Mozambique - Looking for advice


Due to me currently working in another boring office job, after leaving my previous boring office job, and waiting on a years medical defferal to run its course, I have recently been looking at volunteer trips to Africa, Central/Southern America et al, with a period of 2 months away.

This trip in particular drew my attention: Community Volunteer Mozambique. Work with constructions, health care and children in Africa.

I was really just wondering if anybody who has been on a similar trip (An assumption on my part here, as I'm sure many of you have experience of sub saharan Africa etc) could offer me some insight as to whether it is worthwile, good value for the money, and more than that, a genuine life experience.

I am 19, and have a decent base level of fitness, but again, I am wondering, would this be an issue, due to the nature of the trip?

Sorry for the wordy question, but any help much appreciated.

There was a program (cant remember the name) a few years ago on the BBC I think, about a couple who naively believed they could help the "poor Africans" in Mozambique and who sold up in the UK and relocated to Mozambique! They bought or rented a house and tried to set up their mission or whatever! The catalogue of problems they encountered was never ending! Mozambiques infrastructure is, to be polite, fragile at best, it hasn't been updated in most cases since the Portuguese left. Water, sewage and electricity is at best erratic, at worst non existant. The couple while finding many of the local people friendly and helpful also found there were many who were very anti white! In the end they found themselves too fearful of mugging to go out after dark and were actually robbed in their own house several times at gunpoint, losing virtually everything they had taken there. Becoming more & more desperate they left after a month or so!
You have to remember that this country didnt just have its "war of independence" it has had a pretty bloody history since then with civil war & coups being the order of the day, so there is a substantial proportion of the population who are inured to violence & bloodshed and who are prepared to use violence to get what they want!
You would be far better off going to somewhere like Tanzania or Zambia to help where we were the former colonists, so English is spoken and things are much more stable (comparatively speaking) !
Or of course you could try & help the savages a little closer to home, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow?
Don't bother,it's just about hell on earth, worked there a few times some years ago and with all the support of one of the Worlds largest construction companys it was still a f***ing dump of Biblical proportions,it stinks, it's very dangerous, rife with just about every disease known to modern medicine,and then some, you would be safer going on holiday in Hellmand
Thanks for the replies.

So, looks like Mozambique is off the list, as everyone else that I have spoken to seems to react with the same look of horror, and say things similar to both of your posts. In reference to Tropper's point, if a large private firm could not be relied upon for protection, or at least some semblance of security, I wouldn't really trust a small NGO to provide better, or even equivalent cover.

And Ex_Colonial, I assume by your user name that you have first hand experience of these areas. Would you recommend Kenya? You mentioned Zambia, and Tanzania, which both seem highly interesting, and better served in terms of Airports, which was another concern of mine. If you could only pick one African country to see, taking everthing into account, which would it be?

N.B - Would be in Helmand at the drop of a hat, and fully intend to acheive that as soon as possible.

Thanks again.


Kit Reviewer
Don't bother,it's just about hell on earth, worked there a few times some years ago and with all the support of one of the Worlds largest construction companys it was still a f***ing dump of Biblical proportions,it stinks, it's very dangerous, rife with just about every disease known to modern medicine,and then some, you would be safer going on holiday in Hellmand
I was next door in Swaziland for a year and bribed my way in for a quick CTR of Maputo. As reported above, the place was a Horror story back then (1995 - 3years after the end of the Civil War) but it does seem to have got its act together to a certain degree. 8% Growth between 1994 and 2006. The Government is better now, lot of stuff privatised so it runs better. The Saffas have been putting in a lot of Cash to grow Mozambique as a Holiday Destination and some of this must have spilt over into the infrastructure of the place. Right now its luxury holidays on islands off the coast, but the tourism has to have improved the general lot as well. Don't knock it off your list just yet, especially as the horror stories are dated. Speak to someone who has been there in the last year.


Book Reviewer
I met the organiser of Real Life Ghana (Real Life Ghana - Welcome) at a network event in London. She came across as a together woman who was clearly doing the good bit and spreading the word.

Even mentioned it to the wife and she said she would do a volunteer trip there...!

Might be worth checking out, if you're interested in that sort of thing.
Don't bother,it's just about hell on earth, worked there a few times some years ago and with all the support of one of the Worlds largest construction companys it was still a f***ing dump of Biblical proportions,it stinks, it's very dangerous, rife with just about every disease known to modern medicine,and then some, you would be safer going on holiday in Hellmand
Disagree with your statement in this day and age - It may have been a dump just after the civil war, but it has improved.


A lefty do-gooder friend of my wife's went there with VSO a few years ago with the idea of saving poor smiling African kids. She quickly became disillusioned as none needed saving. She ended up selling ice creams on a tourist beach to fat South Africans. Hopefully it knocked some of the lefty thinking out of her pea size organ that she proclaimed to be a brain.

