One of my fondest travel memories, having my hair braided by a local woman on Quirimba Island.
Mozambique is one of the most stunning countries we’ve ever backpacked through! There were literally just a handful of other tourists around, besides a few South Africans in the very south of the country. We met a guy from Germany and a girl from Luxembourg and the four of us were determined to make our way to the untouched, pristine and off-the-beaten-path paradise of the Quirimbas Archipelago in the far north of the country. We hadn’t heard much about it, but knew it was tourist-free and had some of the best beaches in the world. It wasn’t going to be easy to get there by land, but we were ready for it. The journey from the southern part of Mozambique to the northern part of the country is one that tested our limits and patience!
Beautiful scenery on our journey to the north of Mozambique.
Small, local minibuses (chapas) typically departed between 2:30am and 5:30am, which meant that for about 7 days, we would need to be up at around 2:00 in the morning. After enduring jam-packed minibus rides, switching from bus to bus and passing through many dusty towns for 3 days, we decided to hitch-hike for the remainder of the journey. We weren’t going to waste any more time on buses, we wanted to get to our dream destination! We ended up making it to the north much faster than if we had taken local transport.
Hitch-hiking from Vilanculos to Nampula, a gas station in the middle of nowhere.
The Quirimbas Archipelago was everything we hoped for and more. We started the epic week on Ibo Island, a place with rural village life, friendly local people and no roads or vehicles. The people here were so surprised to see us and welcomed us to their homes. We were literally the only tourists on the whole island. There are a few little places for tourists to stay and we found ourselves at “Panela Africana”, owned by a very friendly French expat, Stephane, and his Mozambican wife. It just so happened that he was also a chef and we ate delicious, locally spiced seafood meals each night.
One of the many village homes on Ibo Island, Mozambique.
Stephane told us that at low tide, it’s possible to walk from Ibo across the ocean and through mangroves to Quirimba Island, a beautiful dot out in the ocean with nothing more than a local village. We made the journey there, through the maze of forest and we spent the day dancing, singing, attempting to open coconuts and playing with the local kids until the sun began to set. Since the tide had come in, we had no choice but to sail back through the labyrinth of mangroves under the moonlit sky. The trip to Quirimba Island and back is a great day excursion from Ibo and we definitely recommend it.
Us walking through the mangroves at low-tide from Ibo to Quirimba Island.
The main draw of coming all the way to the north and enduring those crazy travel days was the possibility of sailing around deserted islands and camping under the stars. We had asked Stephane if he knew any captains in the area that would be willing to take us sailing for a couple of nights. With his help, we had arranged a boat and a crew of 3 men and set out on a 2 night, 3 day adventure!
Our beautiful sailboat that would take us around the Quirimbas Archipelago.
The colour of the water and the sand on the islands of Matemo and Rolas was indescribable. We had to pinch ourselves, we couldn’t believe that places like this existed. We sailed the calm waters, snorkelled, swam and had perma-grins on our faces the entire time. We spent one night on Matemo Island and one night on Rolas Island. Our little camp consisted of our mosquito nets tied up to palm trees and a small cooler of food. We ate freshly caught fish for dinner and built massive bonfires on the beach each night. It was a tropical fantasy come true.
Our camp for the night on Matemo Island.
Jumping for joy! This beach on Matemo Island is unreal.
Travelling to the Quirimbas Archipelago is a must. It’s difficult to get there by land, but it is possible to skip all of the hard part in the middle of the country and fly directly from the south to the north. For us budget backpackers, this wasn’t an option. Plus, we had some great moments on those trying travel days. Getting off-the-beaten-path and finding a slice of paradise is something we feel everyone should try to do. Meeting local people who hardly, if ever, see a foreign face is an unforgettable experience and one that we highly recommend. So what are you waiting for? Get out there! For more information on travelling this stunning country, check out our extensive Guide To Backpacking Mozambique!
About The Authors:
Nick & Dariece have left everything behind in search of cultural experiences, beautiful beaches and off the beaten path adventures. They call themselves Goats On The Road and their website for independent backpackers encourages others to pack their bags and leave the ordinary behind. Visit Goats On The Road and get excellent tips for the adventurous budget backpacker!