Volunteering in Mozambique

This enigmatic African country is unfailingly rewarding - with untouched beaches and vibrant, welcoming people, Mozambique has something for everyone. From colonial-style architecture in Maputo, remote archipelagos in the north, pounding surf in the south and graceful dhows with billowing sails up and down the coastline, visitors to this vast country are rarely disappointed.

Visitors to Southern Mozambique, the most developed part of the country, are lured by promises of plates of fresh giant prawns and grilled lagosta (crayfish), lazy days cooled by the Indian Ocean breeze and some of the best diving, snorkelling and game fishing in the world. The legendary beaches of Tofo and Barra boast some of the most beautiful stretches of land on the continent and southern Mozambique is also home to a wealth of cultural highlights.

Development of Mozambique’s coastline has been slow and purposeful, with stringent conservation laws preserving as much of the crystalline ocean as possible. It is the ideal place to seek out southern Africa’s marine version of the Big 5 - whale sharks, manta rays, hammerheads, reef sharks and sea turtles. The stretch of coast from Vilanculos to Tofu is where you’ll find the finest diving sites along the east coast of Africa with the Bazaruto Archipelago considered one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. With almost guaranteed in-season sitings of whale shark and one of the largest concentrations of whale sharks in Africa, Inhambane and Tofu are also must-visit diving destinations especially during October - March, where 50-strong congregations are not uncommon.

Take a look at some of our volunteer programmes in Mozambique on the right hand side of the page.


Quick Facts

Population: 25.8 million

Capital: Maputo

Currency: Metical

Language: Portuguese is the official language and most people speak it as a second language. Other languages include Swahili, Makhuwa and Sena.

Time difference: GMT +2

Telephone: country code + 258, international access code 00

Main airports: Maputo International Airport (MPM), Inhambane International Airport (INH), Pemba International Airport (POL) 

Weather and Climate
The Mozambique coastline stretches for 2,000 km and has a tropical ocean current running north to south along its length for the whole year. The whole country broadly follows a southern African weather pattern, with the rains falling between December and March.

This does vary between the north and south of the country, with the rains lasting a few weeks longer in the north than the south, but the pattern is the same. Rainfall is relatively low but humidity can be uncomfortably high during this period. By around April or May the rains subside, the sun comes out and the humidity drops – better weather spreads gradually from the south to the north.

June to October is the dry season, with perfect tropical weather: clear skies, plenty of sun and almost no rain.  Although still tropical, June, July and August are Mozambique's coolest months; you'll need a light duvet at night, even though the temperature reaches over 30°C by day. During September and October it remains dry as daytime temperatures climb, though it cools down a lot at night.

November is a less predictable month of transition. Sometimes the rains start, although many days remain sunny and hot. The rains generally start earlier in the north of the country.


Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the west and north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. They established agricultural communities or societies based on herding cattle.

From the late 9th century, vast Indian Ocean trade networks extended far south into Mozambique and commercial settlements along the Mozambican Swahili Coast became important centers for the Arab, Persian, and later Portuguese trade in slaves, gold, ivory, and other commodities. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts displaced the Arabic commercial and military hegemony, becoming regular ports of call on the new European sea route to the east.

The voyage of Vasco da Gama around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 marked the Portuguese entry into trade, politics, and society of the region. The Portuguese gained control of the Island of Mozambique and the port city of Sofala in the early 16th century, and by the 1530s, small groups of Portuguese traders and prospectors seeking gold penetrated the interior regions, where they set up garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete on the River Zambezi and tried to gain exclusive control over the gold trade.

By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of Mozambique to large private companies, which were controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to their neighbouring colonies (South Africa and Rhodesia). As anti-colonial ideologies spread out across Africa, many political movements were established in support of Mozambican independence. These movements claimed that policies and development plans were primarily designed by the ruling authorities for the benefit of Mozambique's Portuguese population and little attention was paid to Mozambique's tribal integration and the development of its native communities.

