The beautiful wide arc of Pemba’s Wimbe Beach, and the calm, warm waters of the Indian Ocean which lap Mozambique’s golden coastline, make it a prime location for tourists from the Northern Hemisphere to soak up the tropical warmth. Nestling amongst the palm trees which fringe the beach, cabanas and a couple of restaurants cater to the needs of the handful of tourists who venture this far north up Mozambique’s 2400 km long coastline.
Spend a few days on and around the beach though, and it becomes obvious that this is still very much a working beach. There is a constant stream of people moving along the beach, many with baskets of fish. Fishing boats can be seen out at sea and there are plenty of people working nets in the shallow waters off the coast. Hawkers sell their wares to locals and foreigners alike – although hawking in Pemba is pretty low key, and not the near psychotic hard sell I’ve encountered in some places.
Over the years I’ve adopted the attitude that, however irritating, hawkers are just trying to feed their families. In Pemba though, they are a lifesaver for the non-Portuguese speaking tourist. Necessity being the driver of innovation, in a part of the country where even people who work in the tourist industry don’t speak a foreign language, hawkers are amongst the few people who do. That makes Pemba’s hawkers an invaluable source of information and assistance. Need help getting a local SIM card to work in your phone? Look no further than the bloke selling cold drinks on the beach.
After one such conversation, I decided to take local advice and walk in a southerly direction away from the main public beach. I love a good beach comb, so setting off early I soon found myself walking alone along the vast stretch of sand. In the distance I could see boats and people – a buzz of early morning activity as people laid out fishing nets and hunted for shell fish. It was fascinating to watch all this activity, so much so that I spent far too much time walking as the sun rose ever higher in the sky.
The result was mild sunstroke and a trip to the local hospital. Luckily it wasn’t debilitating enough to stop us getting a boat to our next destination…the amazing and beautiful island of Ibo in the Quirimbas Archipelago.