Flying into Nampula, one of the first things I was quite captivated by were the huge Inselbergs. Impressive even from the height of the plane! These magnificent rock formations are prevalent in this part of Mozambique, formed by erosion they soar abruptly up from gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plains.
The flight with SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Nampula was an uneventful 2 & half hours, and on arrival in Nampula we cleared customs quickly and were met by our driver. I was fortunate enough to be traveling the 180 km road trip with Gail and Peter Woods, who own Ilha Blue Island Safaris on Ilha de Moçambique. The road condition is not too bad, and the drive takes about 2 and half hours. Some bad pot holes, so best to do this during daylight.
Gail and Peter were wonderful self appointed guides and were happy to share their knowledge with me. Aside from the massive Inselbergs, they pointed out huge salt mining operations in the area, large flat areas white with salt deposits. They have been tasked with finding exciting activities for the staff on the salt mines to keep them occupied over weekends, as there is not much of a social life for workers in this area.
Ilha de Moçambique – Access
When we arrived at the long causeway or bridge which stretches from the mainland to Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island), I was intrigued to note that this was a single lane! Yes, a 3 km long single lane bridge! We pulled over to wait for some oncoming cars to clear the causeway before we set off. It turns out there are a few areas along the narrow bridge which are double wide, and around 3 or 4 cars can pull to one side to allow oncoming traffic to go past. Apparently the unwritten “rule” is that whichever vehicle reaches the speed bumps, approx. midway between each double wide area, has right of way, and oncoming traffic must wait. If you’ve started out, you are then obliged to reverse, so apparently people are quite patient for the most part, but things can get a bit heated if traffic is a bit too busy!
UNESCO World Heritage Site
After this fascinating 3 kms we arrived on the island, which itself is only 3 km long and between 200 & 500 metres wide. Ilha de Moçambique is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and possibly one of Mozambique’s fastest growing tourist destinations, with a local population of approx. 14000 people, many who settled here as one of the safest places to be during the civil war.
The first half of the island is called Makuti Town, named for the specific type of house that is predominent in this part of the island. It is the poorer part of the island but with a large population. The more upmarket part of the island is called Stone Town, with bigger and somewhat more elaborate buildings, many built during Portuguese rule. The Fort of São Sebastião lies at the northern end of Stone Town. It is the oldest complete fort still standing in sub-Saharan Africa This fort was constructed by the Portuguese in the 1500’s. My new friends live and run their business in Stone Town, which is where we parted ways.
Coral Lodge – Dhow Transfer
I was then taken to a beach area for the final leg of my journey by motorised dhow from Ilha de Moçambique across Mossuril Bay to Coral Lodge, which nestles on a beautiful stretch of beach with the Indian Ocean on the one side and peaceful mangroves on the other side. The dhow trip takes around 30 minutes and I was supplied with cushions and towels to ensure my comfort. I arrived just as the sun was setting and the dhow could literally take me right up to the beach, where I was made very welcome by Filipa and Ricardo, the Managers of the resort, with a refreshing towel and a welcome drink!
Coral Lodge – Luxury Accommodation
Coral Lodge offers luxury accommodation just a short distance from the fascinating Ilha de Moçambique. Accommodation costs include a guided tour of the island which we undertook the following day. This lovely Mozambique beach resort has a total of 10 luxury Villas, 5 which face the sea and benefit from the sunrise, and 5 that edge the lagoon and peaceful mangroves, and experience beautiful sunsets.
Guests are treated to a your own personal host / butler to take care of your every need. The villas are beautifully appointed following recent refurbishments, with a lovely new fresh look. The en-suite bathrooms have a gorgeous freestanding bath and a shower. The villas are large and airy, and air-conditioning is piped in through an ingenious method over the bed to keep one cool at night! I can vouch that it works perfectly under the large mosquito net.
Activities on Offer
Activities offered include canoeing and paddle boarding in the mangroves, learning to sail a dhow, whale and dolphin watching (in season) windsurfing and fishing. You can also do as I did and enjoy an open air massage by Coral Lodge’s resident therapist!
A private picnic on a neighbouring island was something of a highlight, although the tour of Ilha de Moçambique is really something quite unique! James was our guide and he is extremely knowledgeable about the history of the island. The Fort of São Sebastiãoand the Museums are quite fascinating, as are the quaint cobbled streets where you will find a restaurant or café to get a cool drink or 2M beer to quench your thirst!