80 kilometers north of Zanzibar, Pemba Island is the second largest island in the archipelago. Nicknamed the green island, Pemba is a small piece of paradise particularly renowned for its scuba diving and snorkelling spots. A sweet getaway for those wishing to discover Tanzania off the beaten track.
Discover Pemba Island: What to see, what to do?
While the coasts of Zanzibar have been besieged by travelers from all over the world for several years, Pemba Island has managed to retain its intimate side. This green island, (whose nickname comes from the Arabic “Al-Jazīra al-khadrā”), lives up to its name. Unlike the rest of the archipelago renowned for its architectural riches, the island of Pemba is above all known for its natural landscapes, of an intense green. The landscapes are pristine, very uncrowded and consist of lush vegetation with fertile hills on which cloves grow. Zanzibar is indeed famous for this oriental spice, the cultivation of which is still one of the first activities on the island. Pemba looks like a wild paradise, shared between small islets, mangroves, coral reefs and white sand beaches.
This Tanzanian island is especially known among tourists for the impressiveness of its tides, although the sea and the waves are not its only attractions. The territory of Pemba is made up of hills and slopes where you can see plants of various kinds such as palms or rice fields.
If what you are looking for is wild nature, here you can immerse yourself in two completely different worlds. On the one hand are the forests like the Ngezi in the north and on the other are the virgin beaches that have the ideal conditions for diving.
After all that has been said, it may surprise you that you have not heard more often about the island of Pemba. The reason this place is not as famous as Anse Lazio on the island of Praslin or Diani Beach south of Mombasa or other beaches in Africa is that tourist infrastructures are conspicuous by their absence.
Pemba’s beaches are very beautiful but difficult to access. This is a clear drawback if you are traveling with children or people with certain mobility problems. In addition, we must not forget that the main reason for traveling is to enjoy a few well-deserved days off and visitors always go to places that offer all possible comforts.
But don’t get the wrong impression. Pemba is one of the most populated parts of Tanzania. If you walk through its streets you will discover a multitude of traditional block houses built with mud walls, a wooden frame and thatched or corrugated iron roofs.
A curious fact if you are interested in the folklore and culture of the region. In Pemba healers and voodoo are very important. People from East Africa come to the island to get cures or to learn the skills of the healing trade.
In short, the island of Pemba in Tanzania is a wild enclave in which there is still much to discover. The neighboring island of Unguja does have developed tourist services, so communication and travel are not as difficult as it may seem at first glance. Bring out your explorer skills and let yourself be surprised by the mysteries that this island holds!
Go meet the humpback whales
