Geography & Wildlife

From the mountains to the sea

The Zambezi

ZambeziIn this video...Albano sits alongside the Zambezi and talks about this key river. The suspension bridge spanning the river at Tete is 538 metres long.

The south of Mozambique is mainly the lowlands of a wide coastal plain. This plain becomes narrower up through the country, until in parts of the north, it is only tens of kilometres wide.

Rising up

Many of the tallest mountains can be found at the edges of Mozambique, with Mount Binga (along the border with Zimbabwe) the highest at 2436 metres.

Throughout the country, the land rises towards the west. In the centre and north of Mozambique, it slopes into high plains and mountainous regions.

Two of southern Africa’s largest rivers – the Zambezi and Limpopo – cut large paths through the country on route to the Indian Ocean. The Zambezi valley is a particularly dramatic feature, with its lower section forming part of the Eastern Great Rift Valley.

Other major rivers flowing through Mozambique include the Rio Save in the centre of the country, the Rio Lúrio and the Rio Rovuma, which forms the border with Tanzania.

The broad coastal plain to the south (100-200km wide) leaves many southern regions vulnerable to seasonal flooding. The south suffered from particularly severe floods in 2000, when around 800 people were killed and over 45,000 rescued from rooftops, trees and flooded areas.

  • Zambezi River
  • Banks of the river Zambezi

Aquatic wonders

The country's 2500km coastline is a major attraction for visitors, not only because of its beauty, but also for its amazing marine wildlife. The coast is particularly notable for its large marine animals.

Mozambique is one of only a few locations where both reef manta ray (M. Alfredi) and giant manta ray (M. Birostris) can be found together.

There are many species of whales and dolphins (cetaceans) and high numbers of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). These can grow up to 12m in length – they are the largest species of fish. But the spotted whale sharks are harmless to humans. They are filter-feeders and come to enjoy the rich supply of plankton and other microscopic organisms along Mozambique’s coast.

Conservation is key

Mermaid myth

Dugong, by Geoff Spiby / [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Dugongs are thought to be the most likely source of stories about mermaids, since they were regularly spotted by sailors throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Another example of ‘Megafauna’ living around the Bazaruto Archipelago (part of the Bazaruto National Park) is the dugong. Called the ‘elephant of the sea’, dugongs (Dugong dugon) can weigh up to 1,000kg, feeding mainly off sea-grass. Now threatened with extinction, the Bazaruto dugongs are one of east Africa’s last viable populations.

Mozambique’s coastline is also important for sea turtles. Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found in the country’s waters. Since all species are either endangered or critically endangered, conservation projects are rising in number here.

The coral reefs along the coastline are well-preserved (divers are asked to keep them that way). The reefs are home to many striking residents, including colourful angel and butterfly fish, wrasses and devil firefish and the elongated needlefish.

In 2000, footage was captured of the coelacanth. Thought to be extinct for millions of years, this two-metre long fish was known only from fossils until the 1930s, when it was found off the coast of South Africa. The underwater canyons of Mozambique’s continental shelf are haunts of the coelacanth, regarded as the world’s oldest surviving vertebrate species.