In the early 1970s, Mozambique was entrenched as one of southern Africa's top travel destinations. Sunshine, warm weather and long golden stretches of palm-lined sand made Mozambique beaches a paradise. However, independence from Portugal in 1975 sparked a brutal and protracted civil war that reduced the stream of visitors to a trickle. Yet despite the country's earlier woes, a triumphant spirit has prevailed since a ceasefire was signed in 1992, and travelers are again drawn by Mozambique's many charms and increasingly sophisticated infrastructure.
The major attraction is the country's 1,500-mi/2,400-km coastline, which is replete with idyllic beaches, tropical islands, crumbling forts, fascinating architecture, a culture steeped in African and Arabic heritage, and delicious seafood.
The country is being rebuilt at a rapid pace. Developers have moved in with ambitious plans to build luxury vacation resorts and re-populate the national parks with wildlife. And Maputo, the nation's capital, is no longer a devastated shantytown, but a lively city that is on the upswing.
One symbol of this recovery is Maputo's Polana Hotel, once a majestic monument to grand colonial style. Allowed to decay after independence in 1975, the Polana has been restored and is now one of the most expensive hotels in Africa. It's the kind of place where arms dealers rub shoulders with World Bank financiers and Gucci-clad tourists tucking into champagne breakfasts.
Although the evidence of recovery is undeniable, the nation's game parks, whose animal populations were almost wiped out during the war (one game park was even used as a rebel base), are still far below the standards of those in neighboring countries, but infrastructure and accessibility are steadily improving, along with the size of wildlife herds. Construction of a Chinese-funded and directed national highway running the length of the country is well advanced and will further boost Mozambique's presence as a viable safari destination.
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