Ibo Island Dreaming, Part One – Sea Kayaking the Quirimbas, Mozambique

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Here is our latest guest blog feature on Mozambique, the low key destination with true island vibes. Mozambique is a seriously laid back destination that delivers on everything summer: white beaches, warm turquoise water, friendly locals,  dhows, coral reefs and more. Read this two part series to get inspired for your next idyllic island escape. Enjoy.

Part One – Ibo Island Lodge

Words by Marie-Louise Kellett and pics by Andrew Kellett
from Gravity Adventures

Kevin and Fiona Record of Ibo island Lodge invited us to join one of their dhow supported sea kayaking trips in the Quirimbas Archipelago of Northern Mozambique. As owners of an adventure company specialising in wilderness rafting trips on the Orange River, we were asked to give some feedback on the trip. Also on the trip were Richard and Debbie, both travel writers. Northern Mozambique is quite a slog from Cape Town – a very early departure from CT and a plane change in JHB later, we found ourselves at Pemba airport, just a few hundred kms south of the Tanzanian border. The warm tropical air felt great after wintry Cape Town. From there, we boarded a 10 seater light aircraft that acts as shuttle for the 3 or 4 lodges that are dotted along the archipelago. The Quirimbas are a string of small islands scattered along the coastline between Pemba and the border with Tanzania. Many are occupied by local subsistence fishing communities but some of the area is a designated National Park and parts are destined for Unesco World Heritage status.

The view from the aircraft was quintessential tropical island – turquoise seas, with darker ribbons of indigo where the deeper channels cut through, mangrove forests, dhows sailing with the gentle trade winds and islands dotted with small settlements. 20 minutes later, the plane banked and came in for a landing on the grass strip on Ibo Island. The Ibo Island Lodge Landy was waiting for us at the ‘terminal’ – a roofless shell, proudly marked “Ibo”. We were met by Harris, who was to be our host and guide for the next few days.

Ibo is a one of those rare and special places that linger in your imagination long after you have left. It has a fascinating history of Portuguese occupation, trade routes, conflict and torture but when you visit now, all that is left is the ghost of what used to be. The long abandoned but beautifully proportioned colonial buildings and the 3 forts that dot the island give clues to its past and it is well worth hearing the full story on a guided tour. Ibo has been sleeping and dreaming for the last century or so but is slowly waking to a new vision of the future. Tourism is slowly coming to the area but thankfully it seems to be in a low key and responsible form. Ibo Island has a backpackers lodge, a bicycle hire shop, the upmarket Ibo island Lodge and not much more. This gradual development of tourism has also stimulated the growth of some artisanal craft projects including traditional handmade silver jewellery – intricate, beautiful and inexpensive, it is well worth buying.

We were hosted at the Ibo Island Lodge – two waterfront villas on the seafront that have been renovated, with a third in progress. The rooms are large and airy with high ceilings and chalky lime washed walls. Furnished with a mixture of new and old colonial style furniture, much of it hand carved, the emphasis is on elegant simplicity and the luxury of space – huge 4 poster beds and open plan bathrooms. Rooms look our either onto the sea front or onto the enclosed gardens with their swimming pools. We enjoyed sundowners and snacks (peri peri prawns and deep fried green banana chips) on the roof top restaurant before sitting down to an amazing seafood spread that started with a smoked crab taster and included spicy Ibo island seafood soup, a gluhwein sorbet to cleanse the palate, a seafood platter featuring kingfish, prawns, calamari and the most giant crabs I have ever seen. A Trio of deserts included coconut sorbet, coffee sponge and a divine hot baked chocolate pudding.

Click here to see one of our Ibo Special Offers

Read Part Two: Sea Kayak Trip to Mogundula

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