Wimbe Beach and Ibo Island (Quirimbas Archipelago)
06.30.2008 - 07.05.2008
Waking up in Pemba the next day, we realized that we were at an aging beach strip called Wimbe Beach. A bit of a letdown since we had read fairly positive things about it. The beach is perfectly beautiful, as is Pemba Bay, but the accomodations available are either 5-star or just tolerable. The strip has a few beach restaurants, vacation homes, one or two hotels, and not much more.
Another element of staying here is that if you plan on spending time on the beach itself, you have to be prepared to be constantly asked by the adolescent boys of the town to buy their trinkets. Not so bad, but this doesn't end up being your "private paradise" experience, as our friend Joan well knows.
We decided to take a short flight to Ibo Island, one of the larger islands that makes up the Quirimbas Archipelago. The 30-minute flight itself was almost worth the trip...amazing views of the sea and islands.
Ibo has a similar history to Ilha in that it has a sad history of Portuguese colonization and slave trade. To this day the residents still can recount the brutal treatment slaves endured here. We saw some of the holding cells at the fort on the tip of the island. Here's a shot of Ibo's "stone town" from the air:
Our first evening on the island, we decided to take part in the island's "home stay" program. This meant paying a small fee to the community group so that we could stay in one of the villager's homes. We ended up staying with a woman who was the bread baker for the inhabitants, including the one or two commercial lodges, of the island. When we arrived, she was busy baking rolls. Before we really had the chance to explore the island or figure out what we would do, she served us a lunch of goat curry, rice, those excellent rolls and bananas. Delicious curry, tough goat. Oy!
After lunch, we went to find Dimitri, who we hoped would be our snorkeling guide for the following day. When we arrived at his home, we discovered a very tanned, Frenchman with a huge abcess on his foot. This led to a very troubling conversation about the lack of healthcare on the island and in the country as a whole. We found out that tropical climates can lead to dangerous infections for foreigners whose immune systems have difficulty fighting the local bugs. We offered him antibiotics, but he refused. He did however follow our suggestions to soak his foot in warm water several times a day, and by the last day we saw him, his foot had greatly improved. It was a sobering reminder of the possibility of becoming sick on the road without any real access to medical help (knock on wood). So far, we believe we've prepared our medical kit to cope with whatever we might encounter.
He recommended that we hire a local dhow captain to take us to the "sand bank," a well-known snorkeling location with reefs. We found our man, Moussa, that day and he agreed to take us early the next morning to benefit from the high tide, that is if you consider 5am early.
That evening, we had a drink at the Ibo Lodge, the island's one luxury accomodation. We realized that most of the other islands have the kind of accomodation you might see in a slick spread in some travel magazine. White sand, blue water, your own private bungalow and very few people. Of course, this is VERY expensive. Ibo doesn't quite fit this mold as it has a small town, a couple of villages and no beach. I think we both had the fantasy that we might have that kind of experience in coming here. Although it wasn't to be, we did have an amazing day of snorkeling the next day.
The slow sail back to the island on the dhow was great. Alas, our previous evening with our host "mother" wasn't so good. I think we went into the home stay thinking we would get to know our host and spend time with the family. She was perfectly pleasant to us, but she treated us with a more distant respect, more of business proposition. It gave us a glimpse into her family's life, but not much more. After our snorkeling trip, we decided to stay at the upscale lodge and splurge a bit. The couple running the lodge offered us a room at half price, their "walk-in" rate. We had a smashing time and it was a nice way to leave the island in good spirits. Here are some photos taken around the grounds and on the lovely terrace: