Ilha de Mozambique (Mozambique Island) is an island in the Nampula Province in Northern Mozambique with a historical heritage that's unmatched in the rest of Mozambique, and indeed the rest of Africa. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly four centuries under Portuguese colonization before the move to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), and had been used as a major base for the Arab traders long before the arrival of the Portuguese. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tiny, roughly 1 sq km island is connected by a concrete bridge with the mainland and is said to be crowded by 16000 inhabitants, most of them living in shacks with dismal sanitary conditions.
Ilha can easily be reached by road from Nampula. If you're driving follow the road towards Nacala, and turn off at the signpost for Ilha de Mozambique (which is in Monapo). It'll take around 2 hours and the road is good. When you get there you'll need to cross the causeway which costs about Mts 5,000.
If you're taking a chapa they leave from Ave de Trabhadores in Nampula near the railway station and cost Mts 80,000.
Ilha's is fairly tiny and you won't have any trouble walking around it - it's about a 20 minute walk from end to end, and only about 3 blocks wide. Gabriel's has bikes you can hire for the day.
Ilha's a mix of colonial Portuguese and old Swahili architecture. It basically divides into two halves - the old Stone Town in the north and the "Reed Town" in the south which is set down from the main streets.
The museum is in the old Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, a big red building up in Stone Town. In the same building is a tourist information office that sells really good street maps and has all sorts of other information about the various restaurants and pensões on the island.
Also worth a visit is the fort at the northern tip of the island, which contains the church of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte, almost certainly the oldest surviving European building in the southern hemisphere, dating back to 1522. Be sure you pay the right attendant, or you will have to pay the entrance fee twice: Ask for a entrance ticket, if you don't get one, don't pay.
- Fort São Sebastião.
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte (Capela de Nossa Senhora do Baluarte).
There's a dive centre at the northern end of the island just down from the fort, but ask a lot of questions, and think twice if you aren't an experienced diver yourself.
You can take boat trips or just laze on the beach. If you're feeling adventurous take a dhow over to the mainland at Chaga or Mossuril and explore along the coast there.
There aren't that many restaurants on the island, with Reliquias and Escondidinho heading the list up in Stone Town. But you can find a number of local places serving fish and rice or chima.
- Reliquias, ☎ .
The cheapest option is the camp site on the mainland next to the bridge. Self catering is possible from the nearby shops. $4/person.
- Casa Luis, Traversa dos Formos, ☎ . Dorm and private rooms with small breakfast from 12$. Laundry, cooking, air-condition etc. for pay. Very friendly owner. Located a bit outside from the main attractions in the Mud Town but just one minute from the green mosque
- Casa Branca, Rua dos combatantes, Stone Town (On the East side of the island near the Luis de Camoes statue), ☎ 06 610076. A very popular place with a few rooms for rent in an atmospheric 300 year old house. It is said that some rooms have marvellous views. $20-25 incl breakfast. Advance bookings are advised.
- Hotel Omuhi'piti (Close to the fort in the north of Stone Town), ☎ . Now reopened following refurbishment and is the nicest (and only) hotel on the island. Air conditioned rooms. Prices start at MT2,600/night.
- Hotel Escondidinho, Stone town, Praca das Amoreiras, near the Marinha, ☎ . Tastefully renovated double storey building with 10 rooms, swimming pool and restaurant
- Casa de Hospedes Terraço das Quitandas, Rua da Republica (wWst side of the island next to Palacio de S. Paulo/Museum and between Reliquias Restaurant and Customs House building), ☎ .
- The Quitanda´s Terrace Guest House, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Is separated from the beach by a garden outside, has six exotic decorated suites, individually decorated, offering you every comfort in an air conditioned with king-size beds or twin size bed, private bathroom, and much space in an atmospheric 300 year old house. Rates from about 75 p.p.s incl breakfast. Advance bookings advised.