About Tofo

TOFO AND TOFINHO BEACH

About 17 km east of Inhambane is where Bar Babalaza marks the crossroads to Tofo and Barra. Tofo is a small beach town, with a hotel and other accomodation, a lovely open beach, nice reefs for fishing and snorkling, spazas, beach bars and dive schools, where you can slow down your pace of life, do nothing, relax and just leave your footprints. Tofo has been popular with Zimbabweans and South Africans since before the war and Tofo has now also become a firm favourite on the international backpacking trail and offers a variety of accommodation and places to eat and drink. Tofinho, less than a kilometre south, is situated on a more exposed and rocky headland and the waves at Tofinho are known for very good surfing. The headland is also a favourite spot for fishermen when a high tide covers the shelf, allowing casting for the plentiful kingfish into the deep waters beyond. Tofinho is also the site of the Frelimo Monument to Fallen Heroes, near to where unfortunate victims of the colonial period were thrown into a sea cave, to be drowned by the rising tide. A spectacular blow hole near the tip of the point can give a raw display of power, when there is a large swell running.

BEACHES

The shores of Inhambane are blessed with numerous world-class beaches. Many are palm-fringed, with wide expanses of powdery, white sand, washed by the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Featuring broad bays, sheltered lagoons, rocky headlands and wide deserted expanses, they are a sunbathers’ dream, created for relaxation. Some of the best-known are in close proximity to the city of Inhambane.

ABOUT IMHAMBANE

HISTORY

About 2 000 years ago, the expansion of the Sahara desert lead to a mass migration of people southward, assimilating scattered groups of San hunter-gatherers on the way. The Karanga, or Shona, became the dominant group in the region and were trading with Arab dhows as early as the 10th century. The Arabs brought beads, salt, cloth, ceramics etc. in exchange for gold and particularly ivory. The Arabs increased their influence until the arrival of Vasco da Gama who, in his quest for supply points for Portuguese vessels en route to India, anchored his four ships off Inhambane Bay in 1498. His men made landfall during inclement weather and approached a settlement where the locals told them in the Bitonga dialect to come in out of the rain: “Bela khu Nyumbani” The Portuguese incorrectly thought they were being told the name of the region, and so Inhambane got its present name.

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GOLD, IVORY AND SLAVES

The Karangan empire of Monomatapa had replaced that of Great Zimbabwe, which was abandoned around 1450, and tales of legendary goldfields controlled by them, kindled European interest in this part of the world during the 1500’s. Intense rivalry between Portuguese and Arab traders followed, but when gold production declined, the focus of trade shifted to ivory, where it remained for two centuries, causing the slaughter of thousands of elephants. The slave trade came into prominence in the 1760’s and Inhambane became one of the ports from which slaves were shipped to the French colonies of Mauritius, Reunion and the Comores and also to Brazil, Cuba and North America. It is estimated that over a million Mozambicans were sold as slaves.

GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE

Situated in Southern Mozambique and comprising about 68 615 km2, Inhambane Province, which includes the Bazaruto Archipelago, is similar in size to the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn and washed by the warm waters of the Agulhas current as it journeys southwards from the equator, the entire area is low-lying. The climate is hot and humid all year round, although evenings can become cold enough for a light jersey. February is the hottest month with an average daily maximum temperature of 30°C and the humidity can exceed 80%, making the gentle sea breezes that usually blow particularly welcome. The wettest months are January and February when afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence. The area receives about 850 mm of rain a year, most of it falling during the summer months. The cooler, dry season (April to October) is recommended as a more comfortable period to visit.

ISLAND VIBE

The natural vegetation of the coastal plain is dune forest, much of which has been replaced by millions of coconut palms, planted by the Portuguese and local Bitonga to supply the thriving copra trade. The countless palms give visitors the impression of being on an island rather than the mainland. A drive along the coastal EN1 road reveals a number of fascinating inland saline and freshwater lakes, cut off from the sea by high, forested dunes.

THE PEOPLE

Human settlement is primarily in the coastal regions with the Tswa, Chope, and Bitonga being the largest groups. Portuguese is the official language, but because of the education gap caused by the war, less than a quarter of the population is conversant in it. English is virtually unheard of save in the resorts and larger towns and it is advisable to be armed with some commonly-used Portuguese phrases. Funagalo, the means of communication among South African mineworkers from different linguistic backgrounds, can also prove useful. Vasco da Gama, when he landed along this coastline, called it ‘Terra da Boa Gente’ (The Land of the Good People) and today the local inhabitants are still extremely good-natured, in spite of the terrible suffering caused by over seventeen years of war. They are proud people, determined to succeed. Treat them with courtesy and respect and they will repay the compliment.

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ECONOMY

Besides having the lowest inflation rate in Africa, Mozambique currently attracts more foreign investment than any other sub-Saharan African country. This includes a $ 1 billion investment by Sasol in tapping the rich reserves of natural gas from the Pande gas field, about 80 km north of Inhambane City.

Subsistence dry-land agriculture is a primary activity — cashew nuts, mandioca, maize, mangoes, peanuts, coconuts and tangerines being the most common crops. Along the coast subsistence fishing is practiced and there is a burgeoning tourism industry, particularly around Inhambane City, Vilankulo and on the Islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago.

GOVERNMENT

Mozambique is a multiparty democracy with elections held every five years. Frelimo and Renamo are the two major political parties. Inhambane is one of ten provinces making up the country. Each province has a governor and some autonomy and is subdivided into districts. The trend is for control to be shared between government-appointed administrators and traditional leaders at village and locality levels. The city of Inhambane is the provincial capital. Maxixe, across the bay and on the EN1 main road between Maputo and Beira, serves as the commercial centre.

ENVIRONMENT

Conservation measures designed to protect the environment have been written into Mozambique’s laws but often prove difficult to enforce in far-flung areas, although the situation is improving. Tracts of land are still slashed and burned for subsistence agriculture and to obtain charcoal (the only source of income for many people). In spite of much of the wildlife here being decimated for food during the civil war, the area is rich in bird life and a vast number of birds frequent the various coastal habitats.

HISTORY AND CULTURE

Inhambane is 33 km from the Lindela turn-off. Looking more like a town than a city, the wide, tree­ lined streets and elegant Portuguese architecture are reminders of a once prosperous past, based originally on the proceeds of gold, ivory and then slavery. The faded buildings indicate previous decline when, in the mid 1960’s, the economic focus shifted southwards to (now) Maputo. The city has grown old gracefully and is slowly recovering by becoming a service hub for the many nearby tourist resorts as well as a destination of cultural and historical significance. It has a once busy little harbour and ships of up to 10 000 tons can still enter the bay, but seldom do. It is the province’s capital and has its own airport.

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Set amongst myriad palms, its leisurely pace is reflected in the graceful dhows that ply its shores. This charming city has many places of general and historical interest with a visit to the harbour a must. The bustling jetty has ocean-going fishing vessels moored alongside and crowds of passengers being ferried to and from Maxixe, across the bay. Enjoy a stroll along the jetty or, if you are adventurous, cross to Maxixe yourself, in a motor boat or dhow. Across the road is the TOM (Telecomunicacôes de Aloçambique) where you can make phone calls to anywhere in the world. There is the unmarked building where slaves were incarcerated until they were sold. Opposite the jetty stands the lovely Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception which is more than two hundred years old. This old church has a fine clock tower and has been renovated recently with plans under way to transform it into a centre for arts and culture. A beautiful ornate old mosque, built in 1840, is situated at the junction of Avenida de Vigilancia and the Marginal. Visitors are invited to view the amazing 380 year-old Koran which is housed there. The Inhambane museum, easily recognised by the unusual metal sculpture in the garden, is also on the Avenida de Vigilancia. It has a full range of artifacts, including musical instruments and farming implements from local rural life, and some amazing old black and white photographs from the colonial period. A dhow, just like those that sail the waters of the bay, is also displayed. The supervisor has an album with more photos from the Portuguese era, which he will gladly show you on request. Inhambane is a truly unique destination for historical architecture enthusiasts.

Buildings from the colonial period lie scattered and forgotten across the province, with the highest concentration to be found in Inhambane City. In time they will surely be repainted and renovated, but for the present many remain empty and forgotten, like a movie set depicting a bygone era. In many towns there are intricate roadside water fountains built by the Portuguese, some still in good working order. In Inhambane City there is a history and culture trail that takes in such sights as the Vasco da Gama statue, the Casa do Cultura, the metal type printing press (which is still in use), old steam engines, the Museum of Inhambane and an old building on the waterfront where slaves were once incarcerated. Maps are available at Pensáo Pachica’s, Avenida 3 de Fevereiro (alongside the waterfront in Inhambane). Visitors requiring any forms of medication are advised to bring their own, as there are only two small pharmacies which may not carry specialised prescription drugs.

BUSES, BANKS, INTERNET AND POSTAGE

There is a bus service regularly from Tofo to Inhambane. There are banks in the city centre, with BIM having a cash machine for Visa cards and BCI a Bureau de Change. The Post Office is at the end of Avenida de lndependência, the street that starts at the jetty. One can send mail or faxes from here or send e-mail and browse the internet at EPCI on Avenida Eduardo Mondlane, next to the library. Tofo also hosts an Internet Café in town centre.

SMOKING

All tourism lodges and self-caterig establishments such as Tofo Beach Cottages are designated NO SMOKING areas. Threfore, please refrain from smoking inside the cottages.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

In case of emergency, contact…

  • Tofo Police Station (00258) 842-387724
  • Chief of Tofo Police (00258) 823-524710