Air travel can get so wearing. Whoever said that half the joy of travelling is the getting there obviously never sat in the back of a 747 with their knees behind their ears and surrounded by screeching kids. It has taken me three airlines and three aircraft to get to Medjumbe Island but suddenly the last flight has become worth doing.

Medjumbe is part of the Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique and we are flying low over its 32 islands in a Cessna Grand Caravan. (Yes, it's a plane, with 10 seats.) I would be hanging out the window with the camera if I could but the pilot thinks he's a tour leader. "See that star-shaped building?" he says. "That's Ibo island and the Portuguese built a..." but his voice fades away as he turns back to the controls to land on a minuscule speck of tropical island.

The Caravan skids to a halt on a rustic runway beside a sandspit on Medjumbe Island. There is a snarl of low-lying vegetation, interspersed with beachside cabanas and a surprising number of birds.

The next day I open our cabin doors to reveal a panorama which includes a talcum-powder beach and a turquoise lagoon. A heron glides down to the rocks, then wanders across the sand, stepping slowly on to our deck. I watch, cursing that the camera is closer to the heron than my hand.

Circumnavigating the island disturbs flitting weaver birds and hovering honeyeaters, while reef egrets swoop overhead. At sunset, the tide retreats and the sandspit becomes home to a sea of terns. Thousands arrive, turning the white sand even whiter (albeit dotted with beady black eyes). They resent being disturbed and lift off en masse, squawking their how-dare-yous. After a 180-degree flutter they re-establish themselves further up the beach, evading me – and my camera – again.

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