Ibo Island is a castaway tropical island on the edge of the world. To be exact, Ibo Island is located in the Indian Ocean in the Quirimbas Archipelago, northern Mozambique. The climate is always summer and experiences aren't few and far between.
|The Quirimbas Archipelago...
The Quirimbas Archipelago stretches for 100 kilometers along the Mozambique coast. Making up this stretch is a tropical cluster of 32 coral coconut islands, 12 major islands and 20 smaller coralline outcrops.
Ibo Island forms part of the 12 major coconut island chain, and is considered the most atmospheric of the lot.
Ibo Island is all about the intangibles: space to breath, the smell of nature, and a 'what day is it?' mentality. The phrase, "time stood still," is often compared to the feeling of Ibo Island. 1975, the year the Portuguese left Ibo Island, is considered the exact date time stood still on Ibo--and stands still to this day.
Formerly a Portuguese colony, the island has a lost world appeal. Deserted beaches and wild frontiers would be the best way to define Ibo Island if you were limited to one sentence. Roads are dusty and filled with crumbling colonial buildings and decaying forts that date back to decades of Portuguese occupation. The interior is bushy and wild, fauna and tropical trees dominating any architectural structure still standing. There is one car on Ibo Island, no shops, and the island really feels like a page out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, "The Lost World".
The people on Ibo seem more curious about you, than you may be about them. They speak Kimwani, a strange sounding minority language with a large number of loan words from Arabic. And the children love to have their photo taken, and often whisper to you from the other side of the street, "fo-tea, fo-tea" which is suggestive for "please take my picture".
Hair down and feet wet are as important as sunscreen in this hot, faintly mysterious place.
|The Visitor Experience:
One can expect an experience visiting this African island that definitely is not Caribbean.
Snorkel off shipwreck boats, sunk for centuries. Tan your cheeks on a deserted sandbank beach. Handcraft your own jewellery in the 17th century star fort. Dive deep into ocean currents where you will meet Angelfish and Sweetlips. Visit Quirimbas Island where local woman weave Maluane cloth, and tales of Arab maritime merchants are told. Play the traditional Indian Ludo board game with the children at Ibo Island Montessori School. SDail on an Arab dhow to have a saucy luncheon on an uninhabited Mogundula Island . The island lies just 4 kilometers off the mainland, has two lonely beaches, and a sacred lake. The lake is said to be protected by the local legend coconut crab. Opt for a culturally inspired massage treatment, recipes and creams all made from borrowed recipes of the local ladies. Hook game fish around Ibo Island's drop-offs, surf lines and reefs. Get wild on the waves in your kayak. Watch the sun sink aboard an Arabian dhow.
The things to keep you busy on Ibo Island are endless. Be it beach visits you seek, wild water sports to get the heart racing, cultural exchanges for broadening perspective, or simply being spoiled at the luxury lodge.
And last but not least, as they say in Kimwani, the island's dialect, "Tikuwa nao jambo ra sheree," or, "Let's have a party".
| The people of Ibo seem woven together, religion and culture being the distinct threads. Most of them are warm hearted and charismatic characters. Pride in their island seems to burst from within them, and they are not shy to share all they know with visitors.
The people of Ibo are Kimwani speaking, a language closely related to Swahili and meaning 'the language spoken by four peoples'--namely, Swahili, Jawa, Nyanga, and Macua. Up to 20 percent of the population of Ibo are also able to speak Portuguese. Ibo Island is approximately 3500 people strong. 99% of the island is Muslim, because of the strong Arab influences in Mozambique's history. In addition to that, Mozambique tribal customs are still respected and practiced daily.
Ibo Island Lodge is the pioneering tourism investment on the island. All the lodge's efforts are focused on community empowerment.
Montessori schooling opens its doors to all children wanting to be taught and all adults wanting to teach. The Montessori school attracts teaching volunteers from all over the world. Schooling is free of charge to any community member and Ibo Island Lodge staff member.
Garden community project:
The Ibo Island Lodge pilot garden projects sprout local African vegetables, common greens and sweet fruit. While these gardens currently dictate when island guests will eat cucumber in their salads, the larger intent is to develop a garden community project to teach basic garden skills and to develop a sustainable vegetable patch for the community.
Ancient coffee plantation projects produce local Ibo coffee. The coffee is hand ground and roasted on an open fire.
|The Silversmiths on Ibo Island:
| There are about 40 silversmiths on Ibo Island today. Many work out of Ibo Island's 17th century star-shaped fort. These craftsmen all bringing to Ibo Island a unique jewellery piece found nowhere else in the world. Traditional silversmiths on Ibo Island hand craft exquisite and intricate jewellery using Ancient Arab techniques and tools. Some intricate pieces can take up to 2 weeks to complete, before the silversmith is completely satisfied with his creation. It is believed that the silver tradition on Ibo Island dates back to the 12th century when Muslim explorers brought their culture and religion to East Africa.
Visitors to Ibo Island are able to 'become a silversmith for a day'. You will be taught how to shape the silver, about the melting and annealing process of the jewellery making, and you will visit the 17th-century star-shaped fort where you will learn to use the rolling machine, the only machinery used in the silversmithing process.
Training is done on an individual basis, and you will be able to spend time one on one with a traditional Ibo Island silversmith.
You should have an adventure bone, an interest in the worlds of the past, culture adhesion, and be a water baby by nature to fully appreciate the Ibo Island experience. If you do, it really willbe one of those lifetime experiences you will cherish.
Sailing south with the monsoon winds, Ormani Arab traders sailed to the Quirimbas Archipelago as early as AD600. Here traders made contact with the Ibo Island locals and established fortified trading posts along the coastline. Scrimshander ivory, Sun God amber, turtle shell and slaves were all commodities of the Indian Ocean trade.
The prison in which the slaves were held captive is still on Ibo today and can be visited. A mangrove channel cut by slaves is used today by ships bringing in food from the mainland as well as by kayaking excursion hosted by the lodges on the island.
In 1498 Vasco da Gama arrived in Mozambique, and set the way for Portuguese expansion.
By now, the Quirimbas islands were dominated by Muslim traders. The name had even changed to the Maluane Islands (Maluane, designed by the Muslim traders, is a woven cloth both in silk and cotton, dyed bright with local indigo.) Conflict and conquest arose between trading Muslims and trading Portuguese Christians, both groups refusing to trade with each other. For a time, Ibo Island and the Quirimbas became the prize in a tug-of-war between Portuguese and Omani Arab rule, as if they were not inhabited islands but a treasure trove.
Ibo Island gained municipal status in 1763, and by the end of the 18th century was regarded to have been the second most important Portuguese trading centre after Ilha do Mozambique.
Because trade flourished, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the population of Ibo Island and the adjacent regions were consistently under attack from Dutch and Madagascar forces. As a result of attacks, forts were established and colonial buildings constructed. These buildings are still standing on Ibo Island. In 1902 the capital district was transferred from Ibo Island to Port Amelia. In 1975 the Portuguese left Ibo Island, and since then, the small population of Ibo has lived in virtual isolation. It was only in 2006 that Ibo Island opened up--if only slightly--to the rest of the world.
Thanks to its historic and cultural value, Ibo Island has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status.
| Ibo Island Lodge is located on the waterfront site of Ibo Island. The lodge is owned by Kevin and Fiona Record, who express the very essence of the island, offering their guests everything from a range of island activities, to involvement in community projects.
The lodge encompasses magnificent mansions, each over one hundred years old. Rooms have been designed to incorporate the original Portuguese colonial architecture of the buildings. Ibo Island Lodge has 9 air-conditioned rooms in total, some facing the sea and others facing the gardens. All include en-suite facilities with twin basins and large showers.
The lodge has two swimming pools set in tropical gardens, an air-conditioned lounge and private dining room, as well as a roof terrace restaurant with an open-air lounge area for after dinner drinks.
Meals feature freshly Ibo-grown vegetables, herbs and fruits. Dining at Ibo Island Lodge combines traditional specialties with saucy seafood straight from the sea surrounding the lodge. Tropical desserts are all unhurried and cooked from scratch by the local chefs. Food at the lodge is so good that people from the mainland often fly in for a fine dining lodge dinner.
|Getting to Ibo Island:
Guests fly to Pemba International airport (Cabo Delgado) where they are met by a representative and then transferred by light aircraft to Ibo Island. The breathtakingly beautiful flight affords guests a chance to take a scenic flight over some of the Quirimbas Archipelago and is a highlight.
Clients with their own planes can fly to Ibo but will have to pay a US$5 landing fee.
A helicopter charter from Pemba to Ibo is available.
|Radio phone line Ibo Island Lodge: +258 269 60522,
Central Reservations (South Africa) Tel: +27 21 702 0285 Fax: +27 21 702 0692
Traditional Silversmiths: http://iboislandsilversmithexperience.wordpress.com
PHOTO CREDITS: Courtesy of Ibo Island Lodge, Tamara Wilson