Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mozambique; where the sunny skies are aqua blue

by Darren Ravens

Located on the south-eastern coast of the continent, Mozambique is considered one of Africa's coastal jewels. It is renowned for its crystal blue waters, fantastic coral reef and its amazing diversity of marine life.

This former Portuguese colony, a unique melting pot of diverse cultures, is a major attraction for travellers seeking an African adventure experience. Devastated by a bloody civil war that raged for about 17 years, since the end of the war in 1992, Mozambique has been actively rebuilding itself. This has begun to open up a host of travel opportunities for visitors eager to get a taste of this tropical African paradise.

Great Neighbourhood

Mozambique, bordered by Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi is the ideal base for the traveller hoping to explore these countries aswell. Equally, a visit to Mozambique can easily be incorporated into a tour to any of these countries.

Getting Around

Mozambique's road network is reasonably well-established and most major routes are regularly maintained. Most of the major centres and popular areas are accessible by two-wheel drive vehicles. Of course, a 4x4 offers a special advantage and opens up a range of further travel possibilities. There are several car-hire companies in Maputo, catering for the needs of the traveller interested in a self-drive holiday.

If you prefer the convenience and added security of being driven by a professional, there are a number of private mini-bus operators and reliable public transport companies operating in the major centres.

If you wish to experience Mozambique travel as part of a more comprehensive African experience, the packages offered by overland adventure travel companies are a good option. Usually, these companies put together overland tours, which pass through a number of countries and provide travellers with a unique opportunity to enjoy a diverse African travel experience.

Climate and weather

Mozambique enjoys a warm, tropical climate with an average temperature of around the high 20s (degrees Celsius) range. The weather is warm and sunny all year round, ideal for maximum enjoyment of the countries coastal charms.

The summer months, from October to April, are often very hot, humid and rainy. From April to September, the winter months are cooler, drier and more comfortable for visitors not accustomed to heat and humidity normally associated with the warm season in tropical areas.

That's not to say that you shouldn't embark on Mozambique travel during summer though, since actual temperatures and rainfall varies by region within the country. The higher-lying Nampula and Niassa provinces are the coolest, while the north-eastern coastal regions are the hottest. The northern region receives far more rainfall than the south.

If you're hoping for a Mozambican safari experience, the best time of year to visit is towards the end of the winter months. This drier season normally sees animals congregating in larger groups than they do in summer. The summer months offer excellent fishing opportunities with the larger fish populating the coastal waters during this time of the year.

Diving in Mozambique

Mozambique is a world-famous dive location with numerous fantastic reefs supporting an amazing variety of marine life. The relatively warm water temperature and a multitude of interesting creatures including the dugong, sharks, dolphins, whales and shoals colourful fish, makes for an awesome diving experience. The area most popular amongst diving enthusiasts is the Bazaruto Archipelago, consisting of four islands; Bazaruto, Benguerra, Margaruque and Santa Carolina. The archipelago's coral reefs and clear, crystal blue waters provide what is regarded as the best snorkelling and scuba diving in Africa. If your trip to Mozambique is to be limited to just one destination in the country, then this group of islands must be it.


The unit of currency is the Metical. Introduced mid-2006, this relatively new currency is used alongside the older Meticais, which is being phased out. In the southern parts of the country, the South African Rand, US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are also accepted. In the north, US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are widely accepted. Credit cards are accepted to some extent, but only by the larger hotels or businesses geared specifically towards tourists. Generally, it should be assumed that your credit card will not be readily accepted.

Health Precautions

Mozambique is a malaria-risk area, so it's vital that visitors take proper precautions. To minimise the mosquito risk, travellers are advised to wear long sleeves and trousers when possible and to use an effective mosquito repellent on exposed skin. Treated mosquito netting should be used and the doors and windows of your accommodation should be screened to keep mosquitoes out. A fan or air-conditioner can also help limit night-time mosquito activity to some extent.

Also important is the use of and effective anti-malaria medication. Be warned though, certain medications cause side-effects, so consult you doctor or travel clinic well before you intend to be exposed to the risk to ensure that you are adequately protected.

With a painful history of war and destruction, Mozambique has rebuilt itself and looks to the future by capitalising on its natural beauty. Whether you are after an adventure, leisure or the perfect eco-tourism experience, Mozambique is an idyllic tropical destination that will not disappoint. It is truly a slice of paradise.

About the Author
The crew from the overland adventure travel company, Oasis Overland have an extensive knowledge of Africa, the Middle East and South America. Their philosophy is to provide excellent value for money for budget conscious travellers without compromising their experiences, and providing quality vehicles, equipment, and crew. Travel in Mozambique is encompassed by various Oasis African Tours.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Take a Trip to Aruba

by Caitlin Moore

Aruba is one of those places that most people couldn't point to on a map. It sounds exotic and you could probably swear that you've heard good things about it, but there's a certain aura of mystery that surrounds this island nation as well. If you're the mysterious type and your interest has been piqued, take a closer look and see if this isn't the perfect location for your next vacation.

Floating in the southern Caribbean a few miles out from Venezuela, Aruba has all the attractive qualities of its island neighbors with a little less traffic and notoriety. Basically, it's about 70 square miles of pleasing, beach-themed, tropical paradise fun that will never leave you bored or unenthusiastic about having chosen this as your temporary hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. By means of land, ocean, and air, you'll rediscover your playful side while recharging your batteries.

For example, if city life has left you struggling to breathe and longing to tickle your toes with sand and the salty sea, Aruba is the place to be. Surfing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and a few other pleasant pastimes are enough to fill your days, so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and a few swimsuits (you might get tired of wearing the same one day in and day out).

The trade winds of Aruba make it an excellent place for two more adventurous ocean activities, kite surfing and wind surfing, so adrenaline junkies take heed. Novices can try their hand at this engaging sport under the watchful eye of an instructor, and more experienced folks can head out on their own to one of the many ideal stretches of surfable waves along the northern or southeastern coasts. Either way, you're sure to get some exercise, test skills you didn't even know you had, and view amazing Aruba from a one-of-a-kind vantage point.

If you're more of a land lover, don't worry about twiddling your thumbs while the rest of your group has all the fun. Jeep tours will take you on safari, meaning that a professional guide will fill you in on all the historical, cultural, and geographical hotspots of the isle. You'll sit in comfort for the in-between parts, but will have time to get out, stretch your legs, and move up close and personal to the exciting features of this dynamic island. The Natural Bridge, the Ayo Rock Formations, Alto Vista Chapel, and the Gold Mill ruins are just a few of the highlights that any sort of exploration will unearth, so whether you join a caravan or set out on your own, you'll be sure to uncover a number of unexpected delights that make this more than just a beaches-and-cocktails destination.

Bicycling is another way to traverse the terrain; it can be a little rough out there so mountain bikers should feel right at home. The sand dunes and desert plains also make horseback riding an interesting method to hit the trail, and will likely make you forget just where you are. Golfing and tennis will give you some exercise in more traditional ways, but be sure to stop the game every so often to properly appreciate the stunning backdrop that rises behind you. It's not every day you can tee off before an audience of parakeets and salamanders, after all.

For one more tempting taste of pure paradise, consider treating yourself to an appointment at one of the many spas on the island. Filled with trained professionals, the latest technologies, and plenty of jars, bottles, and vials that contain exotic elixirs and lotions capable of soothing you completely, you'll enter with the lingering stress of your normal life but emerge feeling refreshed and revived. Basic manicures, pedicures, and salon services are available, but it is advised that you boldly book something more extravagant and cutting edge; hydrotherapy, Shiatsu, or a nourishing body wrap would all aid you in your quest to fully enjoy yourself during this trip.

Finally, to ensure that all really does go phenomenally well, be sure to arrange for a fabulous lodging situation. Nothing kills the mood like a boring hotel room that just doesn't fit with the rest of the vacation. It is important to take care of every detail, so go online to peruse the Aruba Vacation Rentals that will catapult this trip into the next realm. A concealed villa with a patio and a pool, a cute condo decorated in an island theme, or a beach bungalow that separates you from the crowds could all mean the difference between an acceptable trip and one that is utterly amazing. Review your options now, and say your thanks later on as you bask in the sun within the space of your private lanai.

About the Author
Visit to ooh and ahh over thousands of vacation rentals in locations all over the world.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Snorkeling And Diving In Curacao

by Justin Burch

Home to over 80 miles of pristine coral reef, myriad tropical fish, sponges, sea turtles, seahorses, eels and dolphins, the waters surrounding Curacao beg to be enjoyed and photographed. Besides boasting the clearest water in the Caribbean, with average visibility between 80-140 feet, year-round water temperatures of 78-83°F allow the ocean to be enjoyed regardless of season. Whether you want to snorkel or scuba dive, there are plenty of experienced dive operators providing daily boat trips and tours to all the best locations. From quiet coves with shallow reefs perfect for snorkelers and beginning divers, to coral walls with strong currents for experienced drift divers, there are sites in Curacao for everyone. In addition to being recognized as the best snorkeling and scuba diving location in the Caribbean, Curacao was also named the "3rd Best Destination in the World" by Scuba Diving Magazine. With over 80 unique dive and snorkel sites to be explored, this article will merely scratch the surface of what Curacao has to offer.

Porto Marie is a wonderful site for all levels of divers and snorkelers with a quiet, scenic beach to relax before and after your dive. Currents and swells here are light and the visibility averages 80 feet. Porto Marie offers a unique double reef dive, with a 100-foot wide, 50-foot deep sandy valley separating the inner and outer reefs.

Klein Curacao is a tiny, idyllic island southeast of Curacao. Day trips are available from a number of dive shops and charter companies. The island offers a serene day away from civilization with a long stretch of powdery sand, shallow snorkeling areas, an old scenic lighthouse and the wreck of the Maria Bianca Guidesman tanker resting against the rocks. Additionally, visibility is usually over 100 feet, allowing divers the opportunity to observe sea turtles and dolphins.

The Superior Producer is a fantastic wreck dive located near the Mega Pier where cruise ship passengers disembark for daytrips into Willemstad, the island's capital. The currents are strong here, so the site is limited to experienced divers. Roughly 200 feet long, you'll find this wreck sitting upright on a sand plateau between two reefs in about 100 feet of water. After 27 years beneath the surface, the ship is completely encrusted with tube sponges, cup coral and patches of black coral, producing a colorful garden complete with snails, rays, eels and darting fish. Also, the bridge has recently been opened up and is safe to swim through.

The incredibly popular Tugboat is a wreck that can be enjoyed by snorkelers and divers alike. Sitting upright in just 20 feet of water, the 30-foot vessel is accessible from shore or by boat. After three decades beneath the sea, it is fully encrusted with elaborate formations of brain coral, star coral, sponges and Christmas tree worms. The area is also teeming with such photogenic fish as sergeant majors and parrotfish.

Watamula lies off the coast of a national park at the northwestern corner of the island. The reef starts at 30 feet and runs down to a sandy shelf at 100 feet. Sea turtles favor this area, with a huge resident logger head, the barnacle-encrusted "Crush," regularly spotted resting between 30 and 60 feet.

The Mushroom Forest, regularly cited as one the Caribbean's premier dives, is also located on the sparsely populated northwest side of Curacao. The Forest starts close to shoreline cliffs in 40 feet of water and runs several hundred yards out into the sea, reaching a depth of 60 feet. The site earns its name from the giant mushroom-shaped coral formations sprouting from the seafloor. Formed over many decades as the bottoms of Great Star and Plate Corals were undermined by fish, sponges and clams, some have grown to over ten feet in diameter.

Oswaldo's Drop Off, another of Curacao's celebrated sites, is suitable for all levels of divers with great snorkeling on a shallow terrace. The drop off is only 100 yards from shore with the reef wall starting in 30 feet of water, gradually plunging to a depth of 130 feet. The remains of the Car Pile, an artificial reef created in the 1960s, also rests in this area.

Playa Kalki, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is a fantastic site located on the west side of the island. Sheltered from the wind with minimal surf, this is a great place to rent a diveyak, an inflatable kayak that can hold all your gear.

Playa Jeremi offers a quiet sandy beach with an easy dive entry. The sheltered bay is ideal for beginning divers and snorkelers, with plenty of coral at depths of 3-20 feet. For experienced divers, the outer reef offers a fantastic variety of unspoiled corals and abundant fish populations.

About the Author
This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about travel in the Caribbean for the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino