The day started early with the ship’s arrival in Maputo, Mozambique. Our 7:15 AM meeting for our safari excursion was pushed back to 6:45 to try to allow more time to make it through customs and immigration. Once we began the process we could understand why.
Those passengers who were going to pass through Mozambique on their way to other places (mostly safaris arranged by ship’s excursions or privately) needed to get a visa and pay a fee that amounted to a little less than $100. Thankfully other passengers only staying the day and reboarding the ship were taken care of by the ship’s excursion staff and only paid a minimal amount—charged to our accounts of course.
Once in line at the small rundown little customs house, we could see why it was taking so long. There were two small rooms connected by a small foyer area that only fit about eight people at a time as we waited to be processed. The immigration/custom process included being taken in one small room big enough for a large desk and a chair where the visitor sat and was photographed and fingerprinted (by machine). One man sat on the other side typing the passport information into a computer while three other men standing shoulder to shoulder looked over his shoulder to be sure it was done right. Then there was a visa printed out that included the photo and it was handed to a girl in the other room who attached it to our passports and then handed them out to us. Each person must have spent a good five to eight minutes, depending upon whether you got your finger set on the reader correctly. By the time we were ready to board our “luxury bus” we were half way through the morning.
There were 25 in our safari group and we loaded luggage into the back of one mini bus and squeezed into the seats of both for our trip to the Mozambique/South African border about 2 hours away. It was quite a ride.
We had been warned, “Some of the international embassies and government buildings may fall under ‘military or state defense object’ designation. Guests are NOT permitted to take pictures of these sights. This also pertains to any military personnel and police.” Unfortunately for some guests, we learned later, it was quite a loose designation. We heard of two stories. One where a man’s camera was confiscated and he was asked to pay a fine. All he had was $40 USD and that was acceptable. The other scarier one was a lady who was actually taken off the excursion bus with her camera and her husband told that to get her and the camera back they needed to pay 12,000 dollars. Not sure if that was MZN or USD but all he had in his wallet was $120 USD. He pulled out a hundred and the official pointed to the other twenty and when that was produced as well, the find was considered paid.
Meanwhile we were moving through the city of Maputo and out into the countryside. I took a few snapshots with my iPhone but had I known the trouble others had, I’d have kept it hidden. Thankfully none of us were stopped and we quietly made our way to the border through pictures of abject poverty. There didn’t seem to be the same atmosphere here as we’d seen in Madagascar even though that was a poor country as well. Here it was hard to tell if there was any joy to be found.
At the border, our drivers parked and we were led to the customs and immigration area again. This one was much larger but very run down. There was a large gentleman smiling at us and shaking our hands and I suddenly realized he was some sort of tour guide—ours. He guided us through the paperwork and out to the buses to collect our things.
We transferred our luggage to luggage trailers behind two very comfortable and truly luxury mini buses and drove for 20 feet to the South African immigration building and got out to go through customs/immigration again. It was all done quite smoothly and soon we were on our way again and feeling much safer.
Once I relaxed, I began to truly enjoy the wonderful countryside of South Africa. Miles and miles of sugar cane fields blended with a back drop of hazy blue mountains. Let the safari begin!