safe picnic areas and hides. The park is fairly small, meaning it's easier to get to the parts where the animals are, but the herds are correspondingly small. The landscape is mostly savanna with tall grass and thorn trees, but there are also bushy regions, rocky outcrops and mountains. The area around Mankwe Dam is particularly good for game viewing. Another appealing feature of Pilanesberg is it's only two hours drive from Johannesburg, making it a possible day trip.
One of the most famous townships in the world, not to mention South Africa, is Soweto. Soweto stands for SOuth-WEstern TOwnships and it was created in the beginning of the 20th century to move nonwhites out of Johannesburg, while keeping them close enough as workers. As the supressing white regime got worse and more ridiculous, black's revolts increased. During the 70s, violent uprisings against the Apartheid kicked off in Soweto and spread throughout South Africa. When apartheid ended, Soweto was again the centre of attention since Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both lived in Soweto, only two blocks apart. Today, Soweto is not anymore that shanty town as many expect. Sure, there are still poverty-riddled slums, but large parts have turned into suburbia for middle-class black people. The main sights like Mandela's former house and Hector Pieterson Square are well established tourist attractions, but you don't have to venture far off Vilakazi Street to experience the real Soweto.
Charming Stone Town has such an exotic reputation. It has been a trading post for centuries with shifting powers all putting their mark on this vibrant harbour town. First it was Arabic spice (and slave) traders, then came the Indian merchants, and later the British. Today every safari tourist in the country ends their holiday with a few day on Zanzibar with a mandatory tour of Stone Town. But Stone Town lives up to its reputation. The old town is still magnificent with its maze of narrow alleys and whitewashed traditional houses with finely decorated wooden doors. Some buildings have been done up and turned into boutique hotels or tourists shops, while others look like they haven't been maintained since Freddy Mercury was born.
Lusaka is roughly split into two parts separated by the rail line. On the east side is Cairo Rd, Lusaka's main road, with its odd collection of 70s-futuristic concrete buildings. The crowded (as crowded as it gets in Lusaka) commercial area extends a few blocks east where traders fill the sidewalks and corners with their goods of fruits, outdated cellphone accessories and second-hand clothes. The west side is the more modern one consisting of fancy malls among quiet tree lined residential neighbourhoods. There are no sights to speak of in Lusaka and the biggest landmark is probably the nuclear-power-plant-look-alike chimney. Welcome to Lusaka!
South Luangwa National Park is not just the best in Zambia, but considered one of the best in the whole of Africa in terms of variety and density of animals. There are literally animals everywhere: Impalas, pukus, buffaloes, waterbucks, hippos, crocs, elephants, zebras and giraffes, where some are of species that are endemic. Furthermore, there are good chances to come across hyenas, leopards and lions on the game drives. Birds are equally plentyful and come in all colours and sizes so even ornithology-ignorants get drawn by them. Snake eagle and different storks are common - and even the African fish eagle, which is on the Zambian flag, is easily spotted. Lodges in all budget categories can be found near the small dusty village of Mfuwe, the gateway to the park. Here, the wildlife come to you at nighttime, so be careful not to tumble upon a munching hippo or elephant when moving around the lodge grounds (walking outside the lodges is suicidal).