Africa can be a little more of a challenge to backpack than Europe, Asia and the Americas due to the lack of established transport, but that's part of the adventure. While South Africa has a solid tourism infrastructure, it's tropical neighbor, Mozambique is still the new kid on the block meaning a great African adventure, tropical beaches with the remnants of Portuguese colonial flare. Mozambique has it all - without having too much.
It's likely you'll fly into South Africa. Spend some time traveling that country - it's great! But after hitting glorious Cape Town and you've done your safari in Johannesburg or the Kruger National Park in Nelspruit, catch a bus to Maputo, Mozambique's capital. You can also take a minibus from Durban and from Manzini, Swaziland or fly to Mozambique, but flights can be pricey but well worth it if you need a break from public transport.
Spend a couple of nights in Maputo where you'll gain an understanding of the country's history: colonisation, communism, a horrid war - many of the buildings and its people still bear the scars - and now rapid capitalization and development. From bustling fish markets to high end shops, you'll get the best of both worlds; it's worth the visit. But once the humidity and city life has gotten to you, head north. To the beach!
Mozambique has five star luxury accommodation, but it is also home to some of the best backpackers I've ever stayed in. Starting in Maputo, a reputable backpacker's is Fatima's. Conveniently it is a franchise and Fatima's Nest can also be found in Tofo, Inhambane, the first great beach town up the coast on your journey north. There are also Portuguese styled boutique hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation - something to suit every pocket.
Tofo is popular and for good reason. It's one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, a great surfing spot, or just a great place to hang out in one of the hammocks on the beach drinking a local brew and making jewellery out of shells with the local children. Further north, Vilanculos is another backpacker-friendly spot. Here, the beaches are whiter, the water warmer and temperature higher.
A highlight in Vilanculos is to take a traditional dhow to the Bazaruto Archipelago, and enjoy world class snorkeling. Vilanculos is quite rural, so you'll be walking on sandy roads to the market and bartering for sarongs, eating fresh fruit and cashew nuts. If you'd rather splash out, you can stay at the Bazaruto islands - presidents, Manchester United and top movie stars do. The rest of us stay on the main land, enjoying the view of the island and sharing the same crystal clear water. No one loses here!
There is also plenty of night life to enjoy. Beach bars are a plenty: the food is good and the drink is cheap. Either hit the local tourist hotspot or keep an eye out for festivals where the locals pour down onto the beach with music playing out the back of cars and the dance floor is created on the spot.
Mozambique has seen an investment into its tourism industry - so get there now before it becomes too commercial. It is an extremely affordable country that offers enough third world adventure to match its world class picturesque beaches. It's an affordable option for South Africans, so an extremely affordable for anyone carrying the dollar or euro and a worthy detour from your trip to Southern Africa.
It's also a very poor country - especially outside of Maputo - where your old stationary and printed t-shirts will mean the world to young children, where your purchase of sarongs and fruit from the local women will mean enough money to put a meal on the table for their families, and where your donations to local NGOs working in the region will mean huge improvements in education and health care for a generation still suffering the scars of war and colonialism.
Mozambique is a fascinating and beautiful country where your visit will be of great benefit to you - adventure, sun, relaxation - and to the locals whose lives your tourism will improve.