Mozambique is renowned for its wonderful white-sand beaches, and it’s 2400 kilometre-long coastline is home to some extraordinary places to lay down your beach towel. In the south of the country there are plenty of beachside resorts catering to international tourists, many of whom arrive from South Africa. The further north you go though, the more undeveloped the coastline becomes; tourists are few and far between and an increasing sense of isolation from the world seeps into daily existence.
The islands off the northern coast of Mozambique redefine isolation, even by the standards of this part of the country. Many of the islands have been turned into exclusive retreats for the unnaturally wealthy. On these private islands, private lodges and villas have been built to cater to those who are both willing and capable of paying US$1000 or more per night. For the privileged few, living out a Robinson Crusoe fantasy without sacrificing the mod-cons of 21st Century society is only a private boat ride away.
Ibo Island is different. Although tourism is an important part of the economy, it is home to a working community, mainly of fishermen, that isn’t dependent upon tourism. It does have an exclusive lodge charging several hundred dollars per night, but it also has smaller guest houses and home stays which cater to independent travellers with more meagre financial resources. That makes Ibo a popular destination for people adventurous enough to head this far north.
The rewards for doing so are many, although you still don’t see many other tourists. Ironically, despite being surrounded by the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the one thing you won’t find on Ibo is a good beach. Oddly, this puts some people off visiting, After spending a week there I can guarantee that the relaxed pace of life, friendly people and the extraordinary colonial architecture set amidst tropical vegetation, amply compensate for the lack of a sandy beach.
Did I mention the sunsets? They alone are worth making the trip to Ibo worthwhile…