When was the last time, as a tourist, that an old man stopped you in the street just to say hello? In a time of overnight city breaks and sequestered spa retreats, shaking hands with old-timers in straw hats with names like Joao Baptista (who turns out to be the local historian) may seem like a simple pleasure, but it is an increasingly rare one. Then again, Ibo Island in the Indian Ocean off northern Mozambique is a very rare place.
Ibo was an Arab trading post from about A.D. 800, then a Portuguese one from 1760. At the turn of the 20th century, it consisted of two forts, a grand plaza, countless mansions and a population of 37,000. But with the end of colonialism in 1975, Ibo was forgotten. Today, just 3,500 people live in and around the crumbling colonnades and red-tiled townhouses whose gardens still overflow with frangipanis, bougainvilleas and Indian almonds imported by the island's opulent forebears. And somehow, despite being considered for U.N. World Heritage status, Ibo has been barely rediscovered. There are just three small hotels: Miti Miwire (from $50 a night), Cinco Portas Pensão (from $100) and Ibo Island Lodge (from $350 a night per couple). All are beautiful converted houses, but the lodge has huge rooms, Goan four-posters, the best pool and best sunset view, and its rates include air transfers from the mainland, three spectacular meals a day and use of a dhow to sail to a nearby sandbank for snorkeling and lobster lunch under a sunshade on the beach. See cincoportas.com and iboisland.com for more.