Crowdless in Quirimbas
Source: Cable & Grain, Words Fiona McIntosh
With picture-perfect tropical islands, warm water, beautiful beaches and a relaxed vibe, the luxury island resorts of the Quirimbas archipelago offer all that southern Mozambique, Zanzibar and the other Indian Ocean islands offer – without the crowds.
The archipelago, which consists of a string of picturesque coral islands that stretches from Pemba in northern Mozambique to the Tanzanian border, is Mozambique’s new tourism frontier. Outside the cyclone belt, and with only a few carefully controlled, exclusive tourism developments, the region is pristine and unspoiled.
Upmarket private island lodges, shaded by giant baobabs and elegant palm trees, offer the ultimate in barefoot luxury, many with private plunge pools, butler service and superbly located spas complementing the ultra-secluded villas.
It’s an incredibly romantic part of the world. Dhows sail past as you sip your sundowners and dine on the fruits of the sea washed down with fine wines; and there is a range of adventure activities – including kayaking, kite-surfing and world-class scuba diving and snorkelling – to amuse active sorts.
The crystal clear waters are home to myriad colourful reef fish, the birdlife is fantastic, humpback whales are often sighted in the second half of the year. In December turtles pull themselves up the soft sand beaches to lay their eggs, and in February the little hatchlings can be seen struggling their way down the sandy beaches as they start their perilous journeys to adulthood, and ultimately back to the same beach in this enduring circle of life.
The deep sea fishing is a particular draw card, with dorado, barracuda, king mackerel, tuna and kingfish the main prizes, while for those of a cultural bent, Ibo Island offers a very different Quirimbas experience, a window onto the area’s past.
Once a major Arab and Portuguese trading centre, the island played a pivotal role in ancient maritime trade and many of its buildings, such as the old fort of São João Baptista, built by the Portuguese in 1791 to defend themselves against the Arabs and pirates from Madagascar, reflect this interesting history.
Alighting there is like stepping into a time warp. The once grand villas are in a rather charming state of decay, subsistence fishermen sail with the tides or cast their nets from dug-out canoes, while inside the fort silversmiths hand craft exquisite necklaces and other pieces of jewellery.