There are plenty of easy-access options for visiting Mozambique that don't require an epic cross-country drive, but if you want to see it all in one trip, you'll have to hit the road.
XAI-XAI AND TOFO BEACHES: From Zongoene Lodge ($119; www.zongoene.html), south of the town of Xai-Xai, you can access exceptional bird-watching and a 100-year-old lighthouse. The reefs off Tofo host swarms of whale sharks and manta rays. Tofo Scuba's two-hour snorkeling trips to Manta Reef ($46, including equipment; www.tofoscuba.co.za) are your best bet for spotting them. With seven acres (3 hectares) of upscale digs, Casa Barry ($196; www.casabarry.com) is an ideal Tofo base camp.
GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK: Trade the surf for savanna at million-acre (four-hundred thousand hectare) Gorongosa (www.gorongosa.net). Rooms at Chitengo Camp ($24), which has basic amenities, can be arranged upon arrival at the park.
ISLAND-HOPPING: The Dhow Safari Company runs whale-watching trips from Mozambique Island ($35; +258 661 0027). Jakera Adventures' custom trips with photographer Paul Kerrison let you design your own paddle through the Quirimbas Archipelago ($5,000 for two weeks, including meals, lodging, and equipment; www.adventure-kayaking.com). Alternatively, rent a villa at 87-acre (35-hectare) Quilálea Island Resort ($425, including meals and activities; www.quilalea.com) and explore uninhabited neighboring islands.
GETTING THERE: South African Airways flies direct from New York City to Johannesburg ($1,783; www.flysaa.com). Connect to Chimoio, for Gorongosa, or to Pemba, the gateway to the Quirimbas, via Maputo on Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique (www.lam.co.mz).
ROAD TRIP: To follow the author's exploration of Mozambique's landscapes (see red line on map) on your own, rent a car at Johannesburg International Airport ($56 a day; www.avis.co.zath) then cross into Mozambique at the Lebombo border post, about 250 miles (402 kilometers) east of the airport. Driving in Mozambique should be approached with extreme caution. The UN continues to warn of land mines throughout the interior, so stick to major thoroughfares. Stow a spare tire and rim in the trunk.
NEED TO KNOW: A visa is required for entry into Mozambique (www.embamoc-usa.org). Malaria risk is high—check the CDC site (www.cdc.gov) for recommended antimalarials. Mozambique: The Bradt Travel Guide (Bradt, $19) is an excellent guidebook. Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of major hotels and restaurants; ATMs are hard to find outside of cities. Always keep some emergency cash on hand—merchants will often accept U.S. dollars and South African rand.
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