I am not usually a patron of small African curio shops but I have to say that the coffee shop come curio bookstore in the internal terminal of Dar Es Salaam airport serves some of the best coffee and sells a grand selection of books that you just wouldn’t find in your local Waterstone’s.
It could have also just been the fact that it was Africa and the coffee always tastes better in Africa, the fish is fresher, the grass is greener and the sea is definitely bluer off the coast of northern Mozambique. And not to mention the sand, white as chalk, hot underfoot and clean – Lawrence of Arabia clean. The Casuarinas conduct a symphony in the bright sunshine and the waves lap gently in rhythm.
If that is what you are looking for on your next holiday, you’ll do very well to start in Northern Mozambique. Imagine the Maldives without any tourists, only a lazy dhow sailing past your room, the distant splash of a whales’ tail. Of course you can see people if you want to, not many really but there will be someone to mix up your cocktail or take you to their favourite diving or snorkelling spot. Someone to help you with your dive course. Someone wonderful to cook you some famous LM (Lorenzo Marques) prawns – Portuguese style which you suck lazily as you watch the sun literally sink into the azure sea.
Vamizi, Matemo, Guludo, Mejumbe, Quilalea and Londo. All these lovely island get-aways will offer some individual take on the pristine archipelago which was spared of so much heartbreaking destruction that the mainland of Mozambique had to endure.
Understandably now the islands are the first to rise out of the ashes and be targeted by tourism. Hopefully this peaceful invasion will ensure some sustainability. The marine parks already have attracted much attention and it seems that for now the researchers are the ones who are setting the boundaries.
One has to remember however that this is still Africa. Our charter flight was delayed due to human misdirection, you had to close your room to ensure the monkeys didn’t get in, you may have to wade through the mud to your boat and you will always get wet on a sea transfer. That’s just Africa.
However that same charm oozes out of every crevice on the island of Ibo where you walk the same dusty streets that the Arabs used to walk when pepper and salt were precious commodities. You may pass a team of glamorous archaeologists from America digging up a homestead where a sharp stone was the most treasured tool in the house.
A the sun shines in England my lasting impression of Northern Mozambique, is the brightness of the sun and the warmth of the nights, the salt in the air and the peace.