Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Archipelago das Quirimbas: Ilha do Ibo

Access to the Archipelago das Quirimbas is difficult by dhow and can only be accessed at high tide. So, as I learnt, everything we did, activities, as well as getting to Ibo Island, was highly dependent on tide times.

The road to Tandanhangue was pretty good; there are two routes, the shorter of which is apparently impassable during wet season, particulalry as a bridge has collapsed at one point on the route and it is necessary to drive through the creek. As the weather had been good we were able to take this route which took around 3.5-4 hours. 

Village on the road to Tandanhangue
Collapsed bridge.....
....means going through the creek
Chatting to the locals. I'm not sure why this man is wearing a dress :-)
Our group of five arrived at Tandanhangue about an hour before high tide, enough time to arrange secure parking for the bargain price of $4 per car per day, and negotiate a private charter dhow for our trip to Ibo. We were lucky that Anna was able to speak fluent Portuguese which helped in the negotiations.

The two Landcruiser Prados
Ruth and her new friend in the ferry carpark
Our dhow was ready to leave at noon with the water coming in unbelievably fast. So fast that we had to wade through the water with all of our bags to get to the dhow, something that didn’t excite me much but I got over once on the dhow and was able to enjoy the blue sea.

Yes, that is our dhow in the distance!
Another boat on the water
Mike and I on the dhow on the way over to Ibo. I'm
desperately trying to keep my hat on!
On Ibo we headed straight to “Lucy’s Place”; the accommodation we had been told about didn’t actually have a name, we were just told to ask for Lucy, a Swiss girl living on the island offering her house up as a guesthouse. And it was easy to find as everyone seems to know everyone on the island.

Lucy’s guesthouse was nice, very basic with 3 rooms (perfect for our group) and a shared bathroom. Unfortunately we were stuck with cold bucket showers yet again, but there was a kettle we could use to heat some water up, so we sucked it up as the price was by far the cheapest we knew of on the island at 800MZN a night per room (approximately $30). Not great value for money but the best we knew of.

Lucy's Guesthouse from the outside. This building used to the local bank for the
Our room: Basic but nice
Lucy was heading to Switzerland the following day for a couple of months but was able to give us some ideas for things to do, what we should pay, who to talk to, etc. She also left us with Donna Been, her caretaker while she was away, who was able to cook for us on request at a “good price”, as well provide the included breakfast.

Ilha do Ibo was lovely, a bit like Ilha de Mocambique, although I did like the later more. Ibo was full of old buildings and ruins and lots of very happy children yelling “Muzungu! Photo!”. There weren’t many places to eat or drink and a couple were closed during the time we were there further limiting our options. The running joke throughout our time in Mozambique as a whole was that things will be busier and better “next month”. Hmm, I’m not sure about that, but good luck to them! 

Old building in ruins
This church had been restored
Crab for lunch, anyone?
Local school children
Having my photos reviewed :-)
"Muzungu! Photo, Photo!!!"
Mike having his photo's reviewed. They're tough customers!
We had a couple of nice meals at Cinco Portas Pensao which had a Spanish chef/ manager. But we decided to give Donna Been a go too (or Donna “Beans” as Mike called her), who Lucy said could provide cheaper meals and was also a very good cook. I would have to say that her cooking was ok, nothing special, however the more pressing point was that all got completely duped by her. Our first meal with her cost us all 1000MZN, pricey but ok for five people. We requested prawns which we did get, however only 3 each or about a 1 kilo total to share. With that she gave us plain rice and potatoes. The next day we found out that the total cost of the meal would have been 200MZN, so a tidy 800MZN profit for an hours work by Donna “Beans”. Something I’m sure she wouldn’t have done if Lucy had been there. We did eat with her a second time and did a little better with a seafood curry, but still we all felt a bit ripped off by her.

Our very expensive prawns, courtesy of Donna "Beans"
Ready to eat!!
In terms of activities we planned a walk through the mangroves to Quirimbas Island, possible when the tide is low, and an overnight boat trip to a couple of other islands in the Archipelago.

View of the island shore when the tide had moved out
Our first activity, the walk to Quirimbas Island through the mangroves had been described as a “lovely walk”; I agree that this was true for the first 30 minutes and then say that the next 2.5 hours was painful and long. We had to get a guide to do this walk as it would be easy to get lost in the mangroves. It is nice at first, interesting surroundings and a bit different. But after a while the water gets a bit higher and it’s difficult to see rocks and branches; the sun gets really hot and the rocks are slippery. Fortunately we had all purchased new light sandals with straps the previous day which did help a little bit. Mine were even “Gucci”, haha! 

My new "Gucci" sandals. Genuine I'm sure :-)
The group in our new sandals
Heading out for our mangrove walk, all excited.....
.....until we came to this!
It was tricky and not particularly fun at this stage. Lots of hidden rocks too!
Marin's new sandals after the walk through the mud
At the end Quirimbas Island is pretty, white sand and turquoise water as the tide comes in, but still a little underwhelming. We also felt a little ripped off for lunch at 150MZN each for fish stew and rice, basic local food which took over 2 hours to prepare. By the end we were all glad to return to Ibo, this time by dhow which was a bit unpleasant in itself; small for us and the other 4 people crammed on it, sails and rope going everywhere. A bit amateur hour really.

Trudging through more water! At least this part wasn't muddy
Quirimbas Island as we saw it on arrival
Fish stew and rice for five. Not sure what's in the plastic bottle, needless to say no
one tried it
At least the view from lunch was nice :-)
Heading back on a rather small dhow
Our second activity got cancelled due to high winds, not nice on a small dhow and also not good for snorkelling. But I’m sure on calmer waters it would have been nice.

And while this was all going on I had stomach problems yet again! I think my stomach is a bit fragile and not coping with travel and different foods. Annoying!

With time to spare we checked out Ibo a bit more and I brought some lovely silver earrings and a bracelet from the old fort. Another cocktail at the very lovely (albeit completely overpriced) Ibo Island Lodge before 4 out of 5 of us headed back at 5am (!!) the next day to Tandanhangue to collect our cars and return to Pemba.

The Fort on Ibo. We didn't spend much time here but the
silver jewellery inside was lovely!
The Fort
The view at sunset drinks at Ibo Island Lodge
Pretty nice!
Mike with his cocktail drink looking pretty happy with himself
More photos from the island, it's people and children, again just because I went crazy with the camera!





Some comments I need to make on Archipelago das Quirimbas and Ilha do Ibo more specifically:

  • As a whole, none of them are really set up for tourism yet. There is one company which can organise hotel, flights and tour bookings, Kaskazini, but we found them very unhelpful and not particularly interested in our business, so we really felt on our own. The moral of the story being that unless you’re prepared to do the hard work yourself to make it happen, it won’t happen
  • Continuing from the previous point, we found a lack of boat operators who could help to make sailing, snorkelling and diving straight forward. The guy at Miti Miwiri Guest House (closed while we were there) was helpful and tried to advise us and was definitely the best help we got (after Lucy had left)
  • All the islands are expensive however many are private and exclusive. Ilha do Ibo which is the cheapest and most accessible of the islands, while not overall expensive, still doesn’t offer a great deal of value for money. Not ideal for backpackers or those with a budget
  •  There are better islands and beaches around , both in Mozambique and outside it, that are just as beautiful and offer better value!

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