Mozambique is slowly making its way up the top choices for folks to enjoy spectacular island holidays. Right next door lies beauty, superb weather, sunshine and enough food and drink to sate any appetite.
Journey to the far north Mozambican coastline and you’ll discover the Quirimbas archipelago, a set of islands barely touched by people. Twelve major islands are surrounded by a host of smaller isles and sand bars, a large portion of which is protected land. This is rural island life – development hasn’t established itself like in its cousin, the Bazaruto Archipelago, thousands of kilometres to the south.
Where: Mozambique is just over the north east border of South Africa.
Languages: Portuguese, Swahili, Makhuwa, Sena.
Currency: Mozambican metical, one of which will set you back around R0.30. Rands are accepted in many places.
Time zone: UTC +2 (same time-zone as South Africa).
Visa: South Africans do not require a visa to visit Mozambique
Climate: The islands are hot the whole year round, with an annual average of 30 degrees. The rainy months are February and March, with no hurricane or monsoon season to really speak of.
When to go: The Quirimbas are hot, so make sure you visit in the cooler (this term is being used in a totally relative sense) months from May to September. This is also when rains are at their lowest ebb.
Food to try: While the usual exceptional spread of Mozambican food is available, there is a plethora of local seafood from which to choose.
Useful phrases: Much like in Bazaruto, any Portuguese will be useful, especially when sorting out the prices for whatever you’re buying, as there is often an option in other currencies, including rands. “Quanto custa?” certainly won’t hurt the ease of your trip. “Casa da banho” will also be useful, but don’t be surprised if you’re given a roll of toilet paper and pointed to a tree.
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Quirimbas is via Dar-es-Salaam, but you’ll be doing the trip on Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique – an airline that is banned from European Union airspace. You can also get to nearby Pemba from Johannesburg, or connect through Kenya.
The Quirimbas boasts excellent diving spots, and is known for drop offs – sometimes as deep as 350metres or more. Part of the archipelago is in a marine reserve, so the visibility alone will be worth the trip.
It might sound implicit in an island holiday, but the beaches in the Quirimbas are quite stunning. The real pleasure, however, is being able to find a spot with no one else around. Due to the islands’ lack of development, a deserted beach is as common as a seafood lunch.