Dou­ble Hap­pi­ness Car­inè Müller falls un­der the spell of two en­chant­ing is­lands in mag­i­cal Mozam­bique

Mozam­bi­can is­lands have a charm all of their own. Car­inè Müller finds her­self en­tranced by Ilha de Moçam­bique and Ibo Is­land

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

You’ve heard the story a mil­lion times be­fore: a trop­i­cal-is­land par­adise – ro­man­tic, lush and beau­ti­ful. But don’t make the mis­take of think­ing that these two Mozam­bi­can is­lands fall into this cat­e­gory – Ilha de Moçam­bique and Ibo Is­land have a dif­fer­ent kind of magic. Their al­lure catches you like a cool breeze, play­ing with your hair, mak­ing the cor­ners of your mouth curl with a cer­tain happy sat­is­fac­tion and, be­fore you know it, you’ve been cap­ti­vated; you’ve fallen for these is­lands with their unique charm that you won’t find any­where else.

Ev­ery­where I looked, the as­ton­ish­ing melt­ing pot of cul­ture and his­tory on Ilha and Ibo was ap­par­ent. I stood in awe of these lit­tle is­lands that time has for­got­ten, as well as the peo­ple who live there. Let me tell you about these se­cret places….

ILHA DE MOÇAM­BIQUE

Would you be­lieve that this lit­tle is­land off the cen­tral coast of Mozam­bique used to be the cap­i­tal of the coun­try? It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing story – one that in­volves all of the good­ness that makes this is­land so fas­ci­nat­ing, cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant, his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant – and a plea­sure to visit. Leg­end has it that the is­land re­ceived its name thanks to a com­mu­ni­ca­tion er­ror be­tween the Arab and Por­tuguese sailors dur­ing Vasco da Gama’s

time. Ali Musa Mbiki was the sul­tan at the time, and the Por­tuguese kept re­fer­ring to the is­land as ‘Musam­biki’, which be­came the name of the en­tire coun­try as we know it to­day. His­tory is ap­par­ent as you walk down the streets through Stone Town; it feels as though ev­ery­thing has been left to its own de­vices, with the sands of time hav­ing breezed through the streets for cen­turies. Life is slow and in­no­cent, and one can’t help but marvel at the many beau­ti­ful and derelict build­ings. Walk a bit fur­ther and you ar­rive in Ma­cuti Town – and the en­ergy changes en­tirely. This bustling vil­lage is the heart of the is­land and the peo­ple are warm and en­gag­ing.

GET­TING THERE

Fly Air­link to Nam­pula. Flights are di­rect from OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port and start at about R3 800 for a one-way ticket, de­pend­ing on when you book. Then take a taxi to Ilha de Moçam­bique, cross­ing the cause­way that con­nects the is­land to the main­land. The drive takes about two-and-a-half hours, which is just enough time to ef­fec­tively ad­just to African time. You’ll catch your first glimpse of the ma­jes­tic baobab trees and the Mozam­bi­can vil­lages un­fold­ing out­side your win­dow – clus­ters of colour in a mostly ter­ra­cotta and dusty land­scape. You’ll pass two lively towns on the way to the is­land and you’ll no doubt be sorely tempted to stop the car to buy some of the beau­ti­ful African fab­rics on dis­play. As you cross the cause­way, you’ll ef­fec­tively move from African time to is­land time. Time to re­lax!

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at a very spe­cial guest­house called Ter­raço das Qui­tan­das. This 400-year-old house is steeped in his­tory and is mag­nif­i­cently lo­cated close to the Palace Mu­seum at the Palace of São Paulo, the pier, lo­cal restau­rants and a pri­vate beach. The ar­chi­tec­ture is rem­i­nis­cent of old Moor­ish build­ings with Por­tuguese and Ara­bic in­flu­ences, echo­ing the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal in­flu­ences of the is­land it­self. We en­joyed slow, colour­ful sun­sets on the roof ter­race, in­ter­est­ing and en­light­en­ing con­ver­sa­tions with our host, An­tónio, cud­dles from the two Labradors, swims in the sea, rest­ful nights in our palace of a room (with the big­gest bath I have ever seen) and easy af­ter­noons laz­ing around the cool, airy house af­ter walks in the town and other ad­ven­tures on the is­land.

Con­tact info: Visit www.ter­ra­co­dasqui­tan­das.com or e-mail ter­raco.das.qui­tan­das@gmail.com.

WHAT TO DO

Ilha Blue is the go-to com­pany for all your is­land to-dos. They looked af­ter us as though we were vis­it­ing fam­ily, and were more than happy to go the ex­tra mile for us. We went on a dhow sa­fari to Goa Is­land and had the most scrump­tious lunch of fresh fish paired with lo­cal flavours un­der an an­cient baobab tree – all pre­pared right there by our Unesco guides while we were dis­cov­er­ing an un­der­wa­ter ship­wreck in the warm ocean just off the is­land. ‘This is the life’ came to mind sev­eral times that day and it be­came the re­frain for the hol­i­day!

