The picture-perfect Quirimbas Islands are located off the coast, close to Pemba in northern Mozambique. The archipelago comprises 32 islands, 11 of which form part of mainland Mozambique’s protected Quirimbas National Park.
Quirimbas National Park is a UNESCO biosphere covering an impressive 7,500 square kilometres of living coral reef, mangrove forests, woodlands, savannah and sugar-white sandy beaches.
The national park is best known for its sky-blue waters cocooning the islands, which are widely recognised as being one of the top diving destinations in Africa. These atolls and islands are a treasure-trove of marine animals, and one of the few places where visitors can see humpback whales, dolphins, sea turtles and the rare dugongs.
The mainland part of the national park forms part of a migration corridor for elephants. The woodlands and sparse savannah on the mainland provide the ideal habitat for lions, leopards and the rare African wild dog.
From the mainland to each of the islands, each section of the national park offers something unique. Pemba is the gateway to the Quirimbas National Park and is relatively accessible. Home to the small international airport of Pemba, it’s roughly two hours from there to the mainland.
Because of its location just off the coast, Quirimbas is ideally placed for a myriad of safari excursions in or near the water - kayaking, snorkelling and boat cruises.
Because of its tropical climate, safaris to Quirimbas can be planned for any time of the year as there is a good mix of dry and rainy weather.
Quirimbas National Park is an enchanting destination supporting an array of endangered land and water species. On the mainland, the vegetation is predominantly savannah, scrub, forests and woodlands. Dense populations of elephants, buffalo, eland, sable and other herbivores occur in these parts. Lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, hyena and jackal are also found within the mainland habitat.
The national park is renowned for its other-worldly underwater world. Exotic fish, the endangered dugong, whales, sharks, turtles and dolphins thrive in the pristine waters of the archipelago. There are 375 species of fish swimming around in the turquoise waters. Seahorses and the rare pipefish are just two unusual species found in these protected waters.
Endemic to the area is the dwarf python and giant coconut crab.
There’s quite a long checklist for birds in the Quirimbas National Park, and Ibo island is the main birding destination.
In total, there are over 250 species of bird in the area. There are regular sightings of goliath herons, woodpeckers, sunbirds, pelicans, flamingos and fish eagles.
Quirimbas National Park is a tropical destination with a typical tropical climate. December to April is the rainy season, which is considered summer. The heavy rains churn the ocean, clouding visibility.
From May to September is the best time to visit as it’s slightly cooler, but a lot drier. Although the dry season is the perfect time to visit, Quirimbas has bouts of sunshine even during the rainy season, making it a perfect year-round destination.
There is so much to explore on each of the islands. Eco-tourism is the main type of tourism in the national park and each island offers its visitors something unique.
Ocean safaris are the most popular activity and include everything from diving expeditions to snorkelling trips and boat cruises across the shimmering waters. Fishing charters, kayaking, SUP tours, dhow safaris, and cycling on the island are just a few of the other activities to enjoy. Guided birding walks on Ibo Island are popular with Twitchers, given that Ibo island is a sought-after destination for birders.
There is a wide variety of accommodation options available in the national park. Most of the accommodation options are beach lodges, hotels, campsites and luxury resorts. There a few bush lodges on the mainland. This truly is a high-end destination with a focus on eco-tourism. Beach views are always highlighted with accommodation options. Most of the accommodations have restaurants, swimming pools, beach bars and dive facilities.