Ilha de Moçambique (Island of Mozambique, or Mozambique Island)
Ilha de Moçambique is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often referred to as a 'living museum' due to its infrastructure being highly untouched since it was the capital of Mozambique back in 1898. The only work done on this island for most of the last fifty years is rehabilitation of the old colonial infrastructure. You will find a prize photo on almost every corner as one really gets the sense of having travelled back in time.
Before the Portuguese inhabited the island over 500 years ago it was inhabited by Musa Al Biq, an arab trader whose name by Portuguese settlers was interpreted and later written as Moçambique - the name that was later given to the then colony.
The highlight of the island is the commanding Fort São Sebastião, located at the northern tip of the island. Over 450 years old, the fort is the oldest European-style fort still standing in sub-Saharan Africa (the Great Zimbabwe is argued to be a native fort built up to 100 years earlier). With no natural water source to be found on the island the roof run-off is still used by many on the island for water for their everyday lives.
The Nossa Senhora Beluarte Chapel (Capela da Nossa Senhora de Beluarte) is found almost within the fort on the eastern most tip of the island and is the oldest European building in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Architecture fans should take note of the fantastic vaulted roof.
Other highlights include the historic "Sporting" club with its now abandoned pool, and the giant hospital which seems to occupy a larger proportion of the island than the population of approximately 14,000 inhabitants would seem to justify. Do not make the mistake of missing out on a walk through the densely populated Makuti Town to see a real look at today's Ilha life.
How to get there
Unless you charter a boat the only reasonable way of getting to Ilha de Moçambique is by road from either Nampula and Pemba, which both have International Airports. Nampula City is closest and takes between 3 and 4 hours. No large bus services reach the island. Small "chapas" service Ilha directly from Nampula for about $6 per person (not including your luggage).
Where to stay
Despite being such a small island there is a number of fantastic guesthouses and B&Bs on Ilha de Moçambique. Go to our Ilha de Moçambique page to find direct contacts to these fantastic locations.