Many who visit Ibo Island agree that the remote island has a lost world appeal. One of the few inhabited islands within the untouched Quirimbas Archipelago, Ibo still retains a rich sense of history evident in its ancient architecture and way of life. It is a melting pot of Chinese, Arab, European, Portuguese and Mozambican cultures and you can still hear whispers of pirates and slaves, gemstones and gold.
Yes, Ibo Island reflects a way life that has been lived for more than a thousand years – local fisherman still cast their nets along hundreds of kilometres of winding channels and mangrove lagoons from Arab style dhows. Their families still grow fresh produce beside their tiny houses and coconuts are a staple in their simple, healthy diet.
Read more about Ibo Island and what you can expect when you arrive:
A steadfast religion and culture weave the people of Ibo Island together, threading beliefs and customs dating back hundreds of years into a tapestry of traditions. Guests are taken in by the warm-hearted, genuine friendliness of locals on Ibo Island. They seem to glow with pride in their island and they are not shy to share their unique culture with visitors.
Ibo is a living, breathing, and vibrant island. At Ibo Island Lodge, you can be a part of the rhythm of the island and spend as much time within the community as you feel comfortable with. Generations of silversmiths will show you how this intricate craft has been passed on from father to son, as well as that of the fishermen who know the tides and channels of the Archipelago like the back of their hands.
Learn these few Portuguese phrases and you will be well on your way to communicating with Mozambicans on Ibo:
Hello – Hola
Goodbye – Até logo
Good morning – Bom dia
Good afternoon – Boa tarde
Good evening – Boa noite
I am from … – Eu sou de …
Thank you – obrigado
Excuse me – Faz favour
Friend – Amigo
How are you? – Como esta?
I am fine – Muito bem obrigado
What’s your name? – Como te champs?
The common theme of daily life on Ibo Island is creative cultural expression. A way of life made beautiful by the people. This community, with roots reaching deep into the world, have created a way of life unique to Ibo. A way of life that captures the imagination of our guests. Most of the locals on Ibo are of Muslim faith, thanks to the strong Arab influences weaving through Mozambique’s history. In addition, islanders still respect and practice old Mozambique tribal customs and religions.
You will see the brightly coloured capulana, the traditional cloth that Mozambican women wear as wrap-around skirts, wherever you go. It is a tradition on Ibo Island that the women do not buy their own capulanas but that rather the men choose and purchase the cloths for their women. If a woman owns many capulanas it is a symbol of affluence and status.
No one drives cars on Ibo Island because they are too busy walking, cycling, sailing or loving various water sports including kayaking, boating and dhow trips. There are a few motorbikes and bicycles around but the best way to meet people is on foot. See them chatting to each other in the street or on their verandas, riding their scooters, fetching water from well points and buying fresh produce. You never see a cell phone or a computer, and there are very few electricity points or street lights. When on Ibo, do as the locals do – switch off!
There is an abundance of fresh wholesome food on Ibo Island – from the seafood and fish that is caught daily on traditional dhows, to the coconut trees bulging with their coconuts, crunchy cashew nuts and homegrown vegetables, you can get it all right here. Taste sweet papaya and pineapples, cassava, sweet potato, tomatoes and coconut rice. Indulge in delicious matapa, a dish made from crushed cassava leaves pounded with peanuts or cashew nuts to make a thick pesto. Sip spicy cha, or Mozambican tea while seasonings feature onions, bay leaves, garlic and chillies. Fill up on fresh Portuguese rolls, called Pãozinho while you wait for fresh seafood dishes such as lobster and calamari.
Why not organise a meal at the home of a local villager in advance? Someone will pick you up and take you to their small house, where they will usually serve you fresh fish and matapa with coconut rice. Tuck in and enjoy!
There is no huge white beach at Ibo Island. Because this Mozambique destination is mostly an historical and cultural attraction. The isle is best known for its glorious and tenuous tidal beach which appears then disappears every day at different times, as the tides ebb and flow. You can only get there by boat and must plan your experience on this beach surrounded by ocean as it won’t last forever. And you will need shade, a bite to eat and some delicious drinks to satiate your island holiday appetite. Record your experience on film as proof that you were actually there.
If you are desperate for a beach, swim off the sand spit in front of the hotel with local children who frolic in the shallows. Or walk alone to the other side of the island for a private swim, on a tiny stretch of white sands…
Ibo Island draws guests into its embrace, calling them back again and again to relive her lost world appeal, her tales of pirates and prisoners, turtle shells and silver. Ibo Island history reads like a turbulent fairy tale – during centuries long past, the isle see-sawed between Portuguese and Omani Arab rule and eventually the Portuguese held sway. These old stories come alive during your guided historical tour on Ibo.
You will hear that as early as AD600 Arab traders discovered Ibo and established fortified trading posts and forts along the coastline. They shipped slaves, gold and ivory to the Arab world. The island gained municipal status in 1763 but very little development occurred after the Portuguese left Ibo in 1975. Today, craggy and old structures reflecting a deep legacy are intertwined with frangipani petals, the twisting roots of fig trees and seriously pink Bougainvillea.
Come and discover Ibo Island’s lost world appeal and hear some of the centuries-old legends still being told. Stroll around crumbling forts where crimson bougainvillea’s bloom and watch the silversmiths hand-crafting intricate jewellery as they have done for years. Soak up the charismatic history and architecture, embellished with tales of pirates and prisoners, turtle shells and silver:
- Forts on Ibo’s shores once served as military bastions and slave trading houses
- Ibo is a melting pot of cultures which have formed new, unique traditions
- Find one of Africa’s largest mangrove forests firmly rooted in front of Ibo Island
- Swim with dolphins and turtles in exquisite coral reefs
- Catch huge Dogtooth Tuna between Ibo and Matemo Islands
- Ibo nests over 700 different bird species, 10 of these being threatened
- The last sea faring trading dhow arrived on Ibo Island in 1969, all the way from India
During its lively festivals, Ibo comes alive with vibrant colours, dancing, cultural displays, art and other traditions. Ibo people celebrate rites of initiation, weddings, and burials with traditional dancing, singing and drumming. Celebrations continue throughout the night, and involve traditional Mozambique food. Tuck into piles of fresh seafood, coconut rice and tropical fruits. Sing local anthems and race bicycles with local villagers.
When Ibo Island became the capital of Cabo Delgado in 1773, the people celebrated with their first Kueto Siriwala Festival. Today, this is the most famous annual festival on Ibo Island and means “to not forget your roots, regardless of how far away from home you are”. Come and watch the annual dhow race where canoes and traditional sailing dhows compete on still waters; school children present their poetry and plays to the crowds. Traditional dancing and a sense of community fill the streets and there is a great sense of belonging.
What to expect when holidaying in the Quirimbas
Do you wish for a luxury villa on the beach, gorgeous biodiversity and exclusivity when you go on holiday? Do you seek sugary beaches, awesome water sports and breath-taking scenery? Then head to the Quirimbas Archipelago in the untouched northern regions of Mozambique for the perfect holiday in Africa. Discover seclusion, romance, perfect weather and warm ocean waters where more than 30 islands drift off the coast at Pemba. Fly to Ibo Island Lodge and set off on a unique island hopping dhow safari.
Arab trading posts and Portuguese trading routes dominated these seas many decades ago and today, the Ilhas Quirimbas is linked to the coast by sand bars, coral reefs, mangroves and water rich in marine life. Scuba diving promises a maze of phenomenal drop-offs and diverse coral species while fishing takes on a thrilling dimension at St Lazarus Banks and beyond. Come to the Quirimba’s to explore its timelessness and unwind, peacefully.
If a holiday in the Quirimbas’ is just what you are looking for, contact us so we can start planning together.