Pemba Island Zanzibar Island Archipelago Destinations Featured

Pemba Island Deep Sea Diving Boat

 

 Pemba Island is becoming well known for its dive sites, with steep drop-offs, untouched coral and very abundant marine life as well as its world class luxurious hotels and accommodations. The epitome of a tropical paradise, Pemba has green valleys with rice paddies and palm trees and clove plantations that shade the roads. Vistas of the Indian Ocean are pleasant surprises as they are presented through the peaks and depths of Pemba's hilly terrain.

Together with Uguja (Zanzibar Island Mainland), Mafia Island (south of Unguja), the islands form the Spice Islands of Africa (not to be confused with the Maluku Islands of Indonesia).

To the north of Zanzibar, but only a 30 minute flight away, lies the largest of the satellite Zanzibar Archipelago Islands, Pemba Island. Pemba Island, known as “The Green Island”, is the second biggest island of the Zanzibar Islands Archipelago. Pemba lies 80 km north of its sister island, Unguja, directly east of the Tanzanian city of Tanga. Most of the island, is hillier and more fertile than Unguja, is dominated by small scale farming. There is also large scale farming of cash crops such as cloves.

Pemba Island is familiar to keen scuba-divers, for whom its dive sites are renowned. But it deserves to be on the “must see” list for other savvy travelers too. The beaches are pristine with untouched coral, unspoiled reefs and very abundant marine life. An 800m deep channel divides Pemba from the Tanzania mainland making this one of Africa's greatest deep sea fishing destinations. The rich and alluring smell of cloves hangs in the air through much of the island and the Pemba locals remain friendly and interested in chatting with those few overseas visitors who make it to their shores.

Much of Pemba’s coast is lined with mangroves and lagoons; however, there are stretches of sand and some idyllic uninhabited isles where you can play castaway for a day. The healthy coral reefs, the steeply dropping walls of the Pemba Channel and an abundance of fish provide world-class diving: the best in East Africa.

The island is also world-renowned for its collective knowledge of witchcraft and the African occult, Pemba is frequently visited by people looking for local cures or looking to learn the trade of witch-doctoring. It is even said that people have traveled from as far as Haiti and throughout East African order to learn the origins of voodoo, seek cures or to learn the skills of the trade. Although its reputation for occult healing and spell casting spreads much farther than Pemba, the locals will deny it emphatically if asked. It is not for public consumption and is revealed to locals only. In its beauty, the island itself is bewitching enough.

With the booming tourism industry in neighboring Unguja (usually referred only as Zanzibar), more adventurous travelers are seeking out the less-crowded Pemba for peace, tradition and pristine uncontaminated nature. It's a hilly, fertile island off Tanzania’s coast with dreamy beaches and crystal clear water, popular among keen divers and snorkelers.

At Pemba Island life seems to go at a slower pace here – it’s the perfect place for relaxing beach holidays! Alternatively, stay here for a couple of nights at the beginning or end of your safari holidays in Tanzania and the rest of Africa!

The population is a mix of Arab and original Waswahili inhabitants of the island. There is a quite large Arab community on the island who emigrated from Oman. A significant portion of the population also identifies as Shirazi people. Pot-holed roads lead through villages where women in bright veiled kangas sit and chat in Swahili, ox-drawn carts are stacked high with fruit, and the air is filled with the smell of spices. Most of the people living in fairly traditionally-designed square houses, built using mud walls around a wooden frame and with roofs of thatch or corrugated iron.

Pemba is very fertile, and always seems greener and more arable than Zanzibar Island. It also produces far more cloves than Zanzibar - and its economy is still far more dependent on agriculture than Zanzibar, and far less dependent on tourism.

The most important towns in Pemba are Chake-Chake (the capital), Mkoani, and Wete which is the largest city. The centrally located Chake-Chake is perched on a mound with a view to the west on a bay and the tiny Misali Island, where the tides determine when a dhow can enter the local harbor. Chake Chake town is the island's administrative capital and the location of the island's airport

Pemba remains largely ‘undiscovered’ offering an authentic Island beach experience and you’ll still have most things (even the lovely beaches) more or less to yourself, which is a big part of the island’s appeal.


Places of Interest in and around Pemba Island, Zanzibar Island Archipelago.

Chake Chake

Lively Chake Chake, set on a ridge overlooking mangrove-filled Chake Chake Bay, is Pemba’s main town and the best base for visiting the island’s southern half, including Misali. There’s no equivalent of Stone Town here, but it’s an appealingly scruffy city whose compact core is packed tight with small shops and makes for an interesting walk.


Things to do in Chake Chake

Pemba Essential Oil Distillery

Visitors to this factory just out of town to the northeast can see the tanks where clove stems, cinnamon leaves, eucalyptus leaves; lemongrass and sweet basil are turned into essential oils.

Pemba Museum

Filling what’s left of an 18th-century Omani-era fort, which was probably built on the remains a 16th-century Portuguese garrison, this is a small but well-executed museum with displays on island history and Swahili culture. You’ll enjoy your visit to Ras Mkumbuu, Mkame Ndume and Chwaka ruins much more if you stop here first.

Visit the nearby 1922 courthouse to see its clock tower and gorgeous original door, the most impressive on Pemba.

Kigomasha

Kigomasha Peninsula with its good resorts is located on the peninsula’s west shore and the beautiful palm-fringed Vumawimbi beach stretching along the east. The Kigomasha Peninsula, in Pemba’s northwestern corner, has become the centre of Pemba’s small tourist industry. Vumawimbi is an isolated place and you’re unlikely to have much company except for a few locals.

Also not to be missed is Ras Kigomasha lighthouse at the peninsula’s tip. Built in 1900, it’s still actively maintained by its keeper. Scale the tiny staircase for wonderful views.

Wete

The run-down town of Wete, Pemba’s second largest port, is a good base for exploring northern Pemba. It’s also the easiest place to see Pemba flying foxes with a large colony hanging from some trees just uphill from the port. At night they fly off to the north past Annex of Sharook guesthouse.

Tumbe

The large village of Tumbe lies on a sandy cove fringed at each end by dense stands of mangroves. The beach north of the village is the site of Pemba’s largest fish market, and if you’re in the area it’s well worth a stop to watch the bidding. Tumbe is also one of the places (Chwale, Pujini and Kidike are others) where you still can see Pemba’s light-hearted ‘bull fights’, said to date back to the days of Portuguese influence on the island. They’re usually done after the rice harvest, at New Year and sometimes for Tourism Day (27 September).

The Chwaka Ruins

Beginning about 1.5km southeast from Tumbe, spread out amid palm trees and cassava fields, are the Chwaka ruins with several sites spanning the 8th to 18th centuries AD. The main destination is the Haruni Site with remnant of a town that existed from the 11th to 15th centuries and grew to perhaps 5000 people. It’s named after Harun, son of Mkame Ndume and, according to local tradition, just as cruel as his father. Legend says the pillared structure next to the semi-intact Friday Mosque is his tomb, but this is unlikely. From the highway, follow the dirt track 600m past the site office and some 18th-century tombs (there was once a fort on the low hill here) from when the Mazruis from Mombasa ruled this area.

Kiweni Island, Pemba

Tranquil Kiweni, marked as Shamiani on some maps, is just off Pemba’s southeastern coast. It’s a remote backwater island with undisturbed stretches of sand, quiet waterways and a nesting ground for sea-turtle colonies. Offshore are some good snorkeling places.

Mkoani

Although its Pemba’s major port, Mkoani has managed to fight off all attempts at development and remains a small and rather boring town; unless you like watching fishermen.

Vitongoji

Beaches for scenery rather than swimming (though you can take a dip among the rocks at high tide if you want), the shore near Vitongoji town has several small attractive baobab-dotted coves with some weirdly eroded rocks and a little sand.

