All of us at CW Safaris are enchanted by our Mozambique: Ibo Island Dhow Safari. So we were thrilled (but not surprised) when National Geographic named this itinerary one of their “50 Tours of a Lifetime.” It’s a trip unlike any other, immersing you into the breathtaking world of coastal Mozambique, exploring its islands, rich culture, and fresh cuisine all from the thrilling vantage point of the deck of a dhow, the traditional Arabic sailboats that brought goods up and down the coast of Africa for centuries. Here are six once-in-a-lifetime highlights:
1. Swimming with dolphins: As your dhow glides through crystal blue waters, playful dolphins may appear unexpectedly to frolic underwater. The local Dive Quirimbas activity center coordinates tours to let you swim with dolphins. They support research to learn about and protect the dolphins of Ibo Island, so you can play with dolphins in an environment designed to be sensitive to their unique needs.
2. The silversmiths of Ibo Island. You can see the melting pot of cultural influences in the intricate metal work of Ibo Island’s silversmiths. Arabian explorers brought the craft to East Africa in the 12th century, and generations since have wrought gorgeously designed silver jewelry, layering traditions from Chinese, Indian, British and Portugese traders who have visited Ibo Island. If you’d like, you can bring your own silver jewelry to be melted down and crafted into Ibo rings, necklaces and earrings.
3. Blissful solitude: This is the ultimate retreat in paradise. Cruising from island to island by peaceful dhow sailboat and camping on the scarcely inhabited islands of the Quirimbas archipelago, is an escape like no other. Your mind will be lulled by the rhythm of the ocean, as your eyes take in pristine coastline and starry night skies. Experience life on a desert island in luxury—sleep in tents furnished with mattresses and picnic on freshly caught seafood on your own private shores.
4. Ultra-fresh food: While on dhow safari, you’ll dine on sustainably, freshly caught seafood, while a garden at Ibo Island Lodge provides fresh produce for your island hopping safari. In Mozambican food, you’ll see the melding of tropical flavors, fresh seafood and Portugese cooking traditions. Fresh shrimp, served with a simmered pesto of ground cassava leaves and pesto make a traditional dish known as Matapa. Or you might try coconut- and chili-inflected crab curry, or savor desserts made from the coconuts and pineapples that grow in Mozambique
5. Revel in the rich history. Still sheltered from heavy tourism (and protected from development through its World Heritage Site status), Ibo Island has a feeling of being lost in time. Since 600 AD, it has been the crossroads of trade, as Arab traders fortified the shores with forts and shipped slaves and gold throughout the Arab world. As the centuries passed, it was alternately conquered and crossed by Portugese, Dutch, Indian, and Chinese people and their influence is apparent in the architecture of the island.
6. Meet warm and welcoming people. For an island that is still fairly new to tourism, you’ll find that the 3,500 residents of Ibo Island are some of the most wonderful and welcoming in the world. They bring vibrancy and joy to the historically rich backdrop, and you’ll meet them in their everyday world—crafting silver, steering your ship, preparing food and teaching their children.
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