Unexplored, Undiscovered, Untouched

To compare this destination with any of those we have previously dived would be impossible to do with just 5 days of diving but what we saw places this destination in a unique category. The fact that this area is so vast and has 37 diveable Islands that are almost totally unexplored is inconceivable. The potential of what will be discovered from the point of new specie to the possibility of discovering lost unknown wrecks, to knowing you are one of the first divers to dive these reefs and walls, to being involved in naming them makes this a destination we strongly recommend you put at the top of your list.

Mozambique’s recorded history goes back many centuries and the country has been subject to conquest and exploitation since time immemorial. As early as AD600 Arab traders had established contact with the local inhabitants and subsequently established fortified trading posts along the coastline. Via these trading posts slaves, gold and ivory were shipped to the Arab world.

The Quirimbas Archipelago

32 islands that stretch some 200 miles along one of the most unexplored stretches of coastline in the world, the Quirimbas Archipelago is without doubt one of the best Scuba diving  destinations in the world. UNEXPLORED: UNDISCOVERED: UNTOUCHED: Most islands are uninhabited and all are blessed with white sandy beaches surrounded by a tropical Indian Ocean and a marine environment that has remained  virtually untouched

All the Quirimbas islands that had water have always supported human habitation, and at the time of the first Portuguese contact these islands were called the Maluane Islands because the local population generally Muslim traders designed woven cloth - both in silk and cotton and dyed with local indigo. This cloth was called Maluane, and was much sought after on the mainland.

The Quirimbas National Park

The story of the creation of the Quirimbas National Park is quite unique.
The Park was declared in June 2002 with the celebrations and official functions taking place on Ibo Island. What is extraordinary is that the Park was established at the request of local communities, stake holders, and NGO’s, all interested in working together to protect the region.
Conservation can only really be effective if it has the support of the communities that inhabit the areas.  In the case of the Quirimbas National Park it was unanimous. 
The Quirimbas National Park goal is “to conserve the diversity, abundance, and ecological integrity of all physical and biological resources in the park area, so that they may be enjoyed and used productively by present and future generations”.

The Park is extremely selective about what tourism projects and investments it allows into the region with an emphasis on high quality, low impact tourism, where the communities also benefit.

The Quirimbas National Park is one of the most important and biodiverse marine regions in the world.
It has an abundance of extremely rare species such as the sea turtle, dugongs, humpback whales, dolphins, sharks, as well as lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, wild dog, hyena, and a wide range of antelope and much more.

The Quirimbas National Park is located in six central districts of the Cabo Delgado Province, northern Mozambique. It encompasses an area of approximately 7,506 square kilometres, 5,984 on the mainland continent, and 1,522  being made up of ocean, inter-tidal, and island habitats. The marine section of the Park contains the 11 southernmost islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago, of which four islands (Ibo, Matemo, Quisiwe, and Quirimba) have a long history of permanent human occupation.  The Park runs approximately 100 kilometres north from the mouth of the Tari River past Ponta do Diabo to the town of Mucojo in Macomia District.  The 11 islands included in the park are the following: Quipaco, Quisiwe, Mefundvo, Quilalea, Sencar, Quirimba, Ibo, Quirambo, Fion, Matemo, and Ilha das Rolas.

The marine section of the park displays wide variations in depth.  The underwater topography is characterised by a series of deep, east-west running channels which cut through the continental shelf and support a diverse coral growth. These channels begin in the depth of the abyss, cutting between the islands before petering out in sand flats or seagrass beds to the west of the main line of islands.  The islands themselves are oriented in a rough north-south line parallel to and at a distance of approximately 10km from the mainland.  Between the islands and the mainland lie shallow sandbanks, seagrass beds, and stands of mangroves.  
The islands are bordered on the west by tidal flats composed of coral rock and dead coral.  These flats are also extensive, up to 1km in breadth.  The fringing reef begins at the end of the coral flats.  Depth here falls away rather directly, in some cases vertically, to the abyss.  Depths of 200 metres occur extremely close to the coral fringing reef; the continental shelf  is quite narrow here.  Diving in these areas is spectacular as the reef here is generally well preserved; wind and waves and current,  and the vertical topography all combine to discourage local fishermen from diving and netting along the seaward reefs.

Terrestrial region of the Park
The Park region has been identified by various studies as priority areas for wildlife. Three important migratory routes for elephant transverse the area, following the coast and the Montepuez and Messalo river systems.  The inselbergs (isolated granitic mountains) of Meluco area not only spectacularly beautiful, but have been identified as a centre of plant and animal endemism, and have served historically as a refuge for elephants.  The local elephants have to a certain extent adapted themselves to the mountain environment, and one finds their tracks in the steepest and rockiest and most unlikely places.

The following species are present in the Park
Elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena, wild dog, eland, greater kudu, bushbuck, sable, water buck, duikers, suni and oribi, jackal, serval, civet, otter, bushpig, warthog, baboon, samango and vervet monkey, hippopotamus, crocodile and a huge variety of sea birds and raptors including the Fish Eagle, Bateleur Eagle, Martial Eagle, flamingo, storks, herons, kingfishers, and many more.

The whole mainland coastline also remains completely unexplored, along with its many  coves, beaches and coral reef. Virtually unknown to the outside world, the indigenous people who inhabit the islands have quietly gone about their daily business. Local fishermen build Arab style dhows hand-hewn from trees. They navigate hundreds of kilometres of winding channels and mangrove lagoons casting their nets and lines much as they have done for the last 1000 years. 

It is the 'undiscovered' nature of these islands that make it so special. This is a place in the world where there are no cars, no roads, few hotels and therefore few tourists. This is a destination where you are unlikely to come across any other scuba divers, so for the diver looking for UNEXPLORED REEFS; UNDISCOVERED REEFS:  UNTOUCHED REEFS: this is it!

Ok, so where will you be diving.?

Dive The Big 5 have identified two islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago. Medjumbe Private Island and Quilalea Private Island. We identified these two island, one, for the diving, and two, for the accommodation available on the island.

Both these island are uninhabited except for the lodge staff, so other than the lodge staff and guests, there is no one else on the island. Please remember, this exclusivity comes at a price!

Medjumbe Private Island:

Medjumbe, Private Island is 120 km’s from Pemba, about a 40-minute flight. The island is 1 km long and on average 280 meters wide. Accommodation is 5 star accommodation, consisting of 11 Villas. If the resort is full, other than the staff, there will be a maximum of 22 guests. The island is uninhabited.


Quilalea Private Island:  

By comparison, Medjumbe Private Island is a metropolis to Quilalea Private Island. Quilalea Island is 86 acres in size and as with Medjumbe Island, other than the staff and guests, it is completely uninhabited. There are 4 sandy beaches on the island and Azura Quilalea’ s 9 Villas are located on two of these 4 beaches. You are not going to find better, more pristine, and more exclusive diving anywhere in the world.

www.azura-retreats.com and click on Quilalea Private Island

It’s not easy to get to this divers paradise, and perhaps that’s the reason that the dive sites are UNEXPLORED, UNDISCOVERED, UNTOUCHED.

From Maputo, the capital of  Mozambique, it’s a 3 hour domestic flight by Boeing to Pemba, the “hub” for all the island destinations of the Quirimbas. Then once at Pemba, the only access to the islands is by fixed wing aircraft or helicopter.

As you by now can appreciate, this is not your average dive destination, by virtue of accessibility, and it is most definitely not a “hammock and camping” type destination. If you are looking at the Quirimbas as a dive destination, you should be prepared to spend at least 2/3 full days (6 dives) at Medjumbe, and  2/3 full days (6 dives) at Quilalea. We suggest you break the two destinations up by spending 2 nights on the historic Ibo Island.

Ibo Island:

When the Portuguese first arrived in the Quirimbas, the main trading centre in the archipelago was on the large Quirimba Island (Next Island south of Ibo Island). The Portuguese attacked Quirimba Island in 1522, because the trading Muslims of Quirimba refused to trade with the Portuguese Christians, and intended probably to eliminate them as trading rivals. The town was set alight and destroyed, dhows sunk, some 60 Muslims killed and much looting took place with large amounts of ivory and other trade goods seized. 

By 1590 seven of the nine biggest islands were ruled by a Portuguese lord, and two by the Muslims.  Ibo Island traded in amber, jet, ivory, ambergris and turtle shell.  The locals had to pay 5% of their produce to the islands lord – as well as a contribution to the church. On Ibo the Portuguese built large rainwater cisterns that enabled them to raise cattle, pigs and goats. Meat, millet, rice, beans and palm products were all exported and even Ilha de Mozambique seems to have been supplied from Ibo Island. By this time Ibo Island had become the most important centre of the islands and in the mid 17th century the Archipelago was ruled by two main ‘Mazumgo’ (white) families – the Morues and the Meneses.

Ibo Island is one of the most ancient settlements in Mozambique, after Ilha do Moçambique (usually just known as “Ilha” in Mozambique) The specific history of Ibo can be dated back to at least the 1600 – Chinese grave stones still bear their readable dates, though Arab influence dates earlier. The Fort of Forma de Cisterna was constructed by the Arabs even before the Portuguese occupation.

Ibo Island gained municipal status in 1763 and by the end of the 18th century, Ibo is regarded to have been the second most important Portuguese trading centre Ilha do Mozambique. Throughout the 18th and 19th century the population of Ibo Island and the adjacent regions were consistently under attack from Dutch and Madagascar forces.  As a result of the attacks the Fort of São João Batista (St. John Baptist) was completed in 1791. The little chapel housed inside of the fort was built in 1795, followed by the Fort Santo Antonio (St. Anthony) and Fort of the Bairro de Rituto built in 1847.

It is for the above historic and cultural reasons that we strongly suggest that your diving on Medjumbe and Quilalea be broken by a two night stay in Ibo Island.


Well Dive Buddies, in a nut-shell, that’s Dive The Big 5’s UNEXPLORED, UNDISCOVERED, UNTOUCHED Quirimbas diving for you.

Looking forward to getting you “wet” in the Quirimbas.

Quote – author unknown:

To compare this destination with any of those we have previously dived would be impossible to do with just 5 days of diving but what we saw places this destination in a unique category. The fact that this area is so vast and has 37 diveable Islands that are almost totally unexplored is inconceivable. The potential of what will be discovered from the point of new specie to the possibility of discovering lost unknown wrecks, to knowing you are one of the first divers to dive these reefs and walls, to being involved in naming them makes this a destination we strongly recommend you put at the top of your list.