Do you know the Ibo island in Mozambique (from its real name ilha do Ibo)? No? It’s situated in the Quirimbas archipelago! I spent a wonderful week there! What, where is this, Quirimbas? And Mozambique? This is often the kind of discussion I had in the past when talking about my week spent on this island, which does not fail to impress anyone…
I had the opportunity to discover this place when I was living on the island of Mayotte. At the same time, I discovered a marvel of Tanzania: the Serengeti National Park.
I was living at that time on the island of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, and the local airline Ewa Air had the good idea to open new airline connections to Africa. Back then, two destinations were opened: Mozambique, to the city of Pemba, in the North-East of the country, and Kenya, to Nairobi, the capital.
So here we are, with my partner, motivated to discover a destination far from the beaten track!
Well, finally, where is Ibo Island in Mozambique? A small map, as a good geographer…
An hour by plane is necessary to get to the city of Pemba, in the Northeast of the country. We spend one night in a shabby hotel in the city. A city without much charm at first sight anyway, so the next morning we catch a local bus to go to the island of Ibo.
The journey will be long (a full day, more or less), but we have directly immersed ourselves in the African culture while on the road: dusty dirt road, feeling like we stop every 3 km, people everywhere and we are the only tourists!
A week on the Ibo island, impossible to be bored there!
The island of Ibo has indeed an extraordinary history. Without going into details, the island was a trading place for the Portuguese, Arabs and Indians for more than 500 years. Vasco de Gama said he stopped there in 1502!
The first things you notice when entering the island are the imposing old colonial buildings from the Portuguese era. It’s really worth walking around the island to appreciate all these old buildings.
We clearly feel like time stopped here. All the buildings are almost abandoned, vegetation has taken over and the sand has invaded all the streets of the main village.
A visit of the island’s fort is quite interesting to do.
Apart from the historical aspects of the island, which are very interesting to see and discover, it is absolutely necessary to get lost, as I like to say, and to go deeper into this island. You will discover the local life: simple, authentic, quite simply beautiful.
Here, nothing unnecessary, no or few tourists, no loud music, no parties on the beach. Clearly, if you are looking for tranquility: this is your ideal island.
You will meet many local children who are simply happy to see you. We are far from mass tourism here, and the children entertain themselves as they can!
You will go and see the seaside, with the under-construction dhows, these boats so characteristic of the region, either in the water or in wreck.
If you don’t already know it, you will be able to see the traditional houses made of cob (a mixture of clay, water and natural fibers that are hung on rows of more or less braided wood).
As you walk around the island, you will realize how beautiful it is. The island has some sandy beaches, even if it must be said that there are some even more “postcard beaches” on the islands north of Ibo (visible during a dhow ride).
A walk in the mangroves of Ibo at sunset will remain forever engraved in my memory. The exceptional colors of the evening were reflected on the little water left at low tide. Superb. It is also an opportunity to discover many birds, coming to feed at low tide.
As on the island of Mayotte or in Madagascar, the Ibo island has very beautiful baobabs visible on the edge of the roads.
Last, if you are a diver, you’ll be in a magical place there. Living in Mayotte at that time and considering the dives I did, I set the bar very high by wanting to dive here. And we were not disappointed at all. Magnificent corals, beautiful coral head as we like them to be, a rich fauna and a good visibility. We really enjoyed ourselves!
One thing I didn’t have the time to do (which goes to show that a week is finally not that much on the island) is the crossing on foot to Quirimba Island, at low tide. It seems that it is a great thing to do and I can well believe it.
Yes, I have been talking since the beginning about these famous dhows, these traditional boats. Thanks to the superb guesthouse where we stayed during the whole week (I’ll give the contact details below, of course), we could go on a dhow cruise For 2 days, with a night camping on an island.
So, don’t expect a luxury cruise on a catamaran, with waitresses bringing you little toasts! No, but it will be even better: traditional wooden boat, handmade sail, and a main part of it sailing at the mercy of the wind.
After a few hours of navigation, we stop on the “banco de Areia”, a superb sand bank lost in the middle of nowhere. Our table is set up, consisting of four poles and a canvas inserted in the sand to provide us with shade. Small meal on this piece of sand, at the world’s end, without anybody around. Heaven is not far.
During the journey, we go along some deserted islands in the North of Ibo. The views are splendid. In the evening, we stop at our beach, which will be perfect to put the tent on. A great meal, again prepared by the pension and its crew, and a wonderful evening with the colors of the dusk and the beauty of these places. The pictures speak for themselves!
Pleasant surprise also the following day, while we were swimming on a spot, we find dolphins (residents in the area!)!
We stayed in the Baobibo guesthouse. Frankly, we did not test any other one, but we recommend Baobibo with our eyes closed. Everything was perfect: our bungalow with a view on the mangrove, the welcome, the food, the staff, and the dhow ride.
You can find my feedback (and others’) about the pension here. If you want to see a bit the accommodations on the island (basically 5), it’s right here.
If needed, for people looking for a very nice luxury hotel (prices are not the same) or especially for people like us seeking to have a drink on their beautiful terrace at sunset, you can go to the Ibo Island Lodge. Worth noting that it is at this hotel that you should inquire if you want to dive in Ibo.
Well, that’s where it can get complicated!
The majority of people will arrive from Pemba.
From Mayotte, it was possible back in time with Ewa Air airlines, which used to take you to Pemba. According to the latest information (July 2017), flights are permanently canceled.
You will have to return by another way so. If you are traveling in Africa in a bordering country, or if you are arriving from an international flight, you have several possibilities:
The above flights are around 300/350€ round trip.
After some research, it is possible to go from Maputo to Pemba by bus. According to the information I have, this trip would take 3 days / 3 nights and would cost about 4000 Mts (60€). For those with a small budget and who have time, this is a solution.
Once in Pemba, you have several options:
- Take a flight from Pemba to Ibo: This is clearly the least economical solution, but the fastest: about 230$ one way. Only one airline offers the trip: CR aviation (office in Maputo and Pemba), contact here to schedule flights: [email protected] / (+258) 844909734 / www.craviation.co.mz (reservation possible with a credit card)
- Take a local bus from downtown Pemba to the village of Tandanhangue, where you can then take a public boat to get to the island. This is what we chose.
The local bus leaves between 4 and 5 am, from Pemba town center (in front of the Mcel Shop). The two closest guesthouses to take the bus are “pensao Lys” and “pensao Baia”. The trip can last between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the stops and the season (rainy or not). The bus will drop you off at the village of Tandanhangue. Upon arrival, you will have to wait for the public boat (sometimes several hours – bring water!), that will finally take you to Ibo.
The bus will cost you about 300/400 Mts, and the boat about 70 Mts/person.
This is the most economical solution for travelers on a budget.
- Finally, the last solution is to organize a private transfer with the pension you’re staying in. Our guesthouse can arrange this for you without any problem. The other guesthouses should be able to do it too, I guess.
The prices of the transfer are to be seen with the pension but should vary around 13’000.00 Mts (for 4 persons).
If you have decided to take a travel guide, I recommend you to have a look here.
So, I hope that this article will have make you want to go to this beautiful island! Anyway, personally, I would like to go back there to spend 1 or 2 weeks, just to relax. So, are you convinced? You won’t be disappointed!
Don’t hesitate to leave me comments, suggestions or questions about this destination, I will be happy to answer them!
If you are interested in discovering the country, I invite you to read the complete guide about diving in Mozambique.