Inhambane is a town located in southern Mozambique, lying on Inhambane Bay, 470 km northeast of Maputo. It is the capital of the Inhambane Province and has according to the 2007 census has a population of 63,837, growing from the 1997 census of 54,157. It is a sleepy historic town known for its rusting colonial architecture and has been popular with tourists in recent years. The settlement owes its existence to a deep inlet into which the small river the Matamba flows. Two protective sandy headlands protect the harbor and form a sandbank. The town of Maxixe is located across the bay.
When Vasco da Gama rounded Africa in the late 15th century he pulled into Inhambane to replenish stocks and explore. He took an immediate liking Imhambane and named it Terra de Boa Gente or 'Land of the Gentle People'. In 1505, a ship sent by Francisco de Almeida was shipwrecked south of the town, but the Portuguese gained an initial meeting with the Karanga chiefs. Later, their sons landed on Mozambique Island to survey the situation. The Portuguese eventually established a permanent trading post at settlement in 1534.Inhambane was then chosen as the first Jesuit mission to East Africa in 1560.
The port gradually grew as a ivory and slave trading centre particularly in the eighteenth century under mostly Indian control. It was destroyed in 1834 by Soshangane, but grew rapidly in the second half of the century, from which period its old cathedral and old mosque date. However in the 20th century the status of the town declined and the economic situation worsened as Maputo became the main centre.
The 170 year old Cathedral of our Lady of Conception is located in the old quarter of the city where a rusted ladder leads to the top of the spire, offering panoramic views of the city and harbor. The city is now home to a museum and a market and is known for its nearby beaches of Tofo and Barra. The central market located along the main boulevard called simply "Mercado Central" offers numerous foods, ranging from a colorful array of spices and vegetables to prawns, fishes and cashew nuts. Motor and dhow taxis sail from the town to Maxixe.
Notable sites in the surrounding district of Inhambane include the Praia do Tofo, Praia dos Cocos, Ponto do Barra, Ilha de Benquerra, Guinjata Bay. Scuba diving in Inhambane is particularly popular in locations such as Manta Reef and Gallaria. Giant Manta Rays, Whale sharks, Turtles and other marine life are regularly seen and there are many professional scuba diving operations throughout the province.
The Restaurant Macaroca, located in the centre of town, is known for its seafood and chicken dishes. It's managed by a Swiss, Dani, and his Moçambiquan wife.
Pensao Pachica is a guest house located on the bay of Inhambane about 300m to the right of the jetty when facing the bay. It has a quaint bayside restaurant, bar and pizza parlour. The Casa de Culture is also an notable colonial building in the city today and serves as a cinema.
The easiest way to reach Inhambane is by road from Maputo on the EN 1. It is also possible to reach Inhambane from Beira, Mozambique or Zimbabwe on the EN 6 and EN 1 after Inchope. Inhambane has an airport Inhambane Airport and there are flights from Maputo on most days and charters flying in from Johannesburg in South Africa.
Inhambane has/had a narrow gauge railway that was terminated before its full extent was realised.