Where to Go in the Quirimbas

The extensive Quirimbas Archipelago consists of 27 offshore islands strung along the coast parallel to Pemba. Ibo Island is the best known of the islands, with opulent architecture and a fascinating history, while other private islands just have a single luxury lodge sitting right at the water’s edge.

Find out more about where to go in the Quirimbas to help choose your perfect island escape.


Pemba, a cosmopolitan coastal town in northern Mozambique, is the gateway to the magical Quirimbas Archipelago. The town itself is a bit run down and has a mix of beautiful yet dilapidated buildings and wooden huts set under huge baobab trees. We’d recommend a cultural tour of Pemba, and don’t miss a visit to the market, which is nearly 2km long and has thousands of stalls selling everything from spices to bicycle spares.

The diving around Pemba is superb, with unspoilt coral reefs, a dizzying display of tropical fish and a good chance of seeing turtles or dolphins. Do bear in mind though, that Pemba is not really a beach destination. Most visitors spend a night or two at Pemba Beach Hotel and Spa to sample mainland culture, before hopping across for a true tropical break on the Quirimbas Islands.

Medjumbe Island

Medjumbe is a tiny castaway island, only 800m in length, and the perfect romantic retreat. The translucent sea is alive with a dazzling display of coral and fish, while above the waves the island teems with birdlife. This really is a fantasy island for those who wish to have exclusivity and privacy in a remote tropical location. Leisurely days can be spent exploring numerous coves, and you can arrange a private picnic on the nearby island of Quissanga.

There is a small airstrip, and accommodation is available in luxurious beach chalets at Medjumbe Island Retreat.

Quilalea Island

Immediately to the south of Ibo Island, Quilalea Island is a small, tropical paradise which is completely uninhabited – staying here you easily get the feeling that you have the whole place to yourself.

The Quilalea Sanctuary was the first marine protected area in the Quirimbas. There is an incredible abundance of sea life in the surrounding ocean, and a coral reef just five metres from the main beach. Swim, snorkel, go scuba diving and fishing, or for long, leisurely strolls.

If this sounds like your kind of holiday, take a helicopter transfer from Pemba to the island, and stay in a villa at Azura @ Quilalea Private Island.

Vamizi Island

The biodiversity at Vimizi Island is incredible, with abundant tropical vegetation and samango monkeys playing in the trees. You can walk forever along deserted beaches where you may see tracks left by hawksbill and green turtles; over 300 turtle nest sites have been protected to date. Reefs of unbleached coral provide idyllic conditions for both snorkelling and scuba diving, and all six of Vamizi’s beaches slope gently into the sea – so you can safely wade out into the warm tropical water.

We’d recommend staying in one of the luxurious beach houses at Vamizi Island Lodge, where a selection of loungers, swinging beds and ‘Swahili day beds’ provide perfect spots to while away the heat of the day – gazing over dog-eared pages at the translucent ocean.

Ibo Island

Ibo dates back to the early 1600s and has a fascinating history of slaves, pirates and ivory trading. This small, forested island is understandably the most visited part of the Quirimbas Archipelago and has recently been nominated for World Heritage status.

Ibo town was once a prosperous trading post, but today many of the colonial houses have been abandoned, and are crumbling beyond repair. Walking along wide roads lined with grand, old mansions is almost like stepping back 200 years in time. A guided tour will take you to the beautiful Catholic Church and the fort of St Jao Baptista on the northern side of the island. Silversmiths at the fort melt down old nickel coins to create delicate silver bracelets and pendants.