Official name: Republic of Mozambique
Area: 801,590 square kilometers (309,496 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Binga (2,436 meters/7,992 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: Not available
Land boundaries: 4,571 kilometers (2,840 miles) total boundary length; Malawi 1,569 kilometers (975 miles); South Africa 491 kilometers (305 miles); Swaziland 105 kilometers (65 miles); Tanzania 756 kilometers (470 miles); Zambia 419 kilometers (260 miles); Zimbabwe 1,231 kilometers (765 miles)
Coastline: 2,470 kilometers (1,535 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Mozambique is located on the southeast coast of Africa between the countries of Tanzania and South Africa, with an eastern coastline on the Mozambique Channel. The country shares land borders with six nations. With a total area of about 801,590 square kilometers (309,496 square miles), the country is slightly less than twice the size of California. Mozambique is administratively divided into ten provinces.
Mozambique has no outside territories or dependencies.
Between the months of November and March, temperatures are usually between 27°C and 29°C (81°F and 84°F) throughout most of the country, though temperatures are lower in the interior uplands. Between April and October, temperatures are cooler, averaging between 18°C and 20°C (64°F and 68°F).
The wet season runs from November through March, when 80 percent of all rainfall occurs. Rainfall is lowest in the southwest portion of the country, which receives an annual average of 30 centimeters (12 inches). It is highest near the western hills and the central areas near the Zambezi River, as well as along the central coast, where annual averages are between 135 and 150 centimeters (53 and 59 inches).
Mozambique is a topographically diverse nation. The Zambezi River divides the country into distinct northern and southern halves. The north is known for its mountainous regions and plateaus, notably the Livingstone-Nyasa Highlands, the Shire (or Namuli) Highlands, and the Angonia Highlands in the northeast. The westernmost regions are particularly mountainous, giving way to plateaus and uplands as one travels eastward. South of the Zambezi are the more fertile plains, most notably in the area surrounding the river. In the center of the country are uplands, marshes, and coastal lowlands. Inland areas are dry and thus do not support much vegetation. By area, the country is approximately 44 percent coastal lowlands, 26 percent higher hills and plateaus, 17 percent lower plateaus and hills, and 13 percent mountains. Mozambique is located on the African Tectonic Plate and experiences little or no tectonic activity.
Bordering Mozambique to the east is the Mozambique Channel, which is a strait in the Indian Ocean that separates Africa from the island of Madagascar. The channel is approximately 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) long, and at its widest point, it stretches more than 950 kilometers (600 miles). This area is particularly susceptible to cyclones. Many coral reefs line the channel, attracting large numbers of divers from around the world. Coral islands also exist in the channel.
Several bays dot the coastline, including (from south to north) Delagoa Bay, Sofala Bay, Fernão Veloso Bay, and Pemba Bay.
Mozambique has many small offshore islands along its coastline. Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique), located 3 kilometers (2 miles) off the coast of the Nampula province, is a small but culturally significant island. Formerly a Portuguese colonial capital, this 2.5-kilometer- (1.5-mile-) long and 0.6-kilometer- (0.4-mile-) wide island is accessible via a mainland bridge. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated the island a World Heritage Site.
Inhaca Island, located 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Maputo, is a 12.5-kilometer–(7.8-mile–) long and 7.5-kilometer–(4.7-mile–) wide island known for its sandy beaches and ideal diving and fishing locations.
The Bazaruto Archipelago, also known as the Paradise Islands, is located 10 kilometers (6 miles) off the country's coast and was formed from sands deposited by the Limpopo River thousands of years ago. Santa Carolina, Bazaruto, Ibo, Benguerra, and Magaruque are the most popular islands in the archipelago, boasting clear blue waters, sandy beaches, palm trees, coral reefs, crocodiles, many species of tropical fish, and other tropical wildlife such as the samango monkey. The region was declared a national park in 1970.
The expansive coastlines of Mozambique are jagged, with numerous bays and beaches. The coastal areas are ideal for the cultivation of rice, maize, sugar cane, and cashews. The coastal waters are rich in prawns, one of the country's leading exports. Fishermen often frequent the coastlines, as small and large fish are abundant.
Located in the southeast of Mozambique, Tofo (sometimes Tofu) and Barra Beaches are known for their sand dunes, mangroves, and palm groves, as well as for their tropical wildlife, including parrots and monkeys. Wimbi Beach is particularly notable for its coral reefs, a favorite among snorkelers. Its white coral beaches, lined by palm trees, provide an ideal tropical setting. The beaches of Mozambique are well preserved, and wildlife thrives, including humpback whales, turtles, flamingoes, dolphins, and manta rays.
Some notable points along the coast are Timbué Point and Lipobane Point. Cape Delgado is located near the northernmost point of the coast.
Three lakes in northern Mozambique form part of the border with Malawi: Lake Malawi, Lake Chiuta, and Lake Shirwa.
Navigable Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) borders Mozambique and Tanzania. The lake has an incredible 29,600 kilometers (11,400 square miles) of surface area, about one-third of which is situated within Mozambique's territory. Its deepest waters, which reach a maximum depth of 706 meters (2,316 feet), are found in this part of the lake.
