The Quirimbas Archipelago comprises a bejewelled string of tropical islands situated off the coast of northern Mozambique, close to the mainland town of Pemba. It’s my favourite corner of the country.
Arab and Portuguese traders and settlers dominated the region for many centuries and vestiges of this heritage are apparent throughout the archipelago. However, many islands (of which there are more than 30) remain uninhabited.
Mysterious, atmospheric Ibo, the archipelago’s de facto capital, is haunted by a stormy colonial past. Today, it’s a wonderful blend of Portuguese, Swahili, Indian and African cultures. The islands of Quisiva and Matemo also feature old Portuguese towns and pre-colonial, Swahili settlements.
Elsewhere, the Quirimbas are all about snow-white beaches dotted with low-key, top-end resorts. On each island, the bird and marine life – which include not only plenty of fish but dolphins, whales and whale sharks – is astounding, and you can enjoy them by scuba diving the Quirimbas or going on walking excursions. The elusive dugongs add to the marine bounty, and many a holiday to the area is spent idly searching for them.
Several of the southern islands, including Ibo and Quilalea, lie inside Quirimbas National Park, which also includes large areas of the fringing coastline. Many islands are linked to the mainland by sandbars, coral reefs and mangroves. It’s an area of great environmental significance.
The Quirimbas Archipelago is the perfect bush-and-beach destination with both biodiversity and exclusivity. Apart from barefoot luxury, the resorts offer every kind of watersport, from kayaking the Quirimbas and kitesurfing to game fishing and snorkelling the reefs of Mozambique.
Two of my favourite experiences in the area include dhow sailing at sunset and the ultimate beach picnic: dining on a sandbar. Do give them a go!