The Maputo air is hot and hangs heavy with humidity.
As I step off the plane, it embraces me like a long-lost relative: ‘Welcome to Mozambique!’
Maputo is a distinct city, quite unlike any other in sub-Saharan Africa.
There is a strong Mediterranean vibe here; gangly palm trees stand sentry along the wide avenidas of the city centre, fanning a path towards the seafront and harbour.
Walking along bustling streets, the air is thick with the smell of sizzling garlic prawns and occasional wafts of petrol.
The architecture alone tells a powerful narrative from the last fifty years.
The scent of Portuguese imperial rule lingers in the elegant colonial buildings, which sweep handsomely upwards on wide leafy avenues.
One of the most beautiful structures from this era is the CFM Railway Station, with its cool mint-green walls, majestic archways, and imposing iron latticework.
Yet walk for twenty minutes in the other direction, and you’re in Maputo’s slums.
Here flimsy, easily-disassembled shacks nestle together, sure to be pushed further outward as the city expands.
Brutalist concrete architecture - built after Mozambique’s independence - muscles in on the city’s skyline, towering rigidly upwards.
These buildings are a sign of permanence, and will not be toppled.
Bright, new, throbbing SUVs, all glossy sheen and top-notch air-con, whirr effortlessly past rickety battered ‘chappas’, Maputo’s small, cramped public minibuses which come to frequent, screeching, halts.
At one chappa stop, no fewer than eight contortionist passengers uncoil and disembark - holding aloft giant sacks of dried foods - before the remaining dozen are whisked off again at terrifying speed.
Indeed, you get a sense that that inhabitants and visitors of Maputo are always on the move.
The majority of tourists take a quick dip into the city en-route to other areas of Mozambique, or before being whisked away to South Africa.
But Maputo is rightfully justifying itself as a destination in its own right.
The city’s vibrant nightlife, burgeoning cultural scene and welcoming vibe make it a place you want to stay and enjoy more thoroughly.
For the adventurous, the Mercado de Peixe (fish market) is surprisingly - for an African city at least - clean and professional.
Drop in for the freshest seafood and take your haul to the restaurants next door for a true ocean-to-plate experience.
Beware of hustlers and keep your wits about you: some less scrupulous vendors may try to perform a bait and switch, leaving you with less than fresh fish.
Make sure to negotiate all prices at the restaurants before you sit down, to avoid an extended haggling session at the end.
So where to call home while you’re here?
Southern Sun is the clear winner for business and leisure travellers seeking a luxury hotel experience in Maputo.
Recently refurbished both inside and out, the suave interior has a refreshing understated elegance, while staff provide an impeccably personalised service to guests.
The location of Southern Sun is unique; it’s the only beachfront hotel in the city, allowing guests to dine outside against the backdrop of gently-lapping waves, or enjoy a sundowner with sand between their toes.
Rooms are fresh and modern, with particularly striking views for those facing the beachfront.
The majority of Southern Sun’s guests are business travellers; however this is a hotel with a luxurious-enough touch to both tempt and impress leisure travellers too.
You can see away a medley of cool and refreshing cocktails at the ambient bar, helping you rejuvenate from the cloying outside temperatures.
Of course, for sun-worshippers, the hotel’s outdoor pool has stunning views of the ocean, and is a perfectly tranquil bronzing spot.
A serene little bubble surrounds Southern Sun, and you can easily forget it’s only a fifteen-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.
The Av da Marginal - with its cluster of fabulous restaurants - is a mere stone’s throw away, perfect for guests looking to amble out and sample local foods.
Of course, Southern Sun offers its guests the luxury of excellent dishes within its own restaurant.
Being on the Indian Ocean’s doorstep, seafood is the name of the game here; lobster, calamari, and prawns are grilled up and served with a delicious butter sauce, cut through with a perfect zing of citrus.
But the stand-out, wolf-whistle, ‘take me back’ factor for Southern Sun is the breakfast.
It’s simply the best I’ve ever eaten, from any hotel.
The range and quality of food is stupendous, and it almost single-handedly deserves a place in Maputo’s list of tourist attractions.
Whether you’re a ‘juicer-sipper’ or a ‘roll-me-out-of-here’ breakfaster, Southern Sun’s buffet offering has you covered.
DIY full English fry-ups are rich and hearty, while omelettes - deftly whipped up in front of you- are virtuously light.
The antipasti section glistens ever-so-slightly at you across the room, proffering gossamer slivers of cured ham, and perfectly oily salami.
I discover a deliciously unctuous chicken broth tucked away in a corner, and begin my breakfast odyssey with it three days running.
The pastry chef at Southern Sun is a very skilled man indeed.
His pastel de nata - Portuguese custard tarts - are an absolute delight.
Perfectly crisp and flaky puff pastry encase a beautifully creamy mouthful of sweet, cinnamon-laced custard.
The first bite is an electrifying, instant hit of happiness.
It’s crack in dessert form, and I spend the rest of the trip chasing the high.
Three days in Maputo has been enough to whet my appetite, but it’s a city which would benefit from a lengthier stay to enjoy at its fullest.
For Southern Sun’s breakfast medley alone, I shall be back!
The Southern Sun Maputo hotel offers visitors to the Mozambican capital city the opportunity to experience the perfect blend of warm hospitality, professional service, and some of the very best scenic views along the Indian Ocean seaboard.
For more information head over to the official website.