I have visited Ilha de Moçambique plenty of times, mainly because every time somebody comes to visit, this is the historical must of Northern Mozambique. But I have been living under an illusion all this time that this was the only historical tour site worth going to.  That is, until I saw Cabaceira Grande.


Now, I have always heard of it, but never had a chance, or rather, never managed to get myself off the beach long enough to visit. People are always talking about the hotel school restaurant there, but no one has mentioned the historical buildings in the area, I am sure of it – perhaps if they had I would have gone sooner.


Capoceira Grande is on the mainland directly opposite Ilha de Moçambique and it a short drive across the mangrove swamps from Chocas Mar. A small sign signals the turnoff from the main dirt road onto what seems like an overgrown garden path, at the end of which stands the Governor’s Summer Palace, the restored hotel school, what was once the Naval Academy, and a very tiny Centro de Saude de Cabaceira Grande. Take a left turn at the palace and there stands the oldest church in Africa. There are the remaining ruins of what were once fortified residences dotted about.


I find it amazing that there is so little information about this place and its history. The fact that here sits the oldest church, built in the 1500s and still in use, that the Governor’s Summer Palace is just an old building that is used sometimes as a school and has fid trees growing in the walls, and that nobody really knows why the residences were fortified and in fact, when they were built, blows my mind. There is something especially exciting about just pitching up in the middle of nowhere and wandering around what, in any other country, would be a major tourist site, with a few friends and one or two curious local kids in tow.