Tembea : Quirimbas Archipelago

The Quirimbas Archipelago which stretches for 100 kilometres along the Mozambique coast is made up of tropical islands which contain some of the richest coral reefs in the world and provide habitat for an abundant array of marine life.
L-R : Paradise in Quirimba ; A beach in Quirimba
L-R : Paradise in Quirimba ; A beach in Quirimba

The Quirimbas Archipelago which stretches for 100 kilometres along the Mozambique coast is made up of tropical islands which contain some of the richest coral reefs in the world and provide habitat for an abundant array of marine life. The Archipelago consists of 32 tropical coral islands stretching from Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado Province, to the Rovuma River, which forms the border between Tanzania and Mozambique.

Home to a mosaic of wildlife both onshore and surrounding its pristine coral reefs, the archipelago has been known as a conservational jewel throughout Africa; whales fill the deeper channels in season, turtles breed on isolated sand banks and African Fish eagles scan the mangrove swamps.

The diversity of this marine sanctuary is exemplary. The waters around here have some amazing underwater drop-offs, over 5 species of turtle, 30 different genera of coral and over 354 species of reef fish.

This untamed harshness is dramatic and fascinating, offering a sense of private seclusion away from the outside world. It is no wonder that travelers have talked of Mozambique as a mystical and magical place; this region is simply mesmerizing. The Archipelago is a captivating chain of 27 islands just waiting to be discovered.

Situated at the northern end of the Quirimbas Archipelago, Maluane is one of the last unspoilt and unexploited wilderness areas along the east African coast.

Comprising three Indian Ocean islands, a coastal strip and a 33,000 hectare wildlife reserve, this vast conservation area has coral reefs, mangrove forests, powder beaches and islands, together with large areas of forest and savannah inland. The area has a large elephant population as well as buffalo, sable, lion, leopard and wild dogs. Added to that is an unrivalled marine life containing many endangered and rare species.

The Quirimbas Archipelago is noted for the size of its reef fish, with parrotfish, angelfish, cave bass, morays, and others all reaching exceptional sizes. Schools of kingfish of the three species (giant, yellow, and indigo) accompany most canyon dives as well as snorkellers along the beach.

Dugongs are present but shy; it is easier to find their grazing marks than the animals themselves.  A slow dive through the sea grass beds yields brightly colored nudibranches, up to 195 species of fish, and swimming scallops that will come up and dance in mid water.

Dolphins include spinner, common, and bottlenose, with humpback dolphins appearing occasionally inside the Sanctuary but common in the mangrove channels of Ibo Island just to the north. Black tip and white tip sharks, blue spotted stingray, and electric ray are common. The Zambezi shark, the hammerhead shark, the tiger shark, and the manta ray have also been sighted.

Originally home to fishing settlements, the islands’ population grew around Arab trading posts and thrived under the Portuguese trading routes when it was known as the Ilhas de Sao Lazaro (Islands of St. Lazarus). The Quirimbas have enormous cultural and historical value, with a combination of Arabian, Portuguese, and African influences.

The magnificent old fortresses on Ibo Island boast intriguing historical and fascinating sites. With mangroves, coral and palms, this island tells a story of slaves, pirates and ivory.

Pemba is the access point for the Quirimbas Archipelago.

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