We also hired com­fort­able Ilha Blue bi­cy­cles to ex­plore the is­land – some­thing I will never for­get. Cruis­ing lan­guidly around the is­land with your shadow chas­ing you around a joy­ful ghost town dipped in an orange-sunset glow is a magic that’s dif­fi­cult to con­vey....

Con­tact info: Visit il­h­ablue.com or e-mail info@il­h­ablue.com.

Ilha de Moçam­bique has been de­clared a UNESCO World Her­itage Site be­cause of its his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance

IBO IS­LAND

Es­cape, re­lax, ex­plore, find, in­dulge. These is­land treats are all in high abun­dance on mesmerising Ibo – an is­land that seemed to me like some­thing spe­cial you would find in a trea­sure chest in the at­tic of some vastly in­ter­est­ing per­son’s house. Cul­ture and his­tory abound here too, and the lit­tle is­land’s ghost town of old ru­ined build­ings is over­run with creep­ers and tree roots, while lo­cals go­ing about their daily, colour­ful lives shoot you cu­ri­ous, happy smiles. Ibo is all about es­cap­ing to a place lost in time. Re­lax­ing on the shores, ex­plor­ing the nar­row roads and in­dulging in the smells, tastes, laugh­ter and colour of the is­land – this is an Ara­bic, Por­tuguese and Swahili star in the In­dian Ocean Quir­im­bas.

GET­TING THERE

I felt like Karen Blixen com­ing in for our land­ing – we were fly­ing over Africa! Lo­cal chil­dren ran to the plane as we tax­ied onto the lit­tle grass land­ing strip – and yes, we had an open-top Landy wait­ing for us…. Fly to Pemba (prices start at about R4 800 for a one-way trip from OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Air­link), then take a small lo­cal plane to Ibo. (We flew CR Avi­a­tion, and paid R2 700 per per­son for a one-way trip). Wil­fred, our knowl­edge­able, lovely and be­yond amus­ing Ibo Is­land Lodge guide, gave us the low­down on Ibo as we drove through the town in the Landy. That first tran­quil and jovial taste of the is­land set a prece­dent – some­thing that we came to know as the Ibo Is­land way of life.

WHERE TO STAY

Ibo Is­land Lodge has a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory. The own­ers dis­cov­ered the is­land in ru­ins, and built up the lodge from an old man­sion. They’d heard about the is­land af­ter a trans-African ex­pe­di­tion and went in search of it on a dhow-sail­ing jour­ney from Zanz­ibar. From its hum­ble, ad­ven­tur­ous be­gin­ning son a ghost is­land to an award­win­ning, her­itage-con serv­ing and tourism-pi­o­neer­ing lodge, IboIsl and Lodge en­cap­su­lates all of the is­land’s au­then­tic­ity, wrapped in lux­ury. The lodge is unique and re­mark­able: small enough to re­ally lav­ish de­tailed at­ten­tion on the guests, yet big enough to make a pos­i­tive im­pact on the com­mu­nity. Our room was a haven, the food was phe­nom­e­nal and we had the ad­ven­ture and rest of a life­time in this beau­ti­ful lodge.

Con­tact info: Visit www.ibois­land.com or e-mail en­quiries@ibois­land.com.

WHAT TO DO

Won­der­ful Wil­fred took us on too many ad­ven­tures to count. We had break­fast on a sand is­land, went on in­cred­i­ble dhow-sail­ing sa­faris, camped (okay, glamped) on the beach on Matemo Is­land with our own (and might I say spec­tac­u­lar) cook and sailor, kayaked around Mo­gun­dula Is­land – where the lodge is build­ing a new eco-es­tab­lish­ment – and then, the most mem­o­rable of all, we had the mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time div­ing with dol­phins in the wild. On the is­land it­self we ex­plored to our heart’s con­tent, meet­ing João Bap­tiste – the is­land’ s old­est in­hab­i­tant( with Por­tuguese-ac­cented sto­ries that kept us glued to his stoep for hours!), mar­velled at the most beau­ti­ful jew­ellery made by the sil­ver­smiths at the his­tor­i­cal fort and en­joyed sights and sounds that we will never for­get.

ABOVE: Float­ing in the In­dian Ocean dur­ing a dhow sa­fari OP­PO­SITE PAGE, FROM

TOP: Is­land trea­sures; we cy­cled on our Ilha Blue bi­cy­cles to the For­tim-Igreja de Santo An­tónio; our trusty steeds in the Ter­raço das Qui­tan­das court­yard

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