the dhow safari

After enjoying one last breakfast on the rooftop of Ibo Island Lodge, we repacked our backpacks and walked to the dock.  Joey jumped from the dock to the upper deck of the dhow; L, O and our bags followed.  I took the long route.  While our crew made the final preparations for our journey, we watched more and more people and supplies stuffed onto the tiny, local water taxi on the other side of the dock.  It's hard to comprehend how that boat still managed to float.

Loading the dhow

Another amazing photo by L.
Soon we were on our way, and we all stripped down to our swimsuits to catch some rays.  L and I took pictures while Joey attempted to fish.  A few hours later we arrived at our first island campsite, Ulumbwa, and anchored in the bay under the watchful eye of the local children.  

Hard at work with that fishing pole
The bay
After a quick pit stop in the bush, our guide, Harris, helped us into kayaks and we paddled behind him into the mangrove forest.  Directly.  Into the forest.  Or more specifically, one mangrove tree.  Joey and I paddled out of the branches and right into a sandbank.  A patient Harris navigated us out of the bay and up the mouth of a river, and once we hit our stride the experience was thrilling - even before we saw the four fish that arced in unison over the water.  Unfortunately, our circuitous route meant fighting the same current that had propelled us out; and while my husband attempted to play bumper-kayaks with L&O, ours was the kayak that got turned around and pushed into the sea.  I'd like to credit all of my hours at the gym as the reason we made it back to shore.

Meanwhile our crew had set up our tents and the bush toilet - the "shower" was in process.  I took the roll of toilet paper from our tent and made the walk of shame across camp, not realizing just how shameful until I made acquaintance with the small metal flower pot over a deep hole and had to use half a coconut shell to throw sand over my pee.  And I thought the bush toilet on our safari was bad.  Although slightly traumatized, it was only a few minutes until we had cocktails, so with some hand sanitizer and rum punch, I was placated until the next round.

Toilet on the left.  Assembling the shower on the right.

That night we enjoyed another beautiful sunset as we settled around a bonfire and took in the amazing spectacle in the sky.  The display of stars from this pitch-black island in the middle of nowhere was completely breathtaking.  We feasted on fresh grilled shrimp before retiring to our tents for bed.  As Joey and I wiggled into our sleeping bags on our stretchers, we whispered goodnight and relaxed into the utter silence but for the wind in the trees, the lapping of the waves on the sand, and... Lady Gaga?

Our wilderness reverie was abruptly broken by the pulsating beats of techno music.  The local disco across the bay was apparently hosting its "Last Night Before Ramadan Party" and lucky for us the wind blew in just the right direction to treat us to the entire Top 40.  The low tide revealed a sandy strait between the islands, and our tents sat right along the path to the disco.  The Mozambican revelers danced late into the night and could have competed with any bar close I ever witnessed in Iowa City for the amount of noise they made getting home.

We had to be up early the next morning to catch the same rising tide, and once we were on our boat, hot breakfast in hand, the wakeful night was forgotten.  The wind was cold but the water was warm, so we spent the morning exploring new reefs with our snorkels.  We sailed to our second campsite, Mogundula Island, where we'd spend the next three days, and settled into a routine of sailing and snorkeling in the mornings and kayaking and hiking the island in the afternoons.  Each evening our waiter, Combo, would pour each of us a large pot of freshly boiled water into the bag that was our shower, and then we'd watch the sun go down behind our dhow.  Good food, fires, wine and laughs filled our nights like the stars in the sky, and the crash of the water on the rocks below our tents lulled us to sleep.

Snorkeling never really got easier, so our last full day L and I stayed on the boat and accidentally scandalized several boats of local fisherman who happened to be passing by.  At one point we watched while at least 24 muscular black men clad in tighty-whities sang and danced and held up their catch - one guy literally girated and stretched out over the mast in a "come-hither" pose.

The next morning we donned our backpacks and climbed onto the boat one last time.  After a short sail to the mainland, we were met by a driver in the tiny fishing village where we docked.  We said goodbye to Harris and Combo and the rest of the crew (and the large crowd that had gathered to see the white people), and drove off for Pemba.  Three hours later we arrived at the Pemba airport, where we settled in for another  three hours before our flight to Maputo.  From Maputo we flew to Johannesburg, where our overnight layover meant time for a real shower, flush toilet, king-size bed and steak dinner.

The mainland village of Mucojo where we transferred from dhow to car.

On the way to Pemba

At the Pemba airport

Celebrating the last night of a great trip in Johannesburg
A few hours later we were back at the Johannesburg airport and on our way to Lagos.  Our flights back to Nigeria were mostly uneventful, unless you count the outdoor waiting area in the rain at the domestic terminal in Lagos (it's under construction, so why wouldn't a tent suffice?).  We finally made it back to Abuja, tired, tanned and relaxed despite the 12 hour transit through Nigeria.  It was an incredible vacation - Joey said it was his favorite we've ever taken.  I'm not sure I'd go that far - maybe it the toilet or the shower or the half-hour it took me to finally brush my hair when I got home - but it was truly an amazing experience nonetheless.  
Didn't believe me? Click here for the rest of my pictures from our trip.


  1. wow lovely information. Pictures are cool. please do uplaod more pictures of Dhow cruise Dubai

  2. I like the way you guys enjoyed your dhow excursion. This looks like a lovely place to have a whole weekend on.