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krisek Ibo - A travel report by Krys
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Ibo,  Mozambique - flag Mozambique
12122 readers

krisek's travel reports

Patience and adrenaline on the Ibo island.

  9 votes
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Ibo island is a gem of the Quirimba Archipelago in the northern Mozambique. Its colonial mansions, villas, churches and forts combined with tribal villages, pristine beaches, crystal clear water, friendly population and superb birdlife, make it perfect.

It is difficult to exaggerate about the beauty of the Ibo island. It is one of the most picturesque islands I have visited. It was not easy to get there, but it was all worth it.

According to the very young skipper, the passage to the island from Tandanhangue was supposed to take 1.5 ~ 2 hours but there was absolutely no wind and it was taking forever. I actually could not notice that the boat was moving. It was so slow.

The night was moonless but the stars and the Milky Way were giving surprisingly a lot of light. At times, it was dead calm and the only thing that was heard was the sound of diesel genies miles away on the remote islands. A man swimming in the ocean passed by. Then fish were jumping in the water. Wind sometimes blew in the perforated old sail and pushed the boat forward. I could not do anything to make this boat go faster, and the guys were so relaxed that I simply sat there trying to be patient. The guys started telling stories about something, which was very atmospheric and sounded very mysterious. Almost like ghost stories. I could not understand a word they were saying but that added this special spice to this moment. I kept looking up in the sky and soaked the ambiance. It was kind of cool, being there on this ancient Arabic vessel on the Indian Ocean travelling on those calm waters. That did feel like holiday.

I agreed with the skipper to pick me up two days later at 9.30 am, and although we confirmed that and shook on it twice, he did not come. Originally, I thought that he might be running late, because it was quite early, and the ocean was only coming back at about 9 o’clock with the high tide, so his boat might have been too far from the water to set off on time. Then, the wind was not particularly strong either. I was preparing myself to accept a delay of one hour, but when it passed, I started becoming less comfortable. Being stranded on a dilapidated historical island as the only tourist might be fun. Not if you have a flight to catch.

Favourite spots:
The larger fort
The larger fort
The island was very tranquil and pretty. Many palm tree clusters and a few lonely baobabs made a perfect picture. It was idyllic and dreamlike place. There was absolutely nothing to do there, and I have absolutely no clue what all those people who lived there did for living. It would be a perfect place for retirement, but living there and make a living for a family was a struggle.

Both of the Portuguese forts were in perfect conditions and the larger one away from the town was a magnificent piece of architecture. Its walls gently bended inwards and therefore making the entire fort look like a star. The gate was spectacularly placed at one of the wall bends.

A few silver smiths who made the fort their home tried to make a living from their silver art. Everyone made the same design though and the items did not seem to be very special. The very special element there however was the way how they made these necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, using ancient Arabic methods.

What's really great:
Ibo girl on a boat
Ibo girl on a boat
I arranged with the driver from Pemba to pick me up in Tandanhangue at 1 pm, as I thought I could hop on another island to have a quick look en route. I cannot believe how naïve I was! Well, after having waiting two hours for my boat, I got nervous actually but with an incredible luck one of the locals spotted a boat leaving at the other end of the beach and told me that. I grabbed my bags and halted the boat, which kindly came back for me. I quickly untied my boots, jumped into the water, and as I climbed onto the boat, I heard ‘senior, senior!’ I turned and saw my skipper, who was supposed to have come for me! He was simply playing on the beach with other boys, totally ignoring our arrangement. I had to ask where his boat was and why he had not come. He replied that he must have misunderstood. But I seriously doubt that this was a true answer.

Luckily, I was on a boat on my way back, the wind was strong and even if it were not, there was a motor at the back of the boat. I made it!

Ibo Customs House
Ibo Customs House
The island was extremely nice and the examples of colonial architecture there were superb. My favourite ones were the church on the square built back to the beach, but right on it and the customs house with its slim columns and a porch.

There was actually an entire ‘high street’ lined up with interesting mansions, some of which were occupied by governmental institutions. Many of them however were falling further into ruins standing empty, or occasionally being used as temporary homes by fishermen and locals, who might have caused trouble at home...

The Ibo town was very pleasant with ocean front promenade built in 1967 by the local governor Coronel Basilio Pina de Oliveira Seguro and many fascinating mansions and grand houses erected in colonial style. They were all decaying now but the town keeps its charm. It was good to see a few initiatives to bring some of the palaces to their previous splendour – mainly by private people (foreigners) for commercial purposes, including hotels.

Ibo smaller fort
Ibo smaller fort
Before we actually set off from Tandanhangue, I mentioned to the boys that I was thinking of staying at Janine, and I was not sure if I should change my mind and stay in one of the two little hotels along the ocean front promenade. By the time we could spot the island, only Janine had her lights up. The other two had already switched off their generators. That left me little room to manoeuvre.

I arrived at Janine at 8.30pm, annoyed for being so late but one extraordinary experience richer. The guys asked me to disembark way off the shore, in complete darkness. I tried and as I could not reach the bottom, I refused. I had absolutely no idea where, or on what kind of sea creature, my bare feet were going to land. The boys pushed the boat a bit closer and one of them jumped out. Water reached his waist! He took my bags and I followed him. I cannot possibly describe how happy I was that the ocean was so warm. Otherwise, my family jewels would have fallen off.

Janine was happy to see me!

Chasing coral crabs on the corals at the low tide was one of the potential activities on this quiet and surreal island. When the low tide coincided with the sunset, this was actually a very relaxing activity.

Right then in Mozambique, it was utterly cool to walk around with a plastic, well used shopping bag full of R20 batteries and cassettes in one hand, and a colourful tape player in the other. The player had to be blasting hardly anything recognisable played from dilapidated tapes on low batteries. I cannot over emphasise how cool this was. I came across super-cool boys swinging about the Ibo town and the villages with those bags and players. Girls seeing the boys like that were in ecstasy and did not even try hide their excitement. This must have been one of the most hilarious scenes from my entire holiday in Mozambique. I was fighting with myself not to burst in laughter, and I almost cried holding it all back. Bless them, though. There was no disco on the island...

Small village in the interior of the Ibo island
Small village in the interior of the Ibo island
A few kids followed me around on of the mornings and showed me a few villages inside the island that I would have not visited otherwise. I was not even aware that there might be villages in the centre.

I managed to explain to the kids, who did not speak a word of English, that I wanted a place with cold drinks simply by saying 'coca-cola'. I knew that this would be an equivalent of a nice drink to them – and I was correct - without any hesitation, they immediately showed me to a bar. It was a very cool local bar behind a bamboo-cane fence, which I would have never spotted or had a courage to step into. The bar offered a great view to the ocean and plenty of shade as well as cool breeze, which was a blessing! The drinks were not terribly cool but the place definitely was. When I bought bottles of coke also for them, they could not believe their eyes and actually jumped in the air. So did the owner, who sold more drinks that he'd expected to so at this time of the day.

Ibo Town - main street
Ibo Town - main street
Janine charged about GBP 10 a night for a very comfortable and solid hut with ensuite shower/toilet room with running water. This was complete with ocean view right on the beach, so this was definitely an excellent deal. She also cooked for you, which was important since there were no restaurants on the island. And she could cook almost anything you wanted. She specialised in... fish, which for me was perfect! She could grill to perfection and her vegetables were divine. Oh, the omelet in the morning on the beach with the ocean view... - you cannot beat that!

Janine was French and she had lived on Ibo since 1985, which meant 5 years of war. She said it had been hard to get food at that time. She was very sad mentioning those times. I had a short conversation with her about those and present times. It was quite funny, because she spoke Portuguese to me and I was speaking Spanish to her. It was a miracle that we understood each other.

Other recommendations:
Upupa epops in Latin; hoopoe in English, in Polish - dudek.
Upupa epops in Latin; hoopoe in English, in Polish - dudek.
The Quirimba Archipelago is an important birdlife sanctuary. Certain islands, isles and islets are inhabited only by birds. I am not sure how many different species of birds there are, but the most famous are the pink flamingos. As I was walking along the ocean promenade, I spotted a small colony of pinkish birds playing in shallow lagoon, revealed by the low tide. From the distance, they almost looked like flamingos because of their colour, but from a closer look they actually resembled marabous. That could not be right, because marabous are ugly and grey, and these were nice and pale, and almost pink.

Apparently, these birds were particular species of stork, which happened to have been dining on shrimps and crabs, and therefore acquired this pink colour. This was quite unusual and many people, some of whom were biologists, fell for it, mistaking the birds with other species. On Ibo there was an ornithologists station, by the way.

Published on Saturday March 28th, 2009

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Wed, Jul 08 2009 - 10:45 PM rating by basia

Krys, very interesting and well written report.

Sun, Mar 29 2009 - 07:02 AM rating by bineba

Very entertaining! What a great experience to look back on.

Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 10:00 PM rating by shubh

Though I had never been to this place but seeing your nice photographs and detailed report, it seems that Ibo island is really a gem of the Quirimba Archipelago in the northern Mozambique. It seems a must to visit place.
Travel.justluxe adviser

Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 09:17 PM rating by jacko1

A well written and very descriptive report on somewhere most people have never heard of, we have a bit more knowledge now.

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