Tranquil Maputo calling
Just under 10 years ago, the Maputo beachfront was sparsely developed.
Today, if you have the opportunity to take a ride on a yacht to the uninhabited Xefina Island like I did recently, the beachfront properties dotting the landscape attests to the phenomenal growth. Included in this phenomenal sight is the sprawling Southern Sun Maputo hotel, which stands out in its sunshine yellow colour among the glass-and-grey concrete buildings.
The city of Maputo may have started on an incredibly low base after the ravages of the civil war from 1977 to the early 90s, but its impressive annual growth that averaged 7% throughout the first decade of the millennium has made the city attractive for investment.
As a tourist, there is so much that Maputo has to offer. For a start, the Mozambique capital is only an hour away from Johannesburg by plane and up to six hours by road.
Having only driven there in the past, I found the experience tiring, but this time, courtesy of the SAA, it was a breeze.
It currently costs R3071 for a return ticket.
I had just taken a nap in the business class when the captain announced our descent to the Maputo International Airport.
We had left Johannesburg's freezing weather behind to be embraced by the sensual warmth of Maputo, which at 26°C felt a lot more warm than that.
The staff at the Southern Sun Maputo met us with cocktails and our first bites of their renowned seafood including prawn and salmon nibbles.
As an inlander, we all know how excited we get to experience seaside hotel rooms, and mine was just literally 20 steps from the calm Indian Ocean shore.
Many of the 269 rooms are facing the sea.
It was even more pleasing to notice that my room also faced the blue infinity pool that looks like it dips exotically into the ocean. The pool, despite the whole wide ocean behind it, proved a favourite holiday snap for most guests at the hotel, who get to have bragging rights in the pages of their social media accounts.
For me, it was outstanding to notice how cleverly the space is being used in the room. The wooden-door divider between the bathroom and shower area and the bedroom can open up to let you have a shower facing the sea.
Equally, their wardrobe mirror door also slides to close off the bathroom area for privacy.
The three-day itinerary was packed with a city tour and a night tour to sample the city's pulse, but the highlight for me was visiting the studio of renowned artist Gonçalo Mabunda.
Mabunda gained international fame with his conversion of using decommissioned weapons to create beautiful artworks.
The studio is actually his apartment in the city where artworks, letters of recommendations, pictures of him with presidents and famous personalities adorn his wall.
Mabunda creates masks, sculptures and thrones, with thrones mostly coveted by collectors.
In his art, bullets, helmets, boots, and mortars rise again into objects of beauty. The pieces are sold from $10000 (R133000) to $40000 and the man himself was so humble as he took us through some of his work.
The fish market a must-see on visit
On a must-do list when visiting the city, one must go to the local fish market to be truly baptised into Maputo.
Here hawkers, predominantly female, sell fresh fish of all kinds you can weigh in one section and take to the restaurant side of the market to be prepared by vendors on the cooking side.
It is always a marvel to see all the sea creatures such as prawns, lobsters, and other exotic fish in crates, with some still crawling around in glass water tubs.
Maputo has always been known to offer the best prawns as its Portuguese colonial heritage left a renowned legacy for prawn curry and peri-peri king prawns. In the past the best prawns were simply known as the Lourenço Marques after the colonial name of the city.
At the fish market you can enjoy your seafood with slap chips and salad and also order soft and alcoholic drinks as traders nearby hustle you to try and buy their wares, including handcrafted toys, utensils and sarongs popularly known as capulana.