As day breaks, the fishermen and boys appear with their boats and nets in search of the day’s catch and the sounds of their voices fill the air, along with the sounds of the breeze and the splashing of the waves against the shore.  Besides drinking in this natural beauty, there are many attractions available at Zalala Beach Lodge  including kayaking trips and canoe rides in scenic surroundings close by.

The Lodge is situated in Zambezia, Mozambique’s most populous and most economically deprived province. While tourism has been thriving elsewhere in Mozambique, particularly in the South and North of the country, tourism development in this province was previously practically non-existent.  The Zalala Beach Lodge is located close to two local communities, the one closest is Supinho, which has a population of some 10,000 people, whose main sources of livelihood are fishing and agriculture. The other community, Idugo, can only reached by boat and its main source of livelihood is from salt mining and to a lesser extent fishing and agriculture.  The establishment of the Lodge has had a strong impact on the local economy and there have been many ways in which these local communities have benefited from the arrival of the Lodge and its activities.

One of the direct benefits has been the provision of employment. The construction phase of the Lodge which took place over a 3-4 year period, provided hundreds of either permanent or seasonal / casual jobs, and currently, there are 63 permanent members of staff and an average of 20-25 casual labourers employed on a monthly basis, most of which are from the local communities. Another significant benefit for local communities is through trade with the Lodge. A local architect was employed to design most of the buildings, a local contractor to carry out the building works and most of the furniture in the bungalows is made from locally sourced wood and crafted by local carpenters. In addition, a local tailor has been employed on a semi-permanent basis to make uniforms for the staff.

The restaurant serves mostly fish and sea food all of which is locally sourced, either from the fishermen who sell on the beach or those who sell in the central market in town.

The Lodge also buys tomatoes, eggs and poultry locally and have recently started purchasing their daily bread supplies from a local baker.

Evidence of their support of the local arts and crafts industry can be seen at the Lodge. From the women’s dance groups who entertain at special occasions to the large hand-crafted pots seen around the Lodge. Other plans aimed at supporting local arts and crafts, and in particular, local women’s groups, include plans to commission local basket-makers and weavers to supply baskets, hats and beach mats for Lodge guests and other small goods to be sold in the Lodge shop.  In most cases women are the chief providers of child care and family support.  Many lack skills, training and opportunities. One of Zalala’s most successful initiatives to date is the Women’s Pottery group from Idugo. This island has a strong tradition of pottery and it is primarily women who have developed this skill and passed it down from one generation to the next. Before the arrival of Zalala Beach Lodge, the craft was gradually going into decline due to lack of resources and access to markets. However, since the Lodge began buying pots of all shapes and sizes, the numbers have grown and the group is flourishing again!

Guests at Zalala Beach Lodge have the opportunity of visiting local communities. Two ‘routes’ are currently been developed: one to Idugo village that can be accessed by canoe from the Lodge and another to Supinho village, which is a short walk from the Lodge.  Guests will be given the opportunity to meet local people, to sample local produce (such as fresh coconut milk and traditional sweets), to join in local dances and visit the local school and other points of interest in both villages as well as have the opportunity to by authentic local crafts. The aim is to provide income to guides, local boat drivers and others, to promote a two-way cultural exchange between visitors and the communities, as well as encouraging visitors to get involved with helping to raise funds for various community initiatives supported by the Lodge, such as the school-building in Supinho and the  water project in Idugo.

The provision of employment by the lodge has also increased trade for local businesses and has enabled many people, both men and women, to start up some business initiatives or expand existing ones. The extra income earned in this way has helped many families to pay for school books, medicines, clothes and/or make small improvements to their homes.

In 2011, the Lodge financed a one-week business management training course attended by 50 community members. They learnt about market research, stock management and other useful business skills. Says Francisca, the local bar and restaurant owner ‘I have applied much of what I learnt and so have others. As a result, my customers are more satisfied nd I am earning more profit. And many other local businesses have benefited in the same way’. The Lodge is also committed to training their employees in various aspects including specialist hospitality training, which ranges from reception to pastry making; English language training to enable better communication with guests; security guard training and kayak training.

One of the guest activities at Zalala Beach Lodge is kayaking. Training was offered to existing staff that showed an interest, including the Activities Guide, who accompanies guests on trips to the local community, which is accessed by canoe or kayak. The location of the Lodge at the point where the river meets the sea provides ideal kayaking conditions, both for beginners and more experienced kayakers. A wide range of options are available from a 3-hour round trip to a nearby island with a picnic stop at a beautiful spot where many birds can be seen or a shorter ride to another beach in calm waters sometimes frequented by dolphins attracted by the colours of the kayaks.  Another option is going on a guided tour by motorboat or traditional dugout canoe through the Namacurra river mouth channel and mangrove are where flamingos, green-backed heron, open-billed storks and malachite kingfishers can be seen.

Zambezia province is rich in culture and tradition and each year the province hosts two big cultural events: the Zalala Festival and the Quelimane Carnival. The Zalala Festival takes place around October/November each year, bringing together artists and performers from the surrounding region and attracting thousands of visitors to the beach. The Quelimane Carnival, held during the period of Lent (February/March) in the historic town of Quelimane, is the most famous carnival in Mozambique and features colourful and glamorous costumes.

As well as the beautiful coastline, Zambezia province is home to some of the most stunning mountain landscapes in Mozambique and has more hot springs than any other province. Many of these places can be visited and a range of day outings can be arranged, including visits to the Nhafuba Hot Springs Eco-Retreat and the Mountains of Gurué.  South of Zalala, in Sofala province is the Gorongosa National Park, which has recently benefited from a major animal restocking initiative and is home to many animals and birds that once again can be seen roaming the famous Gorongosa plains. Transfers by road (approximately 7 hours) can be arranged to and from Zalala Beach Lodge upon request.

Visitors to Zalala Beach Lodge will quickly see why they were the winner of the 2012 ‘Best practice – Economic Impact’ Imvelo Award for Responsible Tourism in the independent category. Their committed to promoting local employment and investing in their local community is very evident, as is the laid back environment in which to enjoy great accommodation, adventure and the opportunity of interacting in meaningful ways with their  local communities.