The Quirimbas Archipelago consists of an extensive cluster of more than 30 islands lying off the north-eastern Mozambican coast close to Pemba. The islands – including Ibo, Matemo, Medjumbe, Quirimba, Metundo, Quisiva and Rolas Islands – stretch for about 200 miles and are renowned for their top class diving sites, some of which boast extraordinary drop-offs of up to 400 meters in some instances.
This remarkable group of islands supports high coral diversity, mangroves, seagrasses, sand and rocky shores. Each ecosystem supports unique and rare creatures including turtles, crab plovers and migratory birds. The Quirimbas Archipelago is also a crucial nursery for Bottlenose dolphins and Humpback whales and has been named a key global biodiversity site for this Eastern African Marine Ecoregion.
The Quirimbas National Park was therefore established in 2002 and spans an area of 7 500 km² around the 11 most southerly islands which are partly surrounded by mangroves. The park also protects exceptional coastal forest and rich coral reefs where turtles, dugongs and hundreds of fish species breed and play. More than 50 types of corals have been recorded here, including the St Lazarus Bank – a world-class diving spot, 42 nautical miles off the coast.
Today, many of the islands are deserted and unpopulated despite originally supporting traditional fishing settlements, followed by Arab trading posts which fared well under the Portuguese trading routes. But the Quirimbas National Park promotes resource protection for local communities as well as ecotourism development. It is hard to believe that wild animals still hunt and feed in these parts: elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and African hunting dog.
The Quirimbas Archipelago clearly illustrates the different cultural influences that merged in the region over a period of several hundred years. The present Swahili culture in the Stone Town of Ibo has emerged from a blend of impacts from Europe, Arabia, India and Africa. The current urban settlement is a reflection of changing human values in a rich historical and cultural area.
The islands of Ibo, Quisiva and Matemo all show intertwining Swahili, Portuguese, Indian and Arab traditions – huge attractions to tourists from all around the world.
And tourists need accommodation and things to see and do. This magical destination along a magnificent coastline now comes with a choice of world class luxury and eco lodges, island resorts overlooking pristine seas and beaches. Holidays are spent in unspoiled, protected reefs and indigenous vegetation.
Visitors to the Quirimbas Archipelago can choose from an assortment of exciting activities: scuba diving, snorkelling, game fishing, sea kayaking, whale and dolphin watching, mangrove excursions, historical dhow cruises, island exploring with nature walks, spa treatments and beach relaxing.