Perhaps one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen … The Quirimbas National Park is a relatively new park, with a very old history.
It was established in June 2002 and is located along the northeast coast of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado province. It includes 11 of the southernmost islands of the Quirimbas. The park includes an estimated $ 7,500 km² (2,896 square meters) of coastal forest, forest and marine habitats, including outstanding examples of coral reefs, mangroves and stretches of Savannah.
In order to reach to the islands you must drive 4 hours from the city of Pemba (on half dirt road) then sail on local dhows to the island of Ibo (2 more hours). Ibo Island, listed to become a World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest cities of Mozambique, and is definitely one of the most interesting and charming towns around the country. Ibo Island is considered as one of the best kept secrets in Africa, and definitely the place that has fascinated me the most in this far-off destination.
Ibo Island (Ilha de Ibo) is one of the oldest settlements in Mozambique, after Ilha do Mocambique. The specific history of Ibo can be traced back at least to 1600 although the Arab influence occurred in earlier times. At the time, Mozambique was part of the possessions of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, but under the Portuguese colony was annexed to the Indian Colonies under the jurisdiction of Goa.
A Fort already existed at the time of the Arabs on the same site of the later Portuguese construction: Forte or Fortaleza. When the Portuguese arrived here the first time, the main commercial center in the archipelago was on the Big Island of Quirimba (located south of Ibo Island). First rejected in 1503 by Arab merchants settled here, the Portuguese returned to the attack in 1522 with heavy artillery (cannons and rifles) and resisting the local owners. They managed to take over both the islands and the trading of raw materials and slaves trafficking, of which Arabs held the record until then.
Ibo became known for trade in ivory, gold and slaves above all salvery. From here slaves were sold and shipped to the East India, the British and Dutch colonies. The commerce continued until the end of the Portuguese rule, in 1847. Though the Portuguese left the country entirely only in 1975, after the long war of independence, when FRELIMO took control of the territories colonizzati.
Today Ibo looks like an abandoned city. People live mainly on fishing and on the little tourism that ventures here. The inhabitants mainly speak the local language, having forgotten or erased in the last 40 years, all traces of 400 years of colonization. As tourism has still not spoiled these isalands, it makes it a perfect destination to the advenurous travellers in search of a pure spot, untouched by mass tourism.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit the Quirimbas National Park is during the winter months, between April and October, when rainfall and temperatures are at their lowest. Throughout the year however, the weather is very tropical, with an average around 30 C (86 F), so there will be some sunshine no matter when you visit. The wettest months tend to be January and February.
I reached Ilha de Ibo after 6 hours of chapas (rented minivan) from Ilha de Mozambique, until boarding on Tadanhangue. Here with a dhow in about 2 hours you get up to Ibo.
I stayed at the amazing Cinco Portas lodge where the Chef and Manager Chris – a Swedish gourmet in Africa since 2001, hosted me with his jolly and friendly smile, while preparing the best meals on the island. Cinco Portas Restaurant is well known on the island and all the tourists staying in Ibo come to eat here. Try the Lobster Burger… simply Divine!
The garden around the bar (great selection of wines and whiskey) viweing the pool, offers dining and cosy corners where you can read and rest. If necessary, here you can find accommodation to camp with tents.
For the adventurous travellers, I recommend you eat Benjamen’s behind the Miti Miwiri that will prepare dishes on order: rice with lobster, crab and fresh fish. Very cheap and homemade.
From Ilha de Ibo in 2 to 3 hours sailing (depending on weather conditions) you can reach the island of Matemo. In Matemo you can hike to sandbank and enjoy the natural pools created by high tide. On the Island facilities are virtually abandoned. However, Mr. Dade camping is a valid option. Mr Dade, reachable only through Cinco Portas or Miti Miwiri contacts, will host you on his land by the beautiful beach. The campite has with Ecological sqwat toilettes and showers, shady pitches and offers a full board service, for only 15US per night. Starry sky and sea view always included!
And for a really SUPER stay, I suggest you buy beer and spirits from Chris at Cinco Portas before departing …