Part Two – The Sea Kayaking trip to Mogundula
Words by Marie-Louise Kellett and pics by Andrew Kellett
from Gravity Adventures
Andrew is a keen photographer and was up with the sun to capture early morning on Ibo. I lazed in bed and enjoyed my wake up coffee (grown and roasted on the island), delivered to the patio outside our room whilst watching a Burchard’s Coucal hunting geckos amoung the bougainvillea. After that we strolled down to where the lodge’s rubber duck was waiting to carry us across the waves to our breakfast destination, a sand island that appears only at low tide. A meal on the sand bank is one of the highlights of a visit to Ibo Island Lodge and as we approached, we could see the dhow, Vagabundo, at anchor just off the sandbank. A beautifully laid table awaited us under a Bedouin tent and after a quick swim, we sat down to a delicious bacon and eggs breakfast. We collected shells to decorate the table and this became a pre-meal ritual for the rest of the trip.
From there, we set off on our voyage of discovery, paddling along the coast in 2 man sit on top sea kayaks. Our first paddle entailed a couple of hours crossing to the mainland. The wind was behind us, the sun was warm and we all got burnt! Harris and Debbie spotted a massive sting ray and we were privileged to see a large group of crab plovers wheeling over us as we pulled in to our camp around lunch time.
The camp was situated at the mouth of a river, banks cloaked in lush mangrove forest. Harris was ably assisted by two marineros (boat men) who were in charge of the dhow, a chef and our ever smiling waiter, Pemba. They unloaded all of the gear and set up camp – walk in canvas dome tents equipped with stretchers, mattresses and sheets; a hot water bucket shower and a spacious gazebo for the dinner table. We relaxed for the afternoon before exploring the neighbouring village before sunset. The people were friendly and happy to be photographed, examining the results with amazement.
Sadly, there was evidence of large scale harvesting of cowrie shells – huge bags, filled to the brim and waiting to be picked up by traders. Think about this the next time you consider buying that pair of sandals or ornament decorated with cowries! We had an early start to the next morning so that we could explore the mangroves before paddling out and onto our next destination. Harris explained the different mangrove and bird species and their various individual adaptations to their saltwater environment. The next sea leg was a long slog so we opted to hop onto the dhow and experience the pleasure of sailing under one of these ancient rigs. Lunch (pasta salad with king fish) was served on the upper sun deck and we pulled into Mogundula Island in the late afternoon – the sea was that perfect tropical blue and so we leapt in and swam the last section.
Mogundula is part of the designated Quririmbas National Park and has no permanent inhabitants. Ibo Island Lodge has a concession here so we had the place to ourselves. It’s a fascinating little island with an interesting history -local people suffering from Elaphantitis were sent here to prevent the spread of the disease and a few graves can still be seen. It is also know as the island of the scared lake due to the amazing sea water lake that it situated in the centre of the island – the sea water somehow filters through the porous coral rock and fills the depression at the centre. The interesting thing is that the lake fills up on the outgoing tide and empties with the incoming tide! The top end of the island has a beautiful soft sand beach with a view to a coral sandbar that is an easy swim away. There are amazing shells to be found and our dinner table boasted an impressive collection that evening. We spent two nights here – the first morning was spent snorkelling, with great sighting of small coral reef species. Lunch was served on the beach – fish kebabs, fresh fruit and salad. In the afternoon, after a siesta, we paddled around the island, returning in time for a hot shower before an amazing spread of prawns, calamari, crab and octopus.
An early departure on the dhow saw us sadly leaving our desert island paradise and heading to the mainland to for the road transfer back to Pemba and our flight home. The four hour drive took us through a wooded landscape, rural villages and finally, back into civilisation – the roads were all in great condition and it was a relaxing drive to with a rather out of context soundtrack playing on the car stereo – a very 80’s Bryan Adams album on repeat. Our driver kindly took us to the local market in Pemba to buy some fabric – I think it’s the first time a car has driven down that particular lane and the stall holders literally had to move their wares for us to squeeze through. This was one of those trips that was short in duration but big in impact – we felt like we’d been away for ages and came back rested and revived.
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