Luxury escapes to the Quirimbas Archipelago

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!

When to Go

The Quirimbas Archipelago has a warm, tropical climate. The cooler, dry, winter season is the best time to visit, as it’s sunny, cloudless and the ocean is still pleasantly warm. June to August are the coolest months, when the southeast trade winds prevail. The best underwater visibility for diving is from May to September. Sailfish season runs from July to December, but other game fish such as yellowfin tuna, dorado and kingfish can be caught year round. Humpback whales pass through from August to October, while sharks and dolphins are commonly seen on dives year round.

This is the hot and wet summer season. It can get very steamy and humid in December and January. The average coastal temperature remains above 30ºC and the rainfall is generally heaviest in March. This is also the cyclone season, although the storms are generally weak in the area. However, if you go at this time, be prepared for regular, short downpours. The air is filled with migrant birds, the skies are beautifully picturesque and you can see whale sharks in the early summer. There’s also good marlin fishing at this time.

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