A South African's guide to Mozambique's Magical Ibo Island

2016-01-26 12:37 - Sam Smith
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Cape Town - If you are looking for a place where the world stands still and the locals are as peaceful as their clear blue sea, look no further than Ibo Island - it is the ultimate escape from everything.

Located at the Northern-most part of Mozambique, Ilha do Ibo is only accessible by fishing boat or by plane. 

The sandy roads and the peaceful fishing village is known as the central island of Mozambique's Quirimba islands. 

READ: Quick Guide: Quirimbas archipelago

Many stone buildings and ruins on the island are from the 1500's - from when the island was used as a Portuguese military bastion and slave-holding island. It was mostly used to trade turtle shells, amber and ivory.

The island is home to hundreds of indigenous bird species and one of the largest mangrove forests in Africa is found here.

Ibo Island only opened its doors to tourism in 2002 and is filled with mystery and secrets. Unlike any other African island, it's timeless atmosphere is the perfect remedy for island wanderlust. 

En route to nowhere...

There are many ways to get to Mozabique. The most popular option for international travellers is to fly to Johannesburg OR Tambo and then fly to Maputo and finally Pemba - which is the nearest main city leading to Ibo. 

If you are a South African living in Johannesburg, Gauteng or the Mpumalanga, you mught find it easiest to drive to Mozambique and cross the boarder. South Africans do not need visas to cross into Mozambique, but must travel with their passports and South African identification. 

South Africa - Mozambique boarder options are: Pafuri - Crossing from Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park on the S63.

Giriyondo - Crossing in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park on the H15 

Or Ponto do Ouro on the R22. 

Click here for border crossing details

In Pemba, your journey starts. A charter 4x4 bakkie can be arranged with your accommodation to pick you up from the tiny hole-in-the-wall airport and drive you 4-hours to the coast or alternatively fly you in a mini 4-seater light aircraft.

On the long bumpy road, you get to explore rural village life with plenty of stops to buy fresh bananas, litchis and other mouth watering fruit.

When you are where the road meets the sea - gentle fishermen will transport you to the island on one of there motor boats.

Mozambican currency is the metical which stands at - MZN 2.85 to R0.35

Costs of transportation to the island can be arranged with your accommodation. Flights to Mozambique can be booked on Traveller24's booking tool:

READ: Traveller24 and Travelstart launch NEW booking tool with exclusive travel deals

15 ways to #FindYourEscape on Ibo Island

1. The accommodation is simple but heavenly - The island is intimate and its triangular shape is small enough to walk across in under three hours. The first thing you will see are tall trees with bright orange flowers, sandy roads and a small gateway welcoming you to the Portuguese-speaking island.


At the boat entrance to the island, there is a beautiful laid back boutique hotel called Mitimiwiri. By no means is it like anything you have experienced before. 

There is a fairy tale feel to the large wooden rooms, billowy curtains, stone showers and the views of the sea. Open windows, private balconies where monkey's love to visit, a gorgeous pool, an island-style bar, fairy lights and hammocks and sitting swings in the garden.

Ibo Island Lodge

The Ibo Island Lodge is a 15-minute walk from Mitimiwiri. It is a five-star lodge with large whitewashed walls, a beautiful garden with a pool, and an old colonial Portuguese theme.

The lodge's emphasis is on luxury style escapes, perfect for honeymooners or those looking to really indulge in the middle of nowhere. Prices range from R1 330 per person - R2 695 per person. 

2. What to do - The options for activities and little escapes on the island are endless and locals from the island are extremely excited to show you their favourite spots, hidden little gems and the best walks.

They also love using the opportunity to practice their English and the priceless time spent together is the perfect time to practice your Portuguese. Boat rides - you can arrange with one of the hotels or accommodations to go on a boat ride to one of the neighboring islands.

It is the perfect time to go snorkelling amongst old ruins, swim with dolphins or have a picnic on an island in the middle of the ocean.

3. See through the sea - The water is warm and the underwater sea life is exotic and beautiful.

4. One with the sea - One of the many special things to do is to take a walk through the mangroves to the Quirimbas - an island to the west of Ibo.

The walk takes you through deep swamps (you are given swamp shoes) watery forests and then on the bed of the ocean at low tide.

In the day, the tide goes so far out that you are able to walk on the bed of the sea.

Spend the day on the Quirimba Island and then catch a boat ride back (by then the tide will be in again). 

5. What to eat - Fresh seafood is in abundance. From lobster, fish, calamari accompanied by the freshest fruits - expect to be spoilt for an options.

Mitimiwiri has a more affordable dining options where you are more likely to mingle with new folk and The Hotel offers fine dining options with a gorgeous view of the sea. 

6. The gorgeous sunsets -The sunsets are gorgeous. Expect to be mesmerized by skies all colours of the rainbow. 

7. The old rustic ruins - The mellow and laidback atmosphere is really felt when you walk through in the island's old Portuguese ruins.

The island was fortified in 1609 and at the end of the late 18th century, it was well known as one of the most important islands outside of Mozambique.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the Portuguese left the island and the residents who were used to a more rural lifestyle left the buildings as is.

At night, walking past the old hospital, old school buildings and forts has a haunting surrealism to it. 

A photo posted by KC (@helderkc) on

8. You never have to drive - Modes of transport on the island are walking, cycling, motorbikes or by sailing.

A photo posted by @mini_doda on

9. The sense of magic - The island has very little electricity points and little street lights. Hotels and accommodation do have wi-fi. If you are addicted to your cellphone and love to constantly check Facebook - you will be out of luck. 

10. Do as the locals do best - The locals do not walk around with cell phones and gadgets and they show no interest in yours. They love to have conversations with each other, take rides on their motorbikes or scooters, fetch water at the wells and visit one another's front stoeps in the evenings. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Ibo Island used plug type F, the same plug used in Germany and the Netherlands. South Africans will need to buy different plug fittings to charge their gadgets - for the photos, of course. 

A photo posted by dalilacarmo (@dalilacarmo) on

11. It is safe for everyone - untouched and secluded - The island is predominantly Muslim with a number of mosques in the village. Visitors should respect the local customs by not walking around in bikinis and drinking alcohol. 

12. The story behind the beautiful silver jewelry  - Situated at the Fort of São João, which was once a slave-holding point, local silversmiths spend their time making intricate jewelry out of old silver coins. You can barter and trade until you find something special.

13. It is a magical world - The best time to walk around is after dinner in the evening as the sun is setting and the tide is coming in. 

14. The route to more - The island itself does not have many beaches, but you can swim with the local children in front of the main hotel, or take a walk to a secluded beach on the other side of the island. The dhow safaris take you to many sandbanks or out to sea to snorkel. 

15. Practice your Portuguese - Residents on the island speak Portuguese and little to no English. Young and old always so good morning and are very curious about the new visitors. Here are a few sentences to practice and keep in mind...

Good morning – Bom dia

Good afternoon – Boa tarde

Good evening – Boa noite

I am from … – Eu sou de …

Thank you – obrigado

Excuse me – Faz favour

Friend – Amigo

How are you? – Como esta?

I am fine – Muito bem obrigado

What’s your name? – Como te chamas?

I am lost – Eu estou perdido

A photo posted by evany debone (@evanydebone) on

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