by Tamlin Wightman on October 19, 2011
5 min read

Unless you have something against Paradise, you won’t mind hearing a bit about Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago. Our travel consultants have just returned from an out-of-this-world trip to this part of Africa, exploring the archipelago’s islands deep in the northern reaches of Mozambique.

The Quirimibas is one of the world’s most remote beach destinations and certainly more off the beaten track than southern neighbour Bazaruto. Silky, white sand beaches. Tropical crystal clear waters. Palm trees peering out onto the horizon. You’ve heard it all before. But have you seen it? All?

The Quirimibas Archipelago contains a collection of over 30 islands off the coast of Pemba. These islands stretch for over 250km from Ilha Tecomaji in the north to Ilha Mefunvo in the south. They really do offer a Robinson Crusoe style secluded getaway – tourists are few and far between and you have beaches of indescribable beauty all to yourself.

Our consultants started at Pemba, moving north to Ibo, Matemo, Medjumbe and then Vamizi.

Quirimbas Archipelago Map


Pemba is a historic town in a scenic setting, nicknamed Mozambique’s “papaya paradise”. It’s a little run down, but is the gateway to the islands. There are no ATMs at the small Pemba airport and the island experiences frequent electricity outages. Visas are needed for foreigners and be prepared that officials at the airport are thorough with checking luggage – so don’t try sneak out any coral.

Stay: Pemba Beach Hotel lies between Pemba Bay and Wimbe beach in the Quirimbas Archipelago, 10 minutes from the airport. Albeit being basic, it is one of the best hotels on Pemba Island and is a great place to stay, with an exceptional spa to boot. It is particularly good as a stopover point on your journey to one of the more isolated lodges in the Quirimbas archipelago.

Ibo Island

The Indian Ocean paradise of Ibo Island lies just 71 nautical miles from mainland Pemba. It has quite a history! It served as a prosperous and important trading post for Arabs, Indians and Portuguese for about 500 years. Grand colonial buildings, majestic mansions and forebearing forts lined the town as pirates and slave traders roamed the seas. Now most of these buildings are in ruins but it is fascinating to wander the streets with history behind almost every stone.

Stay: Ibo Island Lodge is situated on the famous waterfront, which was once the centre of a grand trading port. You can see dhows still sailing out to sea at high tide. It’s a cultural island, with sandstone buildings and is rustic, comfortable and full of character. Here you can enjoy cushy sleeptimes on four poster wooden beds and excellent food and service. Take a dhow or boat out to the massive sand bank that juts out at low tide and enjoy a picnic lunch set out under tents for your enjoyment.

Dhow and Kayak Safaris

Enhance your stay on the island by going on a unique dhow and kayak excursion. Ibo Island Lodge is the only operator to offer tented mobile dhow, kayak, and birding island hopping safaris in the Quirimbas Archipelago. You will be under the expert leadership of a pro guide and local crew and get to explore the coastline on a sturdy motorized 11 metre Arab dhow. You can also go by sea kayak or sail up the wide coastal river mouths teeming with red listed bird species and pristine mangrove forests. Enjoy snorkelling and other water activities on the way, sleep in mobile fly camps during your journey, and indulge in delicious fresh seafood made by the local chef.

To include this in your trip to Ibo Island and the Quirimbas, contact us and we’ll tailor-make an exciting island holiday for you.

Dhow and kayak safari Mozambican adventure

Matemo Island

Matemo Island is only a 20-minute flight from mainland Pemba. The tropical waters around Matemo provide the perfect snorkeling and diving experience with many many amazing reefs to explore including a few wrecks and spectacular coral “bommies”. The fishing here is also excellent, whether in the deeper water or simply from the shore you are bound to hook into some fun and excitement.

Stay: Matemo Island Resort has 24 thatched chalets with an Indonesian style. Relax in the hammocks or at the spa and enjoy terrific food. It’s great for families and combines well with a half-day trip to Ibo. The language barrier between English-speaking guests and staff is an issue but the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Medjumbe Island

Medjumbe Island, a 30 minute flight from Pemba, is a small private Mozambican island only 1 kilometre long and 500 metres wide. Expect more endless white sand and crystal waters.

Stay: Medjumbe Private Island Resort is a luxury hotel with great water activities on offer – such as boat trips (see dolphins swimming alongside you), and snorkelling and diving in crystal clear water with diverse coral. There are private plunge pools, a dive centre close by, as well as a great spa. Take note female readers: it’s an only male island, so expect attention. Stay in great beach-facing rooms and wake up to the Indian Ocean. It’s great for honeymooners!

Did you know: We featured Medjumbe Private Island Resort on our Top 10 List of off-the-beaten-track African Destinations 2011.

Vamizi Island

Vamizi Island is a 50 minute light aircraft flight from Pemba and is on the Tanzanian time zone. It’s an exclusive island quite in the middle of nowhere with beautiful beaches and warm waters.

Stay: Vamizi Island Lodge has 13 large villas, equipped with mosquito nets, with great beaches that you can walk along to your villa. Vamizi is great for honeymooners and fully-inclusive. You can enjoy a lunch at the lighthouse ruins and optional dinners on the beach, and partake in water activities and go scuba-diving, snorkelling and deep sea fishing. This is remote barefoot luxury at its best – which is what you pay for. The staff are sweet but there is a language barrier.

For more information about the beautiful Quirimibas Archipelago, contact us and we can help you plan an out-of-this-world trip there to suit your needs and wishes. We can even help you combine a beach and bush safari holiday, including a stopover at Lugenda Wilderness Camp, set in the remote Niassa National Reserve of Mozambique mainland, or alternatively Gorongosa National Park in the south.

For something other than the Quirimbas, try the the Bazaruto Archipelago also in Mozambique. David recently visited Marlin Lodge for a rustic beach holiday. Read more here.