Ancient and Beautiful

I was lucky enough to do a trip recently with my wife Pam, to Mozambique’s spectacular Ibo Island. It is in the Quirimba archipelago, just north of Pemba. We stayed at the lovely Ibo Island lodge, a short walk from the island’s small harbour. The lodge, with its thick walls, built from fossilized coral and painted brilliant white, is cool and comfortable. It is decorated with a blend of antique style, slave coast art pieces and artfully placed cushions and throws of sea blue fabrics – giving it the mood of ancient East Africa. 

That evening we relaxed on the rooftop dining area and had sundowners followed by a dinner of fresh seafood, a gigantic platter of crayfish, prawns, crabs, fish all harvested from local waters and beautifully prepared by the lodge kitchen. The moonlit view over the calm sea from up there was beautiful.

The following day we had the opportunity to explore the island and take in some of the rich history and culture of Ibo. In days gone by Ibo was a slave and ivory trading centre, and there are still the remains of three forts on the island, some with old cannons still in place. The island is an absolute paradise for photographers, we spent most of the day exploring and taking pictures. The people were remarkably friendly and welcoming, we found them to be patient in understanding our questions and answering with a smile. We were shown to the home of the oldest man on the island, Joao Baptiste, who gave us tea and entertained us with stories of days gone by.

We were also taken on a Dhow to a nearby sand island, where a Bedouin style tent had been set up, with a lavish picnic and ice-cold drinks. After a superb snorkeling session over shallow coral reefs, we tucked into the prawns, crab cakes and other delicacies.

After another good night’s rest in our spacious room, we packed our bags and fishing gear and boarded the forty-foot Maxim Cat; Never Say Never to begin our journey to St Lazarus banks, an oceanic atoll which comes to within 10m of the surface. The trip was about 50 nautical miles from the island and would take us around eight hours. We were going to stay out there for a few days on the yacht in order to do some fishing.

Conditions were unbelievably calm. The sea, unruffled by any breeze was flat and smooth and the current was moving at a sluggish 2.5 knots. With the gin clear water those conditions would have been exceptional for diving. Unfortunately for fishing it wasn’t ideal. The water temperature was around 30 degrees and the air temperature and humidity had us gasping for breath, with no cool wind for relief.

Despite the conditions we still managed to catch some fish. In fact, we caught most species that one would expect to catch there, just not the numbers that are usually caught at that exceptional spot. We mostly stuck to throwing poppers and stickbaits and vertical jigging, but when the heat got unbearable we also upped lines and did some trolling.

Over the top of the atoll, we caught reef species such as grouper and structure loving game fish such as GT’s and a variety of other trevallies. On the drop offs we caught some dogtooth tuna and wahoo, and in the blue we got stuck in to some decent tuna and dorado.

I always get very amped when I fish an area like that, as I am very aware that almost anything can happen. It is the kind of place where your next cast could hook you a sailfish, a giant dogtooth tuna, a monster GT or just about any other predator of the Indian Ocean. That kept me going through the sweat and the burning muscles.

Pam and I had a great time and caught some decent fish. On our way back we chatted about the trip and how amazing it had been. Sadly we only had one more night on Ibo, before flying out. We both agreed that next time we come we are definitely going to spend more time on the island and also try some of the fishing potential in the waters nearby.