If you are travelling from the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Massingir, and don’t take the turn-off for Xai-Xai, you will reach the EN1 (national road) close to the town of Macia. Macia is a small but interesting town with a marketplace alongside the road that is well worth a visit. To get to Bilene, turn right at the junction in Macia. After 30km of driving on a reasonably good road, you will reach the village and the lagoon (Lagoa Azul), which you may cross by boat, or drive around if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. Bilene is one of the most popular beach resorts in the province and is always busy on holiday weekends. It is also an ideal venue for conferences and there are plenty of options for those wishing to stay the night or longer. You can visit Turtle Bay while in the area, where you can see marine turtles any time of day.
There are five species of marine turtles found in Mozambique:
- Hawksbill; and
- Olive Ridley.
Uncontrolled and irresponsible coastal tourism development, beach driving, poaching and net trawlers are putting these animals at risk however.
The town of Xai-Xai is located 224km from Maputo and is the capital of Gaza Province. The town is divided into the business district known as Xai-Xai and the resort town of Praia do Xai-Xai. Praia do Xai-Xai is a popular tourist destination among international travellers and Mozambicans alike. The massive reef that runs parallel to the beach provides natural protection against the strong waves and at low tide small pools are formed where the gathering of mussels, oysters and other shellfish is a favourite pastime. Praia do Xai-Xai is also a good place to spot marine turtles.
Xai-Xai itself is a busy, but well organised city, although they are still struggling to repair infrastructure that was destroyed in the devastating floods of 2000. The town has many interesting attractions such as an outdoor carpentry factory, fresh produce market and good quality local restaurants. The town also has a number of banks and other goods are readily available, including freshly baked bread (pão) from the local bakery.
Seventy kilometres north of Xai Xai, the EN1 road to Beira winds to its closest brush with the Indian Ocean (only 5km away). The countryside undulates gently and is lush and green with pockets of coconut palms towering over cashew nut thickets. Freshwater lakes dominate the area. Here, in a clearing, lies the tiny, sleepy village of Chidenguele (the highest point). The village may only have one short street, but its name is emblazoned proudly in white stone on the hill behind the sandy soccer field. The cathedral, crisp and white on the opposite hill, seems quite out of place with its stained-glass windows. The rustic, African ‘mercado‘ (market) and single shop, trickle out a supply of whatever fruit and vegetables are available, but always beer and pão (bread). From the village of Chidenguele, a scenic sand track meanders to Praia do Chidenguele. Praia do Chidenguele also has a range of accommodation options either on the beach or around the inland lake behind the dune. Chidenguele is famous for being a whale breeding ground and many whales can be spotted at the right time of year.