Tofo.. Awww Tofo! I feel so much joy just talking about it! It’s THE place we used to go most of the long weekends back when I lived in Maputo. If you enjoy the beach, water sports, beautiful landscapes, music and food, you’ll love going there and even getting there.
Tofo is a small coastal village in Inhambane Province, located about 500km from the capital of Mozambique, Maputo. Tofo itself is small, the road isn’t paved, doesn’t have an atm and besides the local market, there is only a small supermarket. BUT, you just need a car or a ride to get everything you need nearby. What Tofo DOES have is a great vibe, beautiful beaches where you can surf, paddle, swim and snorkel and an increasing number of nice places to eat.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, it has 3 diving centers (Diversity, Tofo Scuba, and Peri Peri divers) where you can book dives, courses, and ocean safaris, and all 3 are PADI certified. It is ranked one of the top places in the world for diving. Furthermore, one can even take the master divers course there. How awesome is that?
When someone plans to travel to Mozambique, one must first realize that the country is one of the poorest countries in the world, so he or she must be prepared to overcome some challenges along the way. What I can guarantee is that you will not be disappointed once you get there.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Tofo is catching a flight to Inhambane and from there a taxi or ride to Tofo which is around 20km away. But that’s also the most expensive way. And unfortunately lately the Mozambican airline company LAM hasn’t been totally trustworthy when it comes to respecting schedules, so there’s always the chance that a day before your flight you get an email saying it was canceled or postponed. It’s a slight gamble.
The most affordable way to get there is taking public transport like a Maxibombo. However, it’s hard enough to get to the station, understand schedules, the buses can get really crowded and it will be packed. That’s basically the local way to get there. However, Fatima’s backpackers in Maputo have daily transfers at around 900mzn that are still a bit long trips but will get you there more comfortably without someone basically sitting on your lap.
What we usually do is drive there from Maputo. The national road N1 crosses the whole country and you just need to stick to it until Cumabana where you’ll turn right to Jangamo, which allows you to drive to the other side of Inhambane Bay. Google Maps is a useful tool, I’d advise anyone to get a local SIM card because it is really inexpensive and mobile data works very well in most places.
Driving there will take around 7 hours taking it easy. There are regular police checks with speed radars on the way, especially at the entrance or end of villages. The speed limit inside villages is 60km/m however outside supposedly is 100km/h but you can go faster easily. It’s advisable to carry an international driver’s license and the driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Also, the trip should be done during daytime hours – the main road has no lights and with plenty of people, animals, and cars without lights passing, driving at night is not advisable.
There are several pit stops one can make on the way to Tofo, to lighten up the trip. At the end of Palmeira (around 100km from Maputo) on the left side of the road, there is a little shop where you can buy nice fresh white cheese and fresh milk. In Macia (150km from Maputo) you can buy cheap fruit, cashew nuts, and peanuts in the street market on the right side when entering the village. You don’t even need to get out of your vehicle because people will come to you as soon as you stop. There’s also a beautiful viewpoint worth stopping for in Quissico, and also the bridge passage before Inharrime allows for amazing pictures. You will also cross Inhambane city where you can appreciate typical Portuguese colonial urban design.
What to do
Once in Tofo, most activities in Tofo are related to the beach. There are surf spots along the coast, especially in Tofo and Tofinho beaches (which is just a bit south). Stand up paddle is really common, and with good north/northeast wind, you’ll also have kite surfers enjoying the sea.
The diving centers provide ocean safaris where you can go on an inflatable rigid boat to snorkel with whale sharks, manta rays, and dolphins. Between August and the beginning of September, you’ll also see the humpback whales migrating with their youngs. Sometimes they get really close to the boat playing around in the water which is amazing.
If you’d like to go deeper and actually dive, there are beautiful tropical reefs where you’ll also enjoy plenty of marine life. I took my Open Water Certification in Tofo and on my very first dive I was already chilling with a green turtle at around 16m depth.
If none of this interests you, there’s also the very fine chance to just relax on the beach, go for a walk, have a nice lunch at Tofo Mar hotel (although the service is really slow) or have a nice fresh juice at Casa da Praia. There are tapas, pizzas, wraps and local food restaurants in the village. There’s also the local market where you can buy arts & crafts and capulanas (capulana is the colorful textile used in traditional clothing).
I also advise that you take at least a day to go to Barra beach and have lunch at the Green Turtle because the food there is exquisite, unlike you’ll find elsewhere in Mozambique and the restaurant is right on the beach so the chances of getting disappointed are very low. Barra is around 8km away from Tofo and it is also a very good alternative location for accommodation, with a wide offer of lodges and resorts.
During the week Tofo will be pretty quiet but Friday night you have live concerts at the hotel. It can get very busy on Mozambican long weekends or South African long weekends because everyone drives up there. There will be parties especially in Mozambeat backpackers, Fatima’s backpackers, Dino’s club or in Gallery. In the market, you’ll also find music and bars at night.
When the sun sets usually is the time mosquitoes attack harder. I’d advise you to have some mosquito repellent with you. You can buy it in Mozambique if you forget to bring it from home. Mainly because mosquito bites are uncomfortable but also because there is a small chance you get malaria. The incubation period for malaria is between 10 to 15 days, so if you feel like you have the flu, like headaches and body aches after being in Moz for this period consider taking the Malaria test before starting self-medicating for the common flu. Be aware that prophylactics don’t avoid you from getting it, just make it easy for you to heal from it later. A simple note, in over 4 years living in Mozambique I never had malaria so don’t get too worried.
I’ll also advise you to wear sunscreen on the beach because the sun can be very aggressive and easily burn your skin.
The closest atm is the BCI located around 3km from Tofo in the service station, therefore I’d advise you to have some money on you. In most places, you can pay with a card but several other only accept cash.
If you’re a Coconut Oil fan you’ll be amazed at how affordable this product is when bought in Tofo or in the above-mentioned service station and the product quality is really good.
If you’re self-driving I’d recommend you get a 4×4 car. Not that you can’t go most places with a 2×4 vehicle but if you’d like to explore the surroundings, there’s a high chance you’ll need some four wheel traction. Check with your accommodation which kind of vehicle you need to get there.
You’ll also find fisherman getting close to your accommodation selling fish, lobsters, shrimp or squid. Don’t avoid them. Check out what they’re carrying, it’s probably really fresh, the price will be very good once bargained and they can even clean it for you. Also, you’ll meet lots of kids selling coconut water. I’ve had one trying to sell me one coconut for 300 MZN when I’m perfectly aware that the real price is ten times lower. I actually got upset with him asking so much but in the end started to talk and eventually gave him 50MZN even though I knew it was too much. My advice is that you pay what you feel is fair or feel like paying even though you’re aware is overpriced. However, remember to always bargain! Otherwise, you’re not playing the game and are ruining market prices for the rest.
Finally, I’d advise you to relax enjoy your vacations as much as possible. If after Tofo you still have time to explore other spots in Mozambique, my best advice is that you check out Pomene, Vilanculos/Bazaruto, Ilha de Moçambique and/or Ilha do Ibo.