Mozambique is rich in rivers, with twenty-five of them throughout the country. Many of these rivers flow out from the western highlands to the Indian Ocean or to the Mozambique Channel in the east. Water flow tends to fluctuate, owing to the rainy and dry seasons. The rivers overflow between January and March, while they slow to a trickle between June and August.
The longest and most important river is the Zambezi River, with a total length of 2,650 kilometers (1,650 miles). It flows southeast across the heart of Mozambique into the Indian Ocean; historically, this river has been the principal means of transport between inland central Africa and the coast. Its waters make the soil in the land surrounding it some of the most fertile land in the country. From the Maravia Highlands downstream, the valley is low-lying and has a very gentle slope, with an elevation of less than 152 meters (500 feet). Upstream, the river enters a narrow gorge; this constriction prompted the construction of the Cahora Bassa Dam.
The Limpopo River in the south flows through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. It is fed mainly by the Changane River and drains the Limpopo Basin. It is susceptible to serious flooding, the effects of which are compounded when cyclones occur in the wet months. Also particularly notable is the Save (or Sabi) River in the center of the country, which, along with the Búzi and Revué Rivers, drains the southern Mozambique Plain. In the northeast draining the Mozambique Plateau are the Lugenda River, the Messalo River, the Lúrio River, and the Ligonha River.
Much of the area around the mouth of the Zambezi and south to the lower reaches of the Pongo River and its tributary, the Mucombeze, is marshy, hindering north-south communications and promoting the spread of disease. Mangrove swamps are common near the coast of the Sophala and Zambezia provinces. These wetlands provide excellent conditions for many marine species, most notably prawns.
There are no desert regions in Mozambique.
Low-lying areas close to the major rivers in Mozambique are particularly fertile and support a variety of plants and trees, including lemon, orange, lychee, and mango.
Much of southern and central Mozambique that is inland from the coastline suffers from poor, sandy, infertile soil. Little vegetation other than dry scrubs can be supported on this land.
Approximately two-thirds of the land supports woodland vegetation. Most of Mozambique's forested areas are located along plateaus and contain the miombo forest type: dry, deciduous trees of varying heights. The northernmost regions, as well as those surrounding the mouth of the Zambezi River, are the richest in woodland. Tropical forests are also prevalent, with lush vegetation and African game species such as zebras, wildebeests, and even elephants; mangroves, however, are relatively rare and are found near coastal regions.
The area in northeastern Mozambique between the Lúrio and Ligonha Rivers contains some of the most magnificent vertical granite rock faces in all of Africa; consequently, it is a favorite rock-climbing destination. Rolling hills are commonly found east of areas with particularly mountainous terrain. Vegetation is sparse in these savannahs and this land does not support many crops.
Mountainous regions in Mozambique are found throughout the western end of the country. Most mountain peaks rise from plateau regions, although many mountains are isolated in the landscape. The Great Rift Valley, which starts in Jordan near Syria, terminates in Mozambique near Beira at Sofala Bay. A wide variety of animal species, including lions, reside in this area.
Mozambique lies at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, which is a massive fault system that stretches over 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) from the Jordan Valley in Israel to the middle of Mozambique at about Sofala Bay. In general, the Great Rift Valley ranges in elevation from 395 meters (1,300 feet) below sea level at the Dead Sea to 1,830 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level in south Kenya. The western branch contains the troughs and rivers that have become part of the African Great Lakes system. A large number of volcanoes lie along this rift, which was created by the violent underground collisions between the African Plate (Nubian) to the west and the Eurasian, Arabian, Indian, and Somalian Plates to the east. There are no active volcanoes located in Mozambique, however.
The country shares with Zimbabwe the Chimanimani Mountain Range, which contains Mozambique's highest peak, Mount Binga (2,436 meters/7,992 feet). Alluvial gold has been extracted from these mountains.
There are no major canyons or caves in Mozambique.
There are many plateaus of varying elevations throughout the northwestern portion of Mozambique, which generally increase in elevation as one travels westward. These plateaus help support many farmers, providing land on which to grow cash crops as well as feed for livestock.
The province of Niassa, bordering Lake Malawi in northern Mozambique, is the largest and highest in the country. The Lichinga Plateau, which reaches elevations of up to 1,500 meters (4,920 feet), covers 25 percent of Niassa. The entire province has an average elevation of 700 meters (2,296 feet). The plateau is a heavily wooded savannah, with dry and open woodland areas covered with acacia trees. On the other side of the Lugenda River is the Mozambique Plateau. This plateau is similar to the Lichinga, though lower in elevation. It reaches from the center of the country all the way to the Indian Ocean.
The Angonia and Maravia Highlands, in northwest Mozambique on the Zambia border, are some of the most fertile lands in all of Mozambique. Crops such as peaches, apples, and potatoes are grown in this area.
The Cahora Bassa Dam, the largest hydroelectric power dam in Africa, powers the capital city of Maputo and provides electricity for parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe as well. The dam is built along the upper part of the Zambezi River and has formed a very large reservoir. During the wet seasons, heavy rains from Zambia and Zimbabwe cause significant water flow along the Zambezi River, so that often the reservoir of the Cahora Bassa begins to swell, threatening the structure of the dam. When this occurs, one or more of the gates of the dam are opened, releasing water downstream that then tends to flood areas along the river. During some particularly dry seasons, however, the water level in the Zambezi River drops so low that parts of the river become impassable.
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