Difference between revisions of "Ilha de Mozambique"
Revision as of 12:41, 30 January 2013
Ilha de Mozambique (Mozambique Island) is an island in the Nampula Province in Northern Mozambique with a historical heritage that's unmatched in the rest of Mozambique, and indeed the rest of Africa. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly four centuries under Portuguese colonization before the move to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), and had been used as a major base for the Arab traders since around the 8th century, long before the arrival of the Portuguese. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tiny island is only 3km long and very narrow. It's connected by a concrete bridge with the mainland and is said to be crowded by 16000 inhabitants, most of them living in bustling Macuti Town. Stone Town occupies the northern half of the island and is much grander than Macuti town in the south, but both are UNESCO listed because of their significant architecture and cultural tradition.
Ilha can easily be reached by road from Nampula. If you're driving follow the road towards Nacala, and turn off at the signpost for Ilha de Mozambique (which is in Monapo). It'll take around 2 hours and the road is good. When you get there you'll need to cross the causeway which costs about Mts 5,000.
If you're taking a chapa they leave from Ave de Trabhadores in Nampula near the railway station and cost Mts 80,000.
Ilha's is fairly tiny and you won't have any trouble walking around it - it's about a 20 minute walk from end to end, and only about 3 blocks wide. A number of places have bike hire including Ilha Blue who also arrange local guides to show you around.
Everywhere. Ilha's a magical mix of colonial Portuguese and old Swahili architecture. It basically divides into two halves - the old Stone Town in the north and the "Reed Town" in the south which is set down from the main streets.
The museum is in the old Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, a big red building up in Stone Town. In the same building is a tourist information office that sells really good street maps and has all sorts of other information about the various restaurants and pensões on the island. It's well worth heading here as soon as you arrive.
Also worth a visit is the fort at the northern tip of the island, which contains the Church of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte, almost certainly the oldest surviving European building in the southern hemisphere, dating back to 1522. Be sure you pay the right attendant, or you will have to pay the entrance fee twice: Ask for a entrance ticket, if you don't get one, don't pay.
The dive centre at the northern end of the island just down from the fort is part of a bigger development and probably wont be completed for 2013
You can take boat trips or just laze on the beach. If you're feeling adventurous take a dhow over to the mainland at Chocas or Mossuril and explore along the coast there. Better still go to Goa or Sena Islands
Sea Kayaking and bicycle tours and hire are also available and a great way to see the island
Local Barackas are affordable with seafood and other dishes. The ones on the road that forms the divide between Stonetown and Macuti Town cater for foreigners and locals and are good for a lazy lunch or a busy taste of nightlife. In stonetown there is Ancora D'oro, Escondidinho, Reliquias, and Villa Sands that are more focused on tourists and expats. Also you can find a number of local places serving fish and rice or chima for a very low price.
Plenty of places to drink. The rooftop in Bar Flor is very popular as are the Barackas, Ruby's and villa Sands. Miraponte near the bridge is open late and a good place for a dance. Also look out for beach baracka parties organised by the same young men you meet selling dhow trips. These are very cheap and good fun although you need to be patient because food is served only once everybody has arrived
The cheapest option is the camp site on the mainland next to the bridge. Self catering is possible from the nearby shops. $4/person.