The original plan for our 2nd day exploring Mozambique had been to enjoy an excursion across to the lighthouse on neighbouring Inhaca Island.
Unfortunately, this excursion was cancelled the night before and I went into a bit of a flap, worrying that I now wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the “real” Mozambique and capture it on camera for a beautiful blog post…
Fortunately there was another option! And I still managed to do just that
After walking around the circumference of Portuguese Island in the morning, we headed over to the excursion desk on the island to find out how we could get across to Inhaca. We discovered that it was surprisingly easy to book a boat shuttle for US$15 ea (remember all prices on board the MSC Sinfonia and at the island are in US dollars!)
Just 10 minutes later we joined a group of other MSC passengers, donned our lifejackets and set off on an exhilarating trip across the water on a local “taxi”…
Along the way we passed some of the local fishermen at their day’s work aboard a dhow fishing boat.
I loved getting a small glimpse of local life… although I did wonder what they thought about us in our bright orange lifejackets while they worked in little more than a t-shirt and a pair of shorts!
The boat trip from one island to the other was quick (about 10 minutes) and we arrived on the shores of Inhaca at low tide, jumping ashore with ease – the only tricky bit was being careful not to step on a starfish!
Once we were on the beach we were greeted by João (Portuguese for John), an Inhaca resident, who offered to be our guide of his home village for a small fee.
Getting an insight into local village life was something I was really keen to do so we agreed on an amount and set off with him to enjoy the benefits of being with a local who knew his way around (and every person we passed!)
We arrived just after lunch time, at the hottest part of the day, and the heat was intense on the short walk from the beach to the village. We found ourselves picking up the pace considerably when in the sun and taking a few moments of respite in each shady spot.
This is a well trodden path for the MSC tourists to Inhaca and the locals traders have set up “shop” selling sarongs, hats, drinks and assorted shells and corals (not advisable to purchase in this marine reserve!) along the route.
There were also a couple of important military buildings I was advised NOT to photography (the benefit of a local guide by my side!)
Inhaca village consists of one main “road” of white sand, lined by rather derelict buildings and surrounded by palm trees! A village on a beach!
Did I mention that the heat was intense? I must have, because that was the main sensation walking around Inhaca!! The sand was so hot that it scorched our feet through our slip slops… to my surprise most of the locals didn’t seem to be bothered by this at all… casually walking around on the blazing sand with bare foot!
The local people were full of beautiful, wide smiles and happy to have a quick chat with us foreigners. Tourists descend on their island every few days (the MSC Sinfonia docks near Inhaca twice a week) and visitors enjoy various planned excursions to the island, as well as the option to get across on their own steam (like we did) for a wander around the village. MSC also have a relationship with the biggest restaurant on the island and you can opt to enjoy a seafood lunch and cold beer in the heart of the town should you be keen to extend your visit a little longer.
During our visit, during the heat of the day on a Wednesday afternoon, the atmosphere in this Mozambican village was relaxed and friendly.
Most of the locals were sat round under any spot of shade the could find – the indigenous “umbrella” trees coming in particularly useful – enjoying a laugh or a game with their friends.
Our meanderings with Joao saw us walking through the back roads of the village, past local huts and vegetable gardens of cassava. We popped into a few of the shops – a general store and a fashion outlet – and poked our heads inside the local bar!
We chatted to a few of the kids enjoying fun with their friends and meandered our back to the village “square” and the market…
Every day, locals sell their wares – fish, seafood, firewood, plastic wares, vegetables, clothing etc. Everything and anything seemed to be on sale here. Unfortunately, when we arrived, quite a few stalls were empty and had closed for the day but there were a few still trading and we managed to catch a glimpse of this integral part of village life
Set apart from the local market was the tourist market, another spot selling sarongs and alcohol!
Unfortunately we hadn’t planned on purchasing anything and didn’t have any currency on us so I would recommend that if you’d like to support the locals and are keen to buy something to remember your visit by, then take along some cash. The accept US dollars or the local currency.
After a brief break on the covered verandah of a local restaurant… and an icy cold beer… it was time to head back to catch a shuttle across to Portuguese Island and then the MSC Sinfonia. The last shuttle to the MSC leaves the beach at 4, and we didn’t want to miss that, so our visit to Inhaca was a bit short.
Inhaca feels very much like Mozambique and it hasn’t been turned into a tourist resort at all. MSC have clearly helped to improve the lives of the locals here, thanks to the extra jobs servicing the tourists as well as supplying fish to the ship.
A visit to Inhaca is a very different experience to a visit to Portuguese Island (Which itself has 2 sides – as a party beach and a tranquil escape!) and I really recommend a visit to Inhaca should you find yourself in this part of the world. Spending some time in Inhaca as part of your cruise experience will be well worth it.
Based on our experience I would suggest that if you’re interested in exploring the culture of Mozambique on your visit, plan to head across to Inhaca on the first day you dock. This way you’ll avoid the crowds who only get as far as Portuguese Island on the first day. Then spend your second day taking a slow walk around the circumference of Portuguese Island (as per my previous post) It really was a beautiful way to spend a day!
Unfortunately an afternoon in Inhaca was not very much time to soak in it’s unique atmosphere, but it did give me a taste of Mozambique… and for that I was very grateful.
I’m now more keen than ever to explore this beautiful country and discover it’s other hidden gems.
Images: Kathryn Rossiter