Ilha da Moçambique, Mozambique, May 2018

I’ve resurfaced bobbing along the coast of northern Mozambique. In some ways this journey is a continuation. I’ve previously zigzagged up and down the Swahili Coast of Africa- to old outposts of the Omani Court including Lamu Island and Mombasa in Kenya and to Zanzibar. The spice route brought Arab seafarers in sturdy sailing dhow the length of the African Coast to trade in gold, ivory and slaves from the 9th century. But more of the history lesson later..

I’ve spent the last week Island- hopping and passed some lazy days scuba diving in the Quirimbas Archipelago.
The seas are warm (28 degrees C) and the waters transform from sapphire to turquoise around the white sand islands. My travels have been accompanied by pods of dolphins finning through our bow wave and hundreds of flying fish slicing through the air like silver arcs. The locals have lived for centuries off the sea and will paddle their dugout canoes many kilometres offshore. I watched a couple of them fishing between dives one day and saw a man hook up a sailfish on his hand line. The monster of a fish was larger than his canoe and danced through the air thrashing as the fisherman struggled to keep hold of the line. The sailfish managed to break free on this occasion but apparently the fortunes are frequently reversed and the marlin is lashed to the canoe and paddled home.

The intrigue of Mozambique for me lies with a millennium of sea trading history and Mozambique Island (the ancient capital) is the central jewel. For centuries it was an important dhow (boat) building site for Arabs and indeed most of these Swahili islands are still of Muslim faith today. The trading routes brought merchants and influences from India and the Far East. In the 15th & 16th century the Portuguese arrived to stamp their authority on the region as the race began to divide up the world into European colonial spoils. The magnificent churches, fortresses and villas of the historic ‘Stone town’ on Mozambique Island were built from this time. After storms and heavy seas the local kids scour the beaches looking for artefacts, precious glass trading beads and pieces of painted blue porcelain (typical of Portuguese decoration) that still, to this day, wash up from hundreds of old ship wrecks around the island. It’s been a wonderful place to explore on foot – following narrow lime-washed alleyways bougainvilleas trailing overhead down to the glinting turquoise waters. It seems the mysterious allure of Ilha da Moçambique still endures!

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