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 the country, and indeed the rest of Africa. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly 4 centuries under Portuguese colonisation 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 UNSECO 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 16 000 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 de Mozambique is the former capital of Mozambique. It reigned during Portuguese colonisation, before Maputo was declared the capital out of fear that the Portuguese might lose the southern part of the country.
The island is small, but it holds an interesting history for the country. For this reason it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the intention is to preserve the island and the 2 towns on it.
Historical tours are offered on both sides of the island and due to its small size, visitors can accomplish both Macuti and Stone Town in one day. Museums and traditional food on land, and diving, snorkelling for the water-sport enthusiasts.
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.
Coral Lodge 15.41 combines one of Mozambique’s most stunning beach locations with the country’s rich culture and trade history. Situated on a spectacular peninsula within an unspoilt nature reserve and only minutes from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ilha de Mozambique.
Ilha de Mozambique boasts an inspiring mixture of colonial Portuguese and old Swahili architecture. It can be defined as 2 separate areas; the old Stone Town in the north and Macuti Town in the south. The museum is in the old Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, a big red building up in Stone Town.
For a slightly more active tour of this incredible island, be sure to take part in the magnificant diving that is on offer. Like the rest of Mozambique, scuba diving and snorkelling should be top priority, as these coastlines are littered with beautiful coral reefs and an indescribable number of marine species.
There are also boat trips on offer for guests to get an offshore perspective of the island and to gaze at the plethora of fish and corals beneath the surface. For a traditional adventures, 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 explore the less inhabited areas of the island.
The climate in Mozambique is tropical, however it varies in the different regions of the country. Generally, the inland areas are slightly cooler and more humid than along the coast in the rainy season.
The best time to travel to Mozambique is during the winter months, which is also the dry season, lasting from April to September. The southern parts of the country are generally drier and less tropical than the north, with temperatures along the coast averaging 27 degrees Celsius. The best time for game viewing is during the months of August to September, towards the end of the dry season.
The summer months, also the rainy season, coincide with the heat and humidity from October to March, with average coastal temperatures of 31 degrees. The best time for bird-watching is usually December to April.
There is only one option for accommodation on Ilha de Mozambique because the island is so small and it has such easy access to the mainland of Nampula Province. It is worth doing as a day trip, for a bit of variation and a cultural injection, although diving off the island itself is beautiful.
There are numerous activities on offer here and in our opinion, it is worth taking it all in from the luxurious and unique Coral Lodge 15.41. It combines one of Mozambique’s most stunning beach locations with the country’s rich culture and trade history. Situated on a spectacular peninsula within an unspoilt nature reserve and only minutes from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ilha de Mozambique.
Thatched chalets are separately situated between the luscious greenery, while the interiors are spacious, yet cosy. There are rustic wooden decks with views of the surrounding ocean, and a large pool with an equally refreshing view.
Most flights into Mozambique land in the largest and capital city, Maputo. Maputo International Airport receives regular flights from South Africa, however, should guests be adding Mozambique as a destination after an East Africa safari, there are private charter flights available from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya.
There are also direct flights from South Africa to the Bazaruto Archipelago in the centre of Mozambique and the Quirimbas Archipelago in the far north. Sun Safaris will arrange whichever flights into the country best suit guests' itineraries.
Self-driving from South Africa to Mozambique is an option and is often an option for local holiday-makers. The road from Johannesburg, via Nelspruit, to Mozambique is in good condition and well-tarred. Should guests be flying to their destination, Sun Safaris will arrange for light air or road transfers from Maputo to booked accommodation.
Ilha can easily be reached by road from Nampula. It'll take around 2 hours and the road is good. Ilha is fairly tiny and you won't have any trouble walking around it - it's about a 20 minute walk from end to end.