Travel to and around the islands

How to get to the Quirimbas islands

Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, is the main entry point from the mainland to the Quirimbas islands. From Pemba you can make your way to Ibo, the administrative centre and the best connected of the islands, by road and sea, or by light aircraft transfer. Alternatively, you can travel from the mainland to Quirimba island, by car and boat only.

Flights arrive in Pemba on a daily basis from a number of African hubs including Johannesburg (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) or Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.

From Pemba to Ibo

By road:

Private transfer
Private transfers involve a 4×4 journey followed by a boat. The drive takes you to Tandanhangue, from where you can take a boat to Ibo, which should be arranged in advance via your hosts or a local travel company, as it can only depart at high tide.  The boat journey takes about an hour, and is not possible at low tide.
In the dry season, the drive to Tandanhangue takes 2 and a half to 3 hours via tarmac and mainly dirt roads. In the rainy season, it takes 4 to 5 hours, with a longer route and more dirt road to contend with.

Public transport
A chappa (truck/minibus) leaves Pemba airport daily at around 0400/0500 for Tandanhangue, where you can get the a daily ‘chappa naval’ (informal local passenger boat)  to Ibo which departs around at high tide. In theory it coordinates with the arrival of the minibus, but this isn’t a guarantee. You may have to wait a few hours if the tide is out, and there are no facilities in Tandanhangue, so make sure you have water/snacks with you. For the return from Ibo to Tandanhangue, the chappa bus is usually waiting to meet the chappa boat on arrival from Ibo.

The total journey takes between 4 and 8 hours.
Prices: Chappa bus through Bilibiza (wet season) 400-Mts pp // Chappa bus through Metuge (dry season) 300-Mts pp+ Chappa boat 70-Mts per person

IMPORTANT! There are no facilities in Tandanhangue – not even a place to buy water, so ensure you have supplies with you for the journey as if you miss the right tide, it will be a long wait…


By plane:

The easiest and fastest way to get from Pemba to Ibo is by plane.
Safari Air flies regularly from Pemba and can arrange to meet your international flight.
Cost: Pemba – Ibo approx. 243 USD pp, Ibo – Pemba approx. 228 USD pp. If the flight only has one passenger, the cost is doubled.

Safari Air has an office in Pemba and Maputo and can be contacted by email:


From Pemba to Quirimba

If you’re heading to Quirimba island from the mainland, you can take a private transfer or chappa from Pemba to Quissanga beach, an alternative departure point, where a chappa naval (informal boat for locals) goes to Quirimba island. Don’t get out at the administrative post of Quissanga on the hill. Continue your journey down to the lower part of the town opposite Quirimba Island and on the beach.

Travelling around the Quirimbas islands

It’s important to understand that all modes of travel are tide dependant throughout the Quirimbas. Some journeys can only be made at  high tide, so the time that boats can depart and arrive, and the time excursions can take place, is often very specific. Make sure you check tide times locally and in advance of your travel. You can read more about tides here.


Between Ibo and Quirimba

By foot
At low tide, it’s a fantastic walk and best accompanied by a guide. The walk takes around 2.5 hours through wet mangroves and sand. Depending on the tides, you may not be able to return to the island you depart from on the same day. In this case you can hire a dhow for your return leg. Check with your Ibo guide or accommodation establishment and they will be able to advise and arrange for you.

By chappa naval (informal local passenger boat)
Departing both islands at high tide. This is a very informal service for the locals. It takes any number of passengers and is unlikely to have life jackets or other safety features. Be aware that the service doesn’t always run. Check on the ground for up to date departure times and locations. This costs 150 MTN per person.

By private boat
You can make arrangements via a local guide or accommodation for a boat to take you between islands. Again, this is only feasible at high tide, and depending on the tide times, you may not be able to return to the island you depart from on the same day.

By kayak
Kayaks can be hired on Ibo. The journey isn’t possible at low tide. A guide is required to avoid getting lost in the mangroves.

Between Ibo and Matemo and between Quirimba and Matemo you can travel by private boat or excursion only. It is also possible to travel to smaller, un-inhabited islands and sandbanks of the archipelago as part of an organised tour. See the tours and activities page for more information.