Ibo Island feels like an heirloom, passed from culture to culture through the ages. The Swahili, Arabs, Indians, Dutch, Malagasy, British, French and Portuguese have all left their imprint on the island. Some are harsh colonial scratches on its soul, while others are picturesque like the Swahili sails on the fisherman’s dhows.
This isolation combined with the unique geography of an archipelago on the east African coast really piqued my interest snorkeling Quirimbas National Park. I envisioned sailing between some of the islands with a snorkel and a fishing line and exploring the marine ecosystem. I found exactly what I was looking for on Rolas Island.
The most memorable part of scuba diving Tofo was the incredible visibility in the water. For my first time, I got vertigo on one of my safety stops watching divers about 25 meters below me circling around a coral bommie. It just felt like I was suspended in the air. These conditions were perfect for crisp underwater photography, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in it.
The locals have learned to navigate the tidal sand bars and offer trips from Vilanculos out to Bazaruto and Benguerra islands in Swahili dhows. We saw rare humpbacked dolphins and manatees on the way out. The islands combine the stark beauty of the Namib desert dunes with the azure water of the Seychelles.
Nosara rests in the middle of this expanse, providing a strategic base for exploring pristine sandy coves of the Nicoya. Nosara itself, features exposed surfy breaks at Playa Guiones, and a quiet sunset cove called Playa Pelada, where you can grab a cold beer from Olgas, or a gourmet meal from La Luna and watch the sun drift below the crashing waves on the northern tip of the cove.
The rocky point will lead you to a beautiful crescent moon beach, back dropped by a dense mixture of coconut and pine tree foliage, mixed with tall sweeping pandanus grass, and jungle vines. This walk will take you through a series of secluded little white sand, crescent moon beaches, but only after the first three (at Pantai Avoi Beach) will they be deep enough to swim in.
Shela has morphed from the humble fishing village it was into a secluded haven for travelers who want to locate themselves off the map and on the beach for a while. Some may lament this, however, it does seem like those who modernized it, did so with respect to the timeless Swahili style that has always given Shela its character.
The large Mkanda channel sweeps the sand slowly out to sea along the southern shore of Manda, separating it from Lamu Island. Fishermen with weathered hand woven dhow sails tack to and fro across the channel, and the channel itself branches off, slithering silently through the heart of the island until it is slowly strangled by a mangled maze of mangroves.
In stark contrast to the concrete blocks, and infestation of brand name stores in Waikiki, the north shore of Oahu remains genuinely Hawaiian. This is no accident; it is the direct impact of locals constantly striving to “keep country, country”.