My view is that if it's a genuine charity/NGO it could be well worth doing. Be aware that their are some companies that pretend to be using you as an aid worker, but when you get there you start shelling out for loads of 'extras' that they never mentioned before you deployed. The site that you put the link to seems to be one of those. If you're happy with that, go for it. But if you'd rather do some good then I'd suggest voluntary work with a genuine NGO.
I was there at the end of the civil war and our teams cleared the route from the Beira corridor to Caia as well as clearing tertiary routes of landmines, uxo and ied's up in the Gorongoza. During the peace talks I headed the UN EOD / IEDD team, making sure the talks went ahead without interruption. At that time I travelled all over Sofala province without much trouble and we also brought a convoy up from Nelspruit in the RSA to Metuchira by road without any difficulty at all. I was however ambushed on the road from Maputo to Komatipoorte on one occasion - an ******** twitching experience I can assure you. I understand from various colleagues who have been to Maputo recently that it is now a modern city and that crime there is not quite as bad as in e.g. RSA. Africans, like most other races, will steal if given the opportunity and there is the old joke about the only time you ever see an African running is when he has just stolen something. On balance I found the Mozambicans to be a good humoured bunch of people and certainly not any worse than any other race I have worked with. If you want perfect safety and security stay at home and do gardening.
I'd tend to agree with Oyibo - I worked along the coast (LM / Maputo, Xai-Xai, Inhambane, Vilanculos & Beira) in 1999 (post Limpopo flood) and 2000 and again last year, doing recce & detailed Inshore Surveys for fibre optic cable projects.
Maputo has a bit of a problem with local police, who patrol in armed pairs, usually with an english speaker, accosting caucasians for their ID. If you go, take plenty of photocopies of your passport and carry one, if abroad in the evening. Leave the original in your hotel safe or similar. Plenty of restaurants, bars and a couple of decent clubs within the city limits.
Once out of the capital, take care not to exceed the speed limit (60 mph / 100 kmh) in other provinces - Siemens had donated a couple of RADAR, speed traps to Inhambane province, which are extremely difficult to spot at the side of the road, against a bush background. Used to be 1 000 000 meticais fine (~U$48 in 2000).
As previously mentioned, Saffers have put resources into low-key, environmentally friendly holiday developments (taking over from the porcs) at various places on the mainland coast, with some arab money going into similar, but luxurious, developments on the islands off Vilanculos. The road north of Inhambane up to Vilanculos used to get flooded and nearly impassable to 2 WD traffic at times in the rainy season.
Make sure you have up to date anti malarial tabs, sleep under a mossie net, if there's no AC, protect your skin and drink bottled water.
I saw evidence of the "professional" aid workers, in Vilanculos, thrashing around town in 4x4s and generally lording it, getting replen for projects further inland - didn't think too much of them.
Locals, once out of the capital were OK, no beggars, just guys wanting to sell you stuff - fish, carved wood (tripod wooden stools (not locally dumped) are good value), which I thought was good.
As Oyibo has remarked though, I'd be cautious of going with any organisation that was not well recognised, but I thought the place was worth a visit and does need assistance.
Good luck!
"Scooperman", Yes I spent 3 years in N. Rhodesia just before it became Zambia in the Colonial Police, I recommended Zambia or Tanzania as they have had comparatively settled political scenes since "Independence" depite corruption and imposition of "one party" statehood at various times! So would tend to be less volatile than some other African countries. But you need to remember a few things, Africa is NOT the West, Most people ARE friendly and honest but many are dirt poor and have totally different ethics to a Westerner! The infastructure which may be acceptable in the major towns is often lacking in more rural areas, AIDS is rampant (over 15% of population have it), as are many other tropical diseases, such as Malaria, Sleeping Sickness, Bilharzia, hepatitis A, typhoid, the Plague, bacterial & protozoal diarhhoea & Rabies (never let any animal, even so called pets, lick you)! Then of course you have venomous Snakes, spiders & scorpions in some bush areas!
Remember also that the health service is not the same as Western countries and you could be several days journey away from the nearest doctor or hospital if you work in the bush! Just so you are aware!
If you could only pick one African country to see, taking everthing into account, which would it be?
If you're looking for relative safe countries I'd suggest you have a look at Rwanda or Ethiopia. Both countries are fairly stable, have a reasonable public transport system (including a good network of cheap domestic flights in Ethiopia), drinkable tap water and little crime. Not overrun by tourists, but enough proper infrastructure.

Addis Ababa and Kigali are pleasant and safe cities and you can walk around during the evening and night as well in most areas without the immediate threat of getting mugged. I'm sure a couple of posters will now tell you how so-and-so got killed when getting off the bus in Addis...... Well, the same could happen to anyone of us in Amsterdam, London or Paris; common sense applies when walking around in a large city.

Both countries host an impressive amount of NGO's/IO's from various fields and it's up to you what you want to do. Plus, both countries have a lot to offer to go sight seeing once in a while (both nature and culture wise).

Though Africa is a great continent it can also be disappointing at times. Don't have your expectations too high and if you have a "do good" feeling you'd better leave at home. :)

Edited to add smileys....
Again, thanks for all the really good replies.

I'm still in that theoretical stage at the moment, and don't even have a long list, let alone a short one. I do feel that I wasn't clear in my first posts though. I'm not really looking to stay in city centres, or largely populated areas, as I am looking for a bit of escape, though without it turning into a Ray Mears "eat what you scrounge" trip. Less of a holiday, more of an adventure, but again, with a sensible bit of thought behind it.

I was looking to do volunteering as I hope to be away for two months, and will need to do something of purpose, rather than rock up in country, with nothing to do, and no plan of travel, regular provisions etc. Have seen some great advice, and as this is my first "wild" trip alone, am very thankful.

Fear of mugging is not a huge worry of mine, as I don't intend to be carrying expensive items such as a flashy camera, i-pod, laptop or anything of much value at all, as that is sort of what I want to get away from. One more question however, is of phones. I saw a thread in the QM's a while back, and could not find it, about phones for international calling. A cheap sat phone is not out of the question, but again, would be an expensive item that may not be necessary if I can find a cheaper alternative.

N.B - Ex_colonial, I spend enough of my time helping scrotes in this country, as I work in social housing in Liverpool. I may even find Africa a step up, considering some of the "priviliged westerners" that I work with. : )

Mobile phones work along the coast, if you buy a local pay as you go SIM, not too sure about inland, but most of the population centres will have cell masts. You'd be unlucky to get mugged outside the capital...

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