Located off the northern Mozambique coast, in the Quirimbas Archipelago, beautifully maintained, a destination that has as much to do with island’s people as it does the sun and the sea, Ibo Island Lodge is one of the most unusual places on the whole east African coast.
Despite a short period of development in the mid 90s, when a Portuguese led initiative collapsed following independence, the island itself has changed very little in over 300 years, and rather than add to – and possibly detract from – the town’s architecture, the lodge’s owners chose to convert 3 ex-colonial / business properties. Set along the entrance to the harbour from the main sea, the largest was once the home and administration building of the Portuguese governor. Over 100 years old, each property has been most carefully restored.
With walls one metre thick, high ceilings and great sprawling verandhas, Ibo Island Lodge consists of a main house and 9 sleeping rooms, 2 with a sea view, and the rest facing onto a closed courtyard with a small plunge pool. The main house, Bela Vista, includes a verandha (sea facing), a roof terrace bar / restaurant / lounge, a private dining room (with space for up to 16 diners), reception, swimming pool and garden. Where possible, original fittings have been retained, as have the rooms’ idiosyncratic designs, and any additions – doors, furniture etc. – are very much in keeping with local designs and traditions.
With the other 2 properties set aside for accommodation, the sleeping rooms are spacious, airy and unique. Each possesses a handcrafted double / twin bed, enormous mosquito nets, a verandha and a separate bathroom. Restrained and warm, each room is characterised by white walls, stone floors, hand-woven rugs, antique side-tables and old storage chests. The style is Moroccan, and veers towards the kinds of designs one might find in Zanzibar. Please note that only some of the rooms of Ibo Island Lodge have outdoor showers.
It is important to note that this is not a classic beach holiday destination, despite its extraordinary location. As much about about the exploration of history, architecture, religion and language, as it is relaxation, sun and sea, the lodge’s world class beach and associated activities simply add to what is an authentic coastal community experience. More, Ibo Island Lodge represents the island’s most important source of living. Involved from concept to launch (today’s staff were yesterday’s builders), the community and the lodge are one and the same, a fact noted, appreciated and enjoyed by returning guests.
Activities include snorkelling, dhow trips, bird watching, massage and local excursions.
As the first tourism investor on Ibo the company believes that it is critical that the local communities benefit from tourism development. This is quality, low impact and ethical tourism where each guest’s visit makes a difference to the communities involved.
Ibo Island has a community of approximately 3000 people. The lodge directly employs approx 38 permanent staff. Each of these staff members can support up to 20 people made up of extended family. Therefore Ibo Island Lodge directly affects approx 800 people’s lives on Ibo.
Ibo Island Lodge is the centre of numerous community schemes providing both income and development opportunities.
Stakes And Ventures
While the lodge was build, we also built a community school which then grew into the Montessori English School. The school started out teaching English, hospitality and tourism training, and was free of charge to anyone from the Island. The Montessori school now teaches children in English and is also free of charge and the long term goal is to extend the training to identified adult learners, who can then become teachers, benefiting the larger part of Ibo’s children.
The silversmith project, just another Record initiative, provides income opportunities for the Ibo community. Traditional silversmiths on Ibo Island hand craft exquisite, intricate, jewellery. The project aims to stimulate a more equitable distribution of the benefits, and provide high quality raw materials to the silversmiths.
The more jobs on Ibo that don’t depend on fishing, the better for the increasingly overtaxed marine life of this proposed World Heritage Site.
Just as there was little concept of tourism on Ibo Island before our project, there was also little concept of conservation of biodiversity. We aim to reduce the local use of threatened natural resources.
A Heavy Responsibility
The community on Ibo have always survived on the natural resources around the island. As a result, over-fishing, destructive netting practices, trade in curios, and slash and burn agriculture are all factors that threaten the sensitive biodiversity.
Ibo Island has been nominated as a World Heritage Site and falls within the protected Quirimbas National Park. The Quirimbas supports a wealth of animal and plant species. The park is considered one of the most important, and biodiverse marine regions in the world.
Ibo Island Lodge recognizes the important role of business in the conservation of biodiversity, and how by employing local people from Ibo, this assists to preserve the natural resources of the region. Ibo Island Lodge operates by one philosophy, to live in a manner that does not despoil, exhaust or extinguish our environment.