‘Africa’s not for sissies’…bring a 4×4 and a sense of adventure to Mozambique
When foreigners complain about things not ‘working’ in Africa I always roll my eyes. Don’t come here if you’re not willing to experience the people, culture and community. Things work differently because it’s not your home, adapt, enjoy and take cool pictures.
A few of us missioned to a small town town known as Praia do Bilene, northeast of the capital, Maputo. It’s situated on a lagoon, with access to the beach through the river mouth or over some sand dunes. It’s not as populated with tourists as Tofu or Ponto do Ouro, which is nice in some ways because it’s quiet but makes eating out and speaking English a bit tricky.
We stayed at the Massala Beach Resort – it’s a B&B with a beautiful view and private access to the lagoon/beach area and most importantly it has aircon. Aircon is important! Considering we booked last minute (October 2016 for December/Jan 2017) it was good value for money. Also it had a hammock, which scores big points with me. There’s nothing better than reading a book when it’s raining but still warm enough to sit outside.
Place to explore in Bilene:
This was by far the best place we went. It’s situated right on the beach, with self-catering and camping accommodation available (that gets booked out a year in advance) and a beaufitul view of the lagoon. The bar there is called “BabaLaria” – when you wake up and you don’t know if you have ‘babalas’ (hangover) or malaria.
It’s run by a really friendly South African couple who serve the best prawns in Bilene (believe me we tried every restaurant there) as well as the most delicious coconut milk cocktails. We spent days there just snorkeling, swimming, tanning and eating their equally great ribs.
A cool bar/restaurant on the “main road” that serves the 2nd best prawns in Bilene but the worst calamari. Although I think a lot is lost in translation so often what you ask for is prepared in a very different way. Best to keep it simple and just order ‘frango’ (chicken) or prawns.
This is a relatively new resort in Bilene situated on the opposite side of the lagoon. To get there you have to go by boat – you can get a taxi boat across from either Massala or by the main beach. A round trip cost us 2000 Metical for four people (just under R100 pp). The lodge has a bunch of pools and a mini lagoon where people canoe and swim.
Only issue here is when it gets busy they close the kitchen for 2 hours to catch up on orders, which means if you get hungry all the time like I do you won’t survive long there.
You’ll find fresh fruit & veg, drinks, chilli sauce (maybe not as fresh), bread and locally made trinkets. Try negotiate but you’ll probably get ripped-off regardless, you can’t help it. It’s part of the experience and besides you’re supporting the local people.
The bar behind ‘Best Pregos’ (use this landmark to try find it, haha)
If you’re lucky you’ll meet the coolest bar tender there. This guy…
His name is Nuno and he’ll keep you entertained for hours, make you one of his famous cocktails and tell you about the best places to eat. Because I didn’t like Mozambique’s signature drink “R&R” (Tipo-Tinto rum and Sparletta) he made me a gin cocktail (double shot of gin and 1 shot of Amarula). Ouch..but also surprisingly tasty.
What not to do in Bilene:
Don’t go to Aquarius – completely average over-priced restaurant..with a great view. We went there because someone suggested it based on the fact that “they have good refrigeration”.
Eat pregos – I had such high expectations of a Portuguese chicken prego. Every single prego we ate consisted of a roll with a dry piece of meat. Pretty average.
Don’t try bring your city car – you need a 4×4, which I recently found out isn’t just a big car that’s higher up.. We went in a 4×2, which did pretty well over all the sand, hills and pot holes. On our last night in Bilene we did get stuck in the sand over a bridge and held up a bunch of cars. In retrospect it was a really funny moment.
The best things about Mozambique are that you’re not sure what’s going to happen next, if your car will escape the beach, if your phone will survive the water, if the temperature will cool down or if the rain will stop and if your food will be recognisable. This trip made me want to travel more of Africa and experience the different countries on our doorstep.
That’s all for my Mozambican adventure..