Located off the northern Mozambique coast in the Quirimbas Archipelago, a destination that has as much to do with island’s community 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 (the Portuguese led initiative collapsed following independence) the island itself has changed very little in over 300 years. Rather than add to – and possibly detract from – the town’s architecture, the lodge’s owners chose to convert three 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 meticulously restored.
With walls one metre thick, high ceilings and great sprawling verandas, Ibo Island Lodge consists of a main house and nine sleeping rooms, two with a sea view, and the rest facing onto a closed courtyard with a small plunge pool. The main house, Bela Vista, includes a veranda (sea facing), a roof terrace bar/restaurant, a private dining room (with space for up to sixteen 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.
Food & service
Ibo Island’s local chef prepares a variety of delicious fresh meals, naturally utilizing the island’s abundance of crab and lobster. The smoked sail fish and coconut and chilli traditional Ibo Island crab curry stood out as two particularly fine examples of Ibo’s outstanding cuisine. Fruits of the ocean and coffee éclairs are desert favourites, and the food is complimented by an extensive wine menu. We recommend you enjoy dinner on the rooftop terrace under the stars; if you listen closely, the singing of dolphins can be heard drifting across the bay.
With the other two properties set aside for accommodation, the sleeping rooms are spacious, airy and unique. Each possesses a handcrafted double/twin bed, enormous mosquito nets, a veranda and a separate bathroom. Restrained and warm, the rooms are 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 the exploration of history, architecture, religion and language, as it is about relaxation, sun and sea, the Lodge’s world class beach and associated activities simply add to what is an authentic coastal community experience. Moreover, 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 entwined, a fact noted and appreciated 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.
Just as there was little concept of tourism on Ibo Island before the Lodge, there was also little concept of conservation of biodiversity. The owners aim to reduce the local use of threatened natural resources.
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 has a community of around 3000 people, and the Lodge directly employs approximately 38 permanent staff.
The silversmith project provides income opportunities for the Ibo community. Traditional silversmiths on Ibo Island handcraft exquisite, intricate, jewellery. The project aims to stimulate a more equitable distribution of the benefits and provide high quality raw materials to the silversmiths.
Ibo Island Lodge is the centre of numerous community schemes providing both income and development opportunities. When the lodge was constructed, the developers also built a community school which 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 still free of charge.