Tag: Pemba

Ibo Island

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.

In Situ

The English Dictionary defines the phrase “in situ”, as: ‘In the natural, original or appropriate position’. When one is in northern Mozambique, however, it would simply mean being in one of the most pleasant, scenic and understated lodges, also a highly appropriate position to find one’s self occupying.

A small, intimate lodge, tucked away in a quiet bay on a remote island, Situ Island Resort ticks all the boxes expected of a tropical ocean getaway. Sandy floors in the communal areas, an honesty system in the self-service bar, unobtrusive staff and comfortable island style chalets separate this lodge from the rest.

 The direct flight on SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Pemba has made trips to the north of Mozambique more convenient. Gone are the days where one needed to fly via Maputo, and then the long flight up the coast, adding many hours and kilometers to the journey. The direct flight has been implemented due to demand created by large gas and oil companies moving staff and contractors into and out of Cabo Delgado province, where huge gas fields have been discovered. Lodges in the area are benefitting from these direct flights, with Pemba now being less than three hours flight from Johannesburg.

We were able to take advantage of this convenience last week, when we flew to Pemba, on our way to Situ. The flight landed in Pemba just before 12.30 pm and we were at the lodge enjoying cold refreshments, after a comfortable boat transfer, by 3 pm.

It was great to be back at Situ, where we had had such a wonderful trip two years ago.  It can be a concern to return to a place, with the fear of it not living up to its previous standards, but on this trip, we simply picked up exactly where we left off. Everything was as good as it had been before.

We were aware that a tropical weather system was building up. The seasonal Kasakazi winds were blowing down from Kenya and Tanzania, and there was a low-pressure system moving up the African coast from the Cape. The result of this was that we were going to experience some big winds, rough seas and some periods of rain during our stay. Forewarned however, is forearmed, and we knew that we would need to take advantage of the weather gaps as they presented themselves.

We fished from the lodge’s thirty eight foot Supercat, an excellent fishing platform, and a comfortable and spacious ride. Skippered by Craig Macdonald, manager of the lodge and a very experienced skipper, we were able to get around in some pretty rough conditions at times. The Situ area has a wide variety of habitat and consequently a huge diversity of fish species. This meant that we could employ all the techniques that we wanted to, from jigging and popping to spinning and trolling.

Despite adverse weather and sea conditions, we managed to land a good variety of species, from grouper to barracuda, including four species of kingfish and some tuna. My highlight of the trip was landing a dogtooth tuna of around 18kg’s on a soft plastic lure jigged beneath the boat.

These fish are on every fisherman’s bucket list and are becoming harder and harder to find these days. I had landed a smaller one on our previous trip, so I knew they were in the area and had been hoping to get into another on this trip.

Our wives did some scuba diving when conditions allowed and then relaxed at the lodge, taking advantage of massages and a tour to the local fishing village while we were out hunting the big one.

Meals were amazing, whipped up by Craig and made from fresh, locally sourced seafood. It amazed us every day that Craig would jump off the boat after a fishing session, remove his fishing cap and don an apron, then within an hour call us to the table to partake of some exotic and delicious treat.

Too soon our time was up and we found ourselves back on the boat, getting transferred to Pemba for our flight home. While the weather may not have been perfect, every other aspect of the trip was great and we all looked back at the island as it disappeared into the haze and hoped that we would be back again soon.

Situ Island Resort

With all the traveling we get to do in the course of filming the Inside Angling TV series, we visit a lot of lodges, hotels and resorts around Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Every now and then we come across a rare little gem, a place that is different and has something special going for it. Recently, we enjoyed a direct flight from Johannesburg to Pemba on Airlink and visited Situ Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique, which we found it to be exactly one of these little gems.

Our first impression on arrival was of a hidden private place, set right on the beach. The sandstone outcrops in the water in front of and around the lodge provide for beautiful scenery, and the buildings blend in with the vegetation of the island.

We were welcomed into the main building, where we encountered a relaxed atmosphere and simple, yet comfortable furnishings. The floor is beach sand, so you take off your sandals and don’t use them again until you leave. The ultimate in barefoot luxury.

The bar is a ‘help yourself’ honesty version, where you pour your own drinks and write down what you’ve taken in a book. There is an iced water machine in the lounge, where you are able to help yourself to as much chilled water as you like, something that’s unusual in the tropics! There is a small staff compliment and the whole place has an intimate feel, very different to most commercial lodges.

Situ is run by Craig and Tessa Macdonald, a South African couple from East London, who are passionate about Situ Island and its surrounds. Craig skippered us on our fishing excursions, and kept us entertained with his quirky sense of humour, then got straight into the kitchen whenever we arrived back at the lodge and started putting together delicious meals. He is a chef of note and as passionate about good food as he is about the island. Tessa runs the diving, snorkeling, kayak paddling and other activities and is very involved with, and knowledgeable about the environment and creatures of Situ. One of the more remarkable things she does is hand feed the Moray Eels on the reef in front of the lodge on the low tide, where they come swarming out and surround her as she hands out tasty tit bits.

Everything about Situ is relaxing. The staff keep a low profile, but are never far away if you need them. Craig and Tessa were helpful and nothing was too much trouble for them, they were very happy for us to set the pace and customize our own schedule each day, their flexibility made it easy for us to relax and appreciate this piece of paradise.

Meals at Situ were nothing short of outstanding. They buy seafood fresh from the locals and we were served delicious fresh seafood daily, complimented by loads of fresh salads, homemade sauces, pickled fish and of course the most finger licking good Mozambican chicken. In fact the food alone is enough of a reason to visit Situ!

There are plenty of reefs in the area and one doesn’t need to travel very far to get to fishing spots. Species that we came across included Gt’s, Bluefin Kingfish, Bigeye Kingfish, Amberjack, Dogtooth Tuna, King Mackerel, Green Jobfish and Pickhandle Barracuda. There were also plenty of Yellowfin Tuna about and we saw Sailfish jumping, though we didn’t target those species. Broadbill Swordfish are also targeted at night near Situ, so the fishing potential is excellent.

What really excited me was the form of the reefs. There is incredible structure, with some huge steps, ledges and walls under the water. The potential for fishing amongst such structure is exceptional.

I have tucked Situ Island Resort into my personal portfolio of places I would love to get back to again soon.

Just hope it isn’t too long before I do.


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