Mozambique's geomorphological characteristics  

Geographical Overview of Mozambique's Current Relief Forms

Mozambique's geomorphological characteristics resemble those of the eastern edge of the African continent. The region features a mountainous band descending in flattened steps towards the coastal plain. The relief forms in Mozambique, according to their altitude, include plains, plateaus, mountains, and depressions.

Plains of Mozambique

Nearly half of Mozambican territory, about 44%, is made up of plains with altitudes below 200 meters. This plain stretches along the coast, starting narrow from the mouth of the Rovuma River to the Zambezi River Delta, and then widens southward beyond the Zambezi Delta. This region encompasses almost all of the area south of the Save River and is referred to as the Great Mozambican Plain. Characterized by undulating terrain composed of Cenozoic-Quaternary sedimentary formations, particularly sandy ones, these plains also feature ancient dunes modified by erosion. On the coastal fringe, barrier islands and littoral drifts topped with recent dunes separate strings of lagoons, some still open to the sea and others completely isolated from it.

Mozambique's Plateau Landscape

Covering an even more extensive area of 51% are flattened surfaces at altitudes between 200 to 1,000 meters, predominantly found in the northern half of the country, forming the Mozambican Plateau. In reality, Mozambique distinguishes two plateau landscapes, which correspond to surfaces carved into metamorphic rock. The first, with altitudes ranging from 200 to 600 meters, is known as the medium plateaus, and it is best represented north of the 17th parallel south. The second, referred to as the high plateau, features altitudes above 600 meters and can be found mainly dispersed across the northern and central regions, particularly in Niassa, Nampula, Zambézia, Tete, and Manica provinces.

Transition Between Plateaus

The dominant feature of the Mozambican plateau is the occurrence of numerous residual mountains or intruded ridges of varying heights that dot the landscape, also known as 'inselbergs' or island-mountains. In provinces such as Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Nampula, Zambézia, Tete, and Manica, the medium plateaus transition into high plateaus through a steep step-up. South of the Save River, the medium plateaus are developed over the dissected volcanic formations of the Karoo.

Libombos Mountain Range

The western areas of Gaza and Maputo provinces house the Libombos range, which follows a predominantly north-south orientation in parallel mountain lines that extend for about 900 kilometers, with a maximum width of 30 kilometers. The highest point of the range, located at Imponduine, reaches an altitude of 809 meters. These alignments are a continuation of the Drakensberg range originating in South Africa.*

Mozambieu highlands & low lands
Mozambieu highlands & low lands

Mountainous Regions of Mozambique

The most notable mountainous areas are situated to the west of Niassa province, the northwest of Zambézia, the northeast of Tete, and along the western strip of Manica. These provinces converge with the high plateaus and feature strikingly impressive mountain tops that stand out from their surroundings.

The detailed understanding of Mozambique's relief forms is essential for comprehending its climatic variations, economic activities, and potential for natural resource exploitation.

Mountains in the Niassa Province

The mountains in Niassa form a unique cluster, shaping a 'Y-like' contour, which follows the eastern margin of Lake Niassa and bends northeastward near Lake Amaramba, extending through Malawi. Prominent peaks within this mountainous ensemble include Mount Txingeia at 1,787 meters, Txitongo at 1,848 meters, Sanga at 1,798 meters, Chissindo at 1,579 meters, Chitagalo at 1,803 meters, Jeci at 1,836 meters, and Mitucue at 1,803 meters.

Mountain Dispersion in Zambézia

In Zambézia, the mountain landscape is characterized by scattered island-mountains. Some of the highest points in this province include Mount Chiperone at 2,054 meters, among other significant mountains such as Tumbine at 1,542 meters, Mabu at 1,646 meters, Derre at 1,417 meters, Mongue at 1,043 meters, and the peaks of the Namuli mountains, which are the tallest in the province, reaching up to 2,419 meters.

Rising Altitudes in Tete Province

Towards the northern part of Tete province, the mountains exhibit an increase in altitude from west to east, with averages between 1,000 and 1,400 meters. The highest peaks are Domue at 2,096 meters and Chirobue at 2,021 meters, both located near the border with Malawi.

Chimanimani Range in Manica

In Manica province, the mountains are found mostly along the border with Zimbabwe. The Chimanimani range is particularly prominent as it is home to Mount Binga, the highest peak in Mozambique at 2,436 meters. The range is a colossal rectangular massif that stretches for 35 kilometers in length and between 8 to 10 kilometers in width, situated about 80 kilometers south of the city of Manica. It runs north-south along the border with Zimbabwe and is separated from the Espungabera massif, which has altitudes around 1,000 meters, by a depression. To the north of Chimanimani lies the Gorongosa Range, whose maximum altitude reaches 1,863 meters.

Major Depressions in Mozambique 

Among the main depressions present in Mozambique, the river valleys stand out, as well as the negative relief forms where lakes and marshes have formed. These depressions frequently disrupt the continuity of the plains, plateaus, and mountain ranges. The most geomorphologically significant depression is the Zambezi River Valley, not only for being one of the largest on the African continent but also for traversing regions with complex lithology and tectonics which the river had to adapt to.

Source of information:    Aniceto dos Muchangos / MOÇAMBIQUE Paisagens e Regiões Naturais