Mozambique Security Update
Cruisers planning to visit Mozambique and passage the Mozambique channel are being advised to be extremely cautious according to experienced South African cruiser Des Cason. He told Noonsite that since the publication of his Madagascar and Mozambique channel cruising notes in 2014, he has seen an increase in a number of issues of concern to cruisers to the point where he advises that Mozambique should be treated as a “No-Go” zone.
Published 3 years ago
While he did not personally experience these issues, Des was in close contact with the cruisers who went through the experiences which he has detailed in this report.
Mozambique: Cruising Notes Update 2020
By Des Cason
Terrorist activities increasing:
Since the discovery of what is purported to be the 2nd largest natural gas field known (midway between Mozambique and Madagascar) the activities of Islamic jihadist groups in the northern regions of Mozambique have increased dramatically. They seem to be very active in the regions north of Nacala up to the Tanzanian border and reports indicate that their intention is inter alia to disrupt the construction of the infrastructure for the exploitation of this field. A number of deaths are attributed to their activities and a Russian defense contractor has withdrawn their military staff due to the risk.
A number of cruisers with humanitarian aims have gone ashore on this coast line and without exception have been subjected to hostile receptions and in two cases were held against their will by local tribal leaders who have come under the influence of these jihadis. It has to be realized that the days of engaging with the local tribes are over and would recommend that under no circumstances set foot on land north of Ilha Mozambique.
The accepted stop over in the channel en route to South Africa is the Bazaruto Archipelago and over the past two years close to 200 yachts have utilized the shelter behind Bazaruto whilst waiting for a weather window down south. Up until 2017 no problems were experienced despite technically being within the territorial waters of Mozambique without having gone through the normal check in procedures.
All this changed in 2017 when a clever entrepreneur “Africa style” hit upon the idea to inform the authorities at the nearest entry port in Vilanculos so he could get a share of the spoils/bribes/fines etc.
As a consequence, six yachts were boarded and threatened by armed officials. This entailed confiscation of passports and threats of yachts being attacked. They reportedly settled on fines etc in excess of $200 per person.
The recommended anchorage is behind Bazaruto +- 13 down the west coast and apart from a small fishing village comprising a few huts on the beach you are out of sight of the lodges operating on the island and obviously also the officials in Vilanculos which is +–20nm SW of the anchorage on the mainland. It would be in cruisers’ interest and also their fellow cruisers interest to resist the temptation to do the tourist thing and go “walk about” on Bazaruto. This is not a sight seeing stopover and your odds of being confronted by the authorities increase exponentially if you pitch up at the lodges as they consider cruisers to be a negative as we supposedly “lower the tone” whatever that means.
The next area of concern is Inhambane/Ling Linga which, due to its configuration, is seen by many cruisers as an attractive stop over. Once again the corruption of the local officials in cahoots with the lodge managements have been successful in extracting vast amounts of money from yachties who willfully ignored my warnings.
Due to the convoluted channel you need to navigate (a French yacht was lost on the sand bar in 2018 which is tidal), you are trapped and it is impossible to get out except on the right tide. Any attempt to duck the officials is stymied due to the channel and tides and it is an easy matter for the officials on a motorized launch to catch up with you whilst you are still in the channel. Obviously the lodge management is complicit in this scam regardless of whether you have checked in or not. They will always find some excuse to demand exorbitant amounts of cash.
The only entry port which has had consistent good reports is Ilha Mozambique where the port captain has gone out of his way to assist yachties who have called there.
In a nutshell regardless of the general perception – Mozambique is a“no go” zone and you ignore this at your peril.
Des Cason is a retired cruiser based in SA, who offers advice to cruisers visiting the country and routing and weather information for the Indian Ocean.
- Madagascar and Mozambique Channel (Des Cason 2021)
- Madagascar Cruising Notes
- Mozambique Channel Hideaway near the Bazaruto Archipelago
- Madagascar, Mahajanga: Armed Robbery – October 2016
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.
Posted by eutikia on the Mozambique page:
I suggest to see this video from 19 min.: Bazaruto anchorage.
We are at Bazaruto beach ( 7/11/2016) and the fisherman with red shirt is the village boss and the thief.
We were at our anchorage when they indicated us a new position. No problem, we changed our anchorage .
Any way, it was difficult to trust them ( they were well looking at our deck) and, over all, the very unfriendly boss. So when we had, after a while, the visit of a rangers boat ( two uniform of them on board and. we payed a modest Park fee) I asked them if the anchorage was safe. “ No problem, Sir, my family lives here at village on the shore”
We went ashore for a short walk with some gifts (colored pens, books ecc) for children.
Before sunset we hauled out the tender and we fixed it on right side (the outboard with little chain). The day after, at dawn, the outboard was disappeared. We sailed away immediately.
I hope this experience may help…over all, don’t stay alone for more one night anchorage.
For our Madagascar, Mahajanga armed robbery look at:
Being a South African who is a permanent resident in Mozambique for the past 19 years and sailing in Mozambique the past 5 years my comments on Des’s report is the following
Pemba itself is still very safe and many boats chartering to Lararus banks for fishing are based and operate from there. From Pemba to the Tanzanian border the water is safe but it’s not safe to go to shore due to the security risk there for the past year. I might add that whilst no regular foreigner has been injured there have been ruthless attacks on the local villages with many lives lost.
Bazaruto region. Please note ALL of the islands and 10km surrounds are declared as Unexco sites and a marine park with large input on the management thereof from the WWF. This means no vessel can expect at any time to stop there and not have to pay the daily rates for the boat and persons on the boat. There are different rates for local vessels and foreign vessels. The local panga boats carrying the park rangers will come out and collect the due fees and issue you a receipt.
Inhambane – in cases of needing to stop over here it’s far safer and easier to stop in the Barra region near the light house ( be aware of the reef) for safety from southerly storms and it’s closer and easier to get back out to sea than have to cross the sand bank to linga linga .
These are my opinions as of Jan 2020.
S/v Cerianne V (Leopard40 cat)
Clearance to enter the country can be obtained in Vilanculos at the southern end of the Bazaruto archipel. We (Sleipnir III) did so in lat 2019 and were not asked for any bribes etc..
– Visit Maritime to get cruising permit (you need a permit per region – so just buy for the duration of the stay in the Archipel, you need to buy again in the next area. (domestic clearance is a requirement in Mozambique)
– Visit National Park office and pay the entry
– take tuktuk to the airport for the visa, pay the visa fee and handling fee (this is not normally for yachts after all). If the guys at immigration ask you to see customs, just tell them you deal with maritime, customs are not part of the process for boats.
It took less than half a day. We know of two other boats who did the same in 2019, who gave us the information on how to clear in. We left the dinghy with the boat builders in the corner of the beach at Vilanculos for a small fee. There is a well stocked supermarket in town and cash points.
We spent two weeks in the area and anchored mainly off Benguerra. We had magnificent hiking there. The locals were very welcoming and helped us when we got lost on the goat tracks and in their fields. .
Not clearing in – just my opinion:
There are “law enforcement points” throughout the archipel, they are on the map of the national park. The area is patrolled by officials, not only the National Park guards.
Any yachts not clearing in will – as in any other country of the world – risk fines, could have passports confiscated and possibly have the yacht confiscated (In Australia you’d end up in prison). There is no reason to expect Mozambique to be different.
Most countries will let you shelter for a real emergency but expect you to clear in if possible. If anchoring for several days/weeks to wait for a weather window less than 20 miles from a clearance port it is hard to claim emergency.
just our thoughts anyhow
Ellen + Michael – Sleipnir III