Guide to Pemba, a reef island off Tanzania

The coral island of Pemba, which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago (Tanzania), is known for an abundance of diverse tourist attractions. African nature, tropical climate, and a combination of touristy opportunities add to this place’s popularity.

While Pemba is not so famous among tourists, it is famous for a quiet secluded vacation away from the domination of civilization. Here you can simultaneously get acquainted with the underwater world, the beauty of mountainous hills and spend a full beach vacation on the Indian Ocean.

Pemba is a rich reef island of Tanzania

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Introduction to Pemba Island

The population here is less than in Zanzibar, is characterized by friendliness and great respect for local traditional beliefs. Here, folk medicine is practiced everywhere, and the local populace is engaged in agriculture, which is based on the cultivation of spices, rice and legumes. At least 3 million cloves grow on the island, mangrove plantations and coconut palms are cultivated.

Pemba Island in Tanzania is located 50 km north of Zanzibar. Its length is 65 km, width – 18 km. Historically, among Arab merchants, it was known as the “Green Island”, as it is replete with spices – a particularly valuable commodity.

Pemba has its own airport

Pemba has its own airport. Most hotels are located along the beaches, the most famous of which is Vumavimbi (2 km long). Since the sand on the island is of coral origin, it has a beautiful white color and a property suitable for recreation – it does not heat up in the sun.

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Attractions and entertainment in Pemba

The main advantage of this Tanzanian island is its geographical location. The proximity of the African continent, the dominance of the marine climate, comfortable beaches and its own history make the island an object with its own tourist value.

So, how can you spend my vacation time on the Tanzanian island of Pemba?

1. Diving and snorkeling

Pemba is a favorite place for divers and just diving enthusiasts. The coastal waters are inhabited by a variety of marine life that you can see and photos of.

Tanzania is located almost at the equator, so the underwater world is densely populated. Especially developed is diving on the east coast, where there are coral reefs (Emerald, Samaki), and the water is transparent and allows you to observe in detail barracuda, stingrays, octopuses, large crustaceans, moray eels, schools of fish.

Diving on the island of Pemba

Here are some of the other distinguishing features of diving in Pemba.

a. Ship wreck

In 1969, a Greek ship sank near the island. Its skeleton was overgrown with algae and shells and the fish found refuge on it. Divers are happy to visit this ship wreck to enjoy the riot of colors and to observe the active life of the ocean population.

The period from September to March is a good time for fishing.

b. Humpback whale migration

In July-August, the humpback whale migration route passes through the waters of Pemba Island. The ocean around the island is an excellent fishing ground. The most successful time for fishing here is the period from September to March, and the place is the Pemba Strait, which separates the island from mainland Tanzania.

2. Rainforests

You can meet flying foxes
Flying foxes

The pristine island nature has preserved the local tropical forest in all its diversity. Thickets of baobabs look unusual to the European eye, and the exotic fauna and flora of the forest tropics are the pride of the island.

When visiting, you can find blue monkeys, flying foxes, duker antelopes and others. Among the branches, bright birds with colorful plumage are clearly distinguishable, fragrant flowering plants and creepers make up a typical forest landscape.

3. Architecture from Pemba’s history

Seclusion from the Tanzanian mainland did not affect the development of the economy and infrastructure of Pemba island. It did not remain aloof from the sea caravan routes, and representatives of various cultures left their mark in its history. From the architectural sights here you can find ancient ruins, such as:

You can see the ancient ruins
  • the ruins of a coastal military fortification – an Arab fort built in the 18th century
  • the remnants of the first settlements of the native African Swahili ethnicity, where burials with well-defined signs of authenticity were examined by scholars
  • even more ancient – from the XIV century. surviving mosque and fortress
  • the world-famous ruins of another fortification – Pudzhini (fortress of the XV century) with an underground tomb
At the extreme northern point of the island there is a lighthouse

At the extreme northern point of the island there is a steel lighthouse (from 1900), unofficially open to the public. In general, the architecture of the island of Pemba is distinguished by features brought by the conquerors of various times, as well as interesting ancient patterns.

Holidays in Pemba: what to expect and what to prepare for

Tourism infrastructure in Pemba is developed to a degree sufficient for a comfortable vacation of any duration. By themselves, walks around the island, the mountainous areas, visits to forests and historical and cultural sites ​​allow you to enjoy the scenery, expand your horizons and take in plenty of fresh sea air. However, it is beach and sea vacations that make up the lion’s share of the island’s tourist capabilities, just like the neighboring Zanzibar.

Pemba Island Beach

Inexpensive hotels are found on the approaches to the beaches. We recommend staying in bungalows directly on the shore and not waste time on a daily journey to the edge of the waters. Nevertheless there are hotels with restaurants, swimming pool, spa, that are located a little away from the beach front, and can also arrange diving and boat trips.

For example, the Manta Resort hotel is well known for its unique underwater room. At a depth of 4 m, the first tier of the hotel room has all its windows facing the depths of the sea.

Underwater Room at Manta Resort
Manta resort

There are also restaurants with local cuisine on the island of Pemba located near the hotels. Exotic fruits on the market are inexpensive. However you can always pick those growing directly on tropical trees, which makes them completely free of cost.

How to get to Pemba Island

Local airline Coastal Aviation
Coastal aviation

Pemba Island can be reached by sea or through the air from other parts of Tanzania. In the first case, there are options to sail by boat from neighboring Zanzibar (for $50) or by ferry from mainland Tanzania through the strait.

It is believed that the best way is a plane, since ferry flights are irregular, and for a boat crossing you need to hire a private vessel. Airways are served by local airlines such as Coastal Aviation and ZanAir ($130).

A lot of sun, corals, virgin rainforests and white beaches make Pemba a real African paradise. The island in itself is an adornment of the archipelago and a promising resort that awaits its lovers all year round.

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