Mozambique has always held a certain pull over me. Unlike the safari reserves of the Kenyan Masaai or the cosmopolitan vibes of Cape Town, Mozambique always seemed a little less discovered; like a book waiting to be read. It’s a country of emerald fields and dusty country roads, glittering white sand and deepest sapphire oceans.
The Quirimbas Archipelago is a chain of white-sand desert islands studding the sea along the north-eastern coast of Mozambique.
Stretching for about 200km and located 2,500km from the capital, Maputo, the Quirimbas Archipelago is fittingly remote. The islands are most easily accessed from Tanzania, with regular flights from Dar Es Salaam to Pemba, followed by a short hop via propeller plane or boat to the islands themselves. If you’re flying into Medjumbe island, beware: this is the shortest runway in Africa, which equals a hair-raising landing.
The most well-known island is Ibo. The crumbling colonial mansions and moss-covered villas of the once vital city of Vila do Ibo have slowly retreated into ruin, and the silent streets of this ghost town are a must-see for any visitor today.
Days in the Quirimbas are best spent slowly. Hire a traditional white-sailed dhow boat – or hitch a ride with a local fisherman – and cruise the turquoise waters of the Indian ocean. Explore the kaleidoscopic colours of the pristine coral reefs – if you’re lucky, you’ll spot sea turtles, dolphins and even whale sharks…
The 32 islands and islets – some inhabited, many not – are littered with a handful of hotels and lodges, catering to every level from budget backpacker to the heights of luxury.
Luxurious Vamizi Island offers private villas set amongst swaying palms and white sand. For the ultimate in relaxation, Vamizi Island wellness retreats, featuring luxurious spa treatments supplemented by beachside yoga and delicious, are offered several times per year. Seven day wellness retreat packages start at $6,210. Private villa rates start from $1,830 per night, based on two people sharing.
For budget travellers, the beautiful Guludo Beach Lodge is technically located on the mainland, rather than on the archipelago itself, the beautiful stretch of coastline overlooking the islands more than makes up for it. The eco lodge offers rustic comfort in a stunning setting, for £166 per night via airbnb.
This white sand paradise offers one of the most authentic, pristine island experiences in eastern Africa. For now, Mozambique will have to remain a daydream for me – but a pretty beautiful one at that.