The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. This conflict became part of the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974). The Portuguese regular army maintained control of the population centres while the guerrilla forces sought to undermine their influence in rural and tribal areas in the north and west. As part of their response to FRELIMO, the Portuguese government began to pay more attention to creating favourable conditions for social development and economic growth.

However, by 1975 most of the 250,000 Portuguese in Mozambique had left - some expelled by the government of the nearly independent territory, some fleeing in fear - and Mozambique became independent from Portugal on 25 June 1975. In an act of vengeance, a law had been passed by the FRELIMO party ordering the Portuguese to leave the country in 24 hours with only 20 kilograms of luggage. Unable to salvage any of their assets, most of them returned to Portugal penniless.

The new government, under president Samora Machel, established a one-party state based on Marxist principles. The new government received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the Soviet Union and proceeded to crack down on opposition. From 1977 to 1992 the country was plagued by a civil war between the opposition forces of anti-Communist Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) rebel militias and the FRELIMO regime. This conflict, combined with sabotage from the neighbouring white-ruled state of Rhodesia and the apartheid regime of South Africa, ineffective policies, failed central planning, and the resulting economic collapse, characterised the first decades of Mozambican independence. This period was also marked by the exodus of Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage, a collapsed infrastructure, lack of investment in productive assets, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries.

Today Mozambique is stable, the economy is growing and people are returning from their exile overseas.

Travel Hotspots

Maputo - only 120 kilometers from the South African border, Mozambique's coastal capital feels like a different world. An intriguing mixture of European and African influences, Maputo is home to crumbling colonial buildings, lively markets, wide avenues named after communist leaders, art deco apartments the colour of fruit sorbets and a vibrant live music scene.

It has eclectic architecture, including the century-old elegant CFM Train Station, which made an appearance in the movie "Blood Diamond" and is home to Kampfumo, Maputo's most unusual bar, sandwiched between two platforms. Also well worth a look is the Casa de Ferro, a bizarre-looking metal house designed by Gustav Eiffel.

Most visitors to Mozambique do not linger in Maputo, instead heading for the 2,500km coastline which stretches from Tanzania down to South Africa.

Tofo and its tiny neighbour, Tofino, in Southern Mozambique, are vibrant fishing villages 30km from the town of Inhambane. Tofo has long been a favoured backpackers destination and has a couple of dive schools, several lodges and guest houses and a number of restaurants and bars. Most tourists come to Tofo to enjoy the large populations of whale sharks and manta rays, catch some waves, relax on the beach and interact at the lively markets. You can also take part in kite-surfing, horse riding and beach yoga.

Moving further north is the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of five idyllic paradise islands 10-20 km off the coast, near the mainland city of Vilankulos. The Archipelago is one of the most beautiful destinations in Africa, with the islands and the surrounding coral reef protected as a conservation area and national park. It is the only marine nature reserve in Mozambique. Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the pristine and untouched beaches are well worthy of the name. Flights to Bazaruto are available from Inhambane, Maputo or Johannesburg or you can take snorkelling and diving day trips from Vilankulos.

Gorongosa National Park is located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley. The 4,000 square km park includes the valley floor and surrounding plateaus and is home to all of Africa’s Big 5, excluding rhino. The birdlife in Gorongosa is fantastic, with many endemic species prized by birders.

The Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique is a chain of 30 islands stretching from Pemba to the town of Palma, in the north. The islands are one of the world’s best fishing and diving destinations, with phenomenal vertical drop-offs of up to 400m.

Getting to Mozambique

Mozambique has four international airports, Maputo International Airport (MPM) in the capital city; Inhambane Airport (INH) just outside the town of Inhambane north of Maputo; Vilankulo (VNX) in Inhambane province; and Pemba Airport (POL) in the far north of Mozambique. There are daily flights to Maputo, Vilankulo and Inhambane from South Africa using Air Mozambique (LAM).



Volunteer in Mozambique

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