Mozambique Island has an exotic character from hundreds of years, a mixture of many cultures. The little island is a mass of narrow streets which are great to be strolled around and capture the atmosphere.
Most of the historic sites are in Stone Town in the north of the island where life seems to have changed little in the last 400 years.
The Palace of Sao Paolo (formerly known as Palácio dos Capitães-Generais) is a red building in the Stone Town. The Palace has been restored to its former glory. Its European architecture is an example of incredible
faded grandeur from when it was the residency of the governor from 1759 to 1898. Today the Palace houses a museum; Arab chairs, carpets, Chinese porcelain, Portuguese wall-hangings and chandeliers adorn the building
and it gives a great insight into what upper-class life was like in the island’s heyday in the 18th century.
In the same building there is a tourist information office that sells street maps and has all information needed about the various restaurants and accommodation on the island. Behind the palace is the Museum of Sacred Art, which contains religious ornaments, paintings and carvings. It’s well worth heading here as soon as you arrive.
The 400-year-old Sao Sebastian Fort is the jewel in the crown of the UNESCO treasures on the island.
It is the oldest complete fort still standing in sub-Saharan Africa. Starting the construction in 1558, it took the Portuguese 50 years to build this important defense fort to protect against invasion. Cannons and cannonballs are dispersed on the upper perimeter of the walls, 400 cannons still point out to sea. The Portuguese converted many of the Bantu people in Mozambique to Catholicism.
The Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte is the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere, dating from 1522, and is within the walls of the fort. It is also one of the best examples of Manueline (i.e. Portuguese late Gothic architectural style) vaulted architecture in Mozambique. There is no fresh water on the island and one of the most interesting aspects of the fort is the roof which was designed to collect rainwater. This was then channeled down to underground vaults. It was this water collection system that allowed the Portuguese and the island’s 11,000 residents to successfully be under siege for a period of four years by the Dutch. The locals still collect and use water from there today.
At the southern end of the island is the Church of Santo Antonio, located on a headland with fishing boats moored nearby. There is also a Hindu temple near the municipal market and an ancient Hindu, Muslim and Christian cemetery can be visited at in the nearby of the Church of Santo Antonio.
With regards to outdoor activities, there is plenty to choose among!
Like in the rest of Mozambique, scuba diving and snorkeling should be top priority, as these coastlines are littered with beautiful coral reefs and an indescribable number of marine species. Boat trips are also offered for guests to get an offshore perspective of the island and to gaze at the plethora of fish and corals beneath the surface. For a more traditional adventure, visitors can use dhows (i.e. traditional sailing vessels) over to the mainland at Chocas or Mossuril and explore along the coast there, or even go to Goa or Sena Islands. Bicycle tours and sea kayaking are also available and is a great way to explore the less inhabited areas of the island.