Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Clinging to the north Mozambique coast, the Quirimbas Archipelago’s clutch of 31 pristine coral islands and islets stretches for 320 kilometres right up to the Tanzanian border. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the area is stunningly beautiful. Offshore lie some of the richest reefs in the world, while deeper channels are home to dolphins, whales, turtles and a bountiful array of other marine life. In 2002 the southernmost 11 islands were declared a national park.

Steeped in history, the Quirimbas are a colourful melting pot of African, Portuguese and Arabian influences. In the past the region’s wealth was based on trade in spice, ivory and slaves, but the local population entered freefall after the Portuguese cleared out almost overnight in 1975. The ensuing 15-year civil war racked the Mozambican economy and wiped out the tourist industry. An industry that is only now beginning to find its feet.