Wambaa

Pemba’s most exclusive property, Fundu Lagoon Resort is set on a low hillside overlooking the sea near little Wambaa town. The luxurious tents, some with their own private plunge pools, are tucked away amid the vegetation. Particularly notable is its bar, set over the water on a long jetty. There’s a spa and a PADI Five-Star dive operator here, plus plenty of other aquatic excursions from paddling through mangroves to sunset dhow cruises. Children under 12 are not allowed.

Ngezi Vumawimbi Forest Reserve

The dense and wonderfully lush forest at Ngezi is one of the last remaining patches of the forest that once covered western Pemba. It’s notable in that it resembles the highland rainforests of East Africa more than the lowland forests found on Zanzibar. The 2900-hectare reserve has two nature trails tunneling beneath the shady forest canopy, and off-trail walks are allowed. All visits must be done with a naturalist guide, some of whom speak English. Most visitors follow the Josh Trail, which takes under an hour and is good for spotting birds and red colobus monkeys (only early in the morning and late in the afternoon) and also passes an old sawmill. A highlight of the Toofik Trail, which goes far deeper into the forest and normally takes five to seven hours, is the snake pond, home to several slitherers, including spitting cobra. Night walks are also available; most participants are hoping to see Pemba scops owls, one of the island’s four endemic bird species.

Mkame Ndume (Pujini) Ruins

About 10km southeast of Chake Chake, near Pujini, are the atmospheric ruins (late 15th to early 16th centuries) of what was either a fort or a palace of the infamous Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman, who ruled Pemba prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. Locally, Rahman is known as Mkame Ndume (Milker of Men) and for Pembans, his name is synonymous with cruelty due to the harsh punishments he meted out to his people. The primary feature is a large stone staircase that led from the kilometer-long channel (now dry) connecting this site to the ocean, and while only a few small walls are left standing, the remains of the ramparts show its scale and, with some imagination, give an indication of Pujini’s power in its heyday.

Ras Mkumbuu

Ras Mkumbuu is the long, thin strip of land jutting into the sea northwest of Chake Chake. At its tip are the ruins of a settlement believed to be Qanbalu, the oldest known Muslim town in Africa. It was founded in the 8th century and by the early 10th century it was one of the major cities along the East African coast. The main ruins, consisting of a large mosque, some tombs and houses, date from around the 14th century, and several walls are still standing.

Fundo Island

Fundo Island is located off the northwest coast of Pemba Island, one of the two main islands of Tanzania's Zanzibar Archipelago. It is one of the larger minor islands in the archipelago, and the largest of those surrounding Pemba. Fundo Island is nine kilometers in length, though barely a kilometer in width, and is surrounded by a reef.

Together with the smaller Njao Island, which lies immediately to the north, and several smaller islands to the south, Fundo forms a natural barrier and breakwater for the harbor of the town of Wete, which lies six kilometers to the east.


Why visit Pemba Island Zanzibar Island Archipelago.

  • Visit and stay at an island known for its dive sites, with steep drop-offs, untouched coral and very abundant marine life.
  • Stay and relax at one of the world class luxurious hotels and accommodations available on Pemba Island.
  • Visit a spice island in Africa that grows cloves and other spices.
  • Visit an island named “The Green Island” by the early Arabic, Persian and Indian traders due to its green hills and spice plantations.
  • Scuba dive at one of the best diving sites in Africa and the whole of Eastern Africa.
  • For the pristine beaches with untouched coral, unspoiled reefs and very abundant marine life.
  • For the deep sea fishing experiences at the 800m deep channel divides Pemba from the Tanzania mainland.
  • For the castaway experience at some idyllic uninhabited isles and sandy beaches.
  • Try your luck in discovering, learning and experiencing witchcraft voodoo and the African occult at is said to be practiced on the island.
  • For the less-crowded Pemba, for peace, tradition and pristine uncontaminated nature.
  • For the dreamy Pemba beaches and crystal clear water, popular among keen divers and snorkelers.
  • To see The Pemba flying foxes only found on this island.

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