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Sunday, July 24

Ibo Island – Quirimbas Archipelago – Mozambique

Brett: We woke up at 3am and set off towards Tandanhague to get the dhow to Ibo Island. The drive is about 120km and takes about 3.5 hours due to all the deep drainage ditches. We were treated to an awesome sunrise and got to watch people starting their days and getting about their lives. Tandanhague was very different to what we expected – a very small village about 2kms from the “port”, then the only building was a little shop and a fenced off area with a couple of other 4x4s parked. We parked the Beast and took our stuff down to where the dhows come in and left the Beast for its first night alone in the wild.

The beach is very shallow and calm, with mangroves all around, and the dhows can only get close enough to the beach at high tide. As it was, the dhow got beached quite far out, so people carried their belongings and waded up to about thigh deep to get to the dhows. There was also a flat bottomed metal boat (like a floating sardine tin) that took people to the dhows without getting their feet wet for 20 Mtc each, but we didn’t bother and waded out instead. I suspect there are two dhows, one direct and one that goes us via Quirimba Island. We managed to get the detour boat, which is great as we effectively got a free look at Quirimba Island as well, which is normally quite an expensive extra trip. It is very pretty and looks like a typical postcard island, but the only accommodation available is the very expensive luxury lodges so staying over there was not an option. The dhow picked up a couple of other people and a few motorbikes at Quirimba and headed through the mangrove channels for Ibo - although for the first 30 minutes the GPS told us we were going in the wrong direction.

We climbed off at Ibo and the dhow captain mysteriously didn’t have change (despite having taken fares from the other passengers), so rather than leave him with a much larger note we had to borrow some change from one of the local guides. We really didn’t want a guide, but had no choice as we had to get to a place to stay before we could make change to pay him back. We walked along the beach and liked the look of Cinco Portas ($50pn), and having bumped into our Italian friends from Gurue at Pemba, we knew that was where they would be staying.

Mary: we set off to explore the town – there are some amazing abandoned buildings and the village has a very relaxed feel. We bought some of the fried dough balls (maandazi) for almost nothing and enjoyed them so much that we went back and bought lots more. We also finally found coconuts for sale, after seeing so many coconut palms - Brett struggled a bit but probably got one of his five a day! Later we met up with the Italians and had a drink with them while they showed us their amazing photos of India, Nepal, Namibia and Kenya. They had ended up doing the low tide walk out to Quirimba Island, about 5kms away, and then had not been able to get a dhow back when the tide came in, so they ended up walking back in the baking heat through deep water mud.

Cinco Portas was nice accommodation, and although it was expensive it was pretty much the standard price for Ibo. We were pleasantly surprised to find that breakfast was included in the price, but annoyed when we found out we would have to miss it, as we would have to leave before the kitchen opened to catch the dhow back. They weren’t willing to open the kitchen 30 minutes early or to pack us something to take on the dhow, and the manager Benjamin got quite aggressive when we asked if we could have the cost of the breakfast deducted from our bill. The owner, who had been sitting a few meters away but ignoring us, disappeared mysteriously at that point. Oh well.

We left early the next morning to catch the dhow and were some of the last people to arrive, so we climbed in and wedged ourselves into two tiny spaces right on the edge of the boat, which was packed. I’m not sure if Brett was technically “IN” the dhow as he was slightly more precariously perched on the edge, and we only stayed dry because the water was relatively calm. It is interesting to see how the locals travelled and when we paid, we saw that the locals paid half what we paid (although 100 Mtc each - $3 - seemed quite reasonable). The dhow was so full that it couldn’t get to the shallow water and was getting beached at what was probably about chest depth. We (and half the passengers) climbed across to another dhow to spread the weight so we could get closer in to shore and as the two dhows separated, one young, well dressed local guy in fairly feminine sunglasses got caught between the boats and, after a prolonged period of stretching over the water with everyone laughing at  him rather than helping, he fell in.

Ibo is nice but smaller and has less going on than Illa de Mozambique, which has a similar feel - most of the people we spoke to said they preferred Illa de Moz. Getting therein the dhow is a complete hassle, but definitely was an important part of the experience for us! If only someone was running a live aboard boat at a reasonable price (preferably departing from Pemba), that would be an amazing experience and would give you more of an taste of the harder to reach islands – perhaps a business venture for another day!

We were relieved to find the car untouched after its first night alone and headed up towards Pangani – only 35 km away in a straight line but 150km along the roads.

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