Ibo Island - Baobibo

Trip Start Apr 24, 2012
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Flag of Mozambique  , Cabo Delgado,
Monday, November 12, 2012

We are on our way to IBO!!

Ibo is one of nine islands forming the Quirimbas Archipelago. Arab influence dates back to as early AD600.  Trading in the Quirimbas Islands was in amber, jet, ivory, turtle shell and people. Historically, the island see-sawed between Portuguese and Omani Arab rule.  

In 1902 the capital District of Cabo Delgado was transferred from Ibo Island to Port Amelia, currently the city of Pemba. Since the Portuguese left in 1975 and up until the mid 90's very little development happened on the island, and the small population of Ibo lived in virtual isolation.  What is left of the once great trading power on Ibo is an island steeped in history and mystery.  Ibo has remained all but forgotten to the outside world for almost a century. Ibo only got electricity in April of this year, to give you an example. Architectural heirlooms from this era, canals cut by slaves, and other colonial ruins still stand today in the old Stone town of Ibo.

Ibo is not only an historical gem but also a playground for all who enjoy sun and sea.

We left Pemba at 5 am in order to be in Tanganyang by 8h30 to catch the sea taxi to IBO Island. Departure times are determined by the tide.  The saying "you've missed the boat" applies here quite literally. It is a bit of a race as one not only has to make it on time but also beat the next person from taking the last seat. There is a "strict baggage restriction", or so we were told. One small bag only, per person. We were the only law abiding citizens as our fellow travellers brought everything including the kitchen sink with them. When asking, "how many can fit into a Dhow"?....the answer is "always space for one more". There is no such thing as a life jacket on board, and you best bring your own sun protection as there is nowhere to hide from the African Sun. The duration of the trip is around 45 min. The whole process has a real old world feeling, all part of the special experience.

We will stay at Baobibo. It is only 150 m from the landing.  No chance of getting lost as everyone on Ibo knows each other, or at least about each other. A young chap walked with us to Baobibo, it is on his way home and Lucie is his friend.

Lucie, the owner, is an amazing French/Swiss lady that came to Ibo two years ago. She liked it so much that she stayed and built a guesthouse. Baobibo is a delightful place to stay. She designed it, and with the help of the locals, built it in true island style with sticks, coral stone, Lime and sand from the main land (salty sea sand cannot be used). Her design is fresh and new, yet earthly. She is in the process of completing the 3rd room. It is however not Baobibo that steals ones heart, it is Lucie. Her warmth and kindness will draw you back to the island, time and again.

 There are only 3 cars on Ibo.  Here, you walk where you want to be. We had a nap and then set off to discover stone town. Walking around on Ibo with its ruins and unique atmosphere is refreshing and even romantic. Every now and again a local appears, going about their normal lives. It is like being on a movie set.

We stopped off at "Cinqo Portas" for a beer. There is nothing like a cold beer in this heat.   Cinqo Portas is a pub and lodge. They utilized an old building on the main street to transform it into a lodge. Very nice place ...........but it does not have a Lucie!

The Island is famous for the jewellery produced here. Old silver coins, mostly of Portuguese origin, are collected from the ocean floor by means of free diving. The jewellery is unique to Ibo, it is delicate and intricate, mostly used for traditional ceremony. Jewellery was primarily used when someone was getting married or for some other big occasion.  An old house, a ruin really, is used as a workshop where they work on the floor with hand tools only. Looking at the jewellery, it is hard to believe that such beautiful jewellery can be crafted in such poor surrounds. They also incorporate bits of old ceramic plates, found on the beach, in the jewellery.

From here we went to Stefano at African Pot, a short distance from there. There are no shops on Ibo thus you have to eat out.  One has to order a meal a couple of hours in advance. Stefano is Frenchman, married to a Mozambican, with 2 lovely young boys. Stefano came here to set up a business with scuba diving, his passion.   When this did not pan out he fell back on this original profession, he is a chef with his own restaurant. I ordered crab in coconut and ginger sauce and Carlos ordered fish. Dinner will be at 7 pm.

We walked back towards Baobibo and just missed the “open door” at the fort.  The fort is one of Ibo’s land marks.  Back at Lucie's, we had a coffee and sat around chatting about the program for the next day. Ramon and Rebecca would accompany us on a walk to the neighbouring island. Yes, a walk. This, you do at 6 am while the tide is low. It is about a 45 min walk through mangroves. A tricky walk where you have to place each foot carefully or you end up in the water or mud.  It is hard to believe that some of the locals do this walk every day.  To top it off, with a load of whatever they are carrying on their heads.  After the mangroves there is a stretch of hard sand and then a water crossing – waist deep. By the time we got to the island, my legs were heavy.  In other countries, people pay to get this kind of exercise. This is better than any gym session by far.  

We stopped off to order lunch and to have a cool drink. As there is no electricity on the island, cool drinks are warm.  We ordered fish with coconut rise for lunch – no mystery there – and then walked through the village.  There are kids everywhere and they follow you where ever you go.  Carlos had great fun chasing them around and playing all sorts of games. I focused on picking up shells. Soon the tide came in and we had to leave, by boat this time. 

We had dinner at Lucie as we were too late to order dinner elsewhere.  Ramon prepared a delicious meal. Tomorrow we will go snorkelling at the wreck and sandbank. Lucie organised everything for us, from our personal Dhow with crew to snorkel gear and cover from the sun.  She negotiates the price and uses only people she can rely on.

Two French girls would join us.  They are here to study stone town’s architecture.  When we got to the wreck the sea was a bit rough but good enough to snorkel.  As the wreck forms an artificial reef there is an incredible amount to see.  It was a first for Carlos and I.  A great experience!

From here we would sail to the sand banks.  Three sand banks emerge from the ocean during low tide.  The surrounding area is great to snorkel in and the sand banks are a hidden treasure exposed.  Thanks to Lucie’s makeshift shelter we enjoyed fresh Pau and eggs for lunch before having to go back to the main land.  The dhow will drop us at Tanganyang where we left the car.  Far too short a time to even touch what the Quirimbas has to offer.  But thanks to Lynn at Pemba Dive we now know about this treasure in the Indian Ocean and are compelled to come back.  Next time in May for at least a month or two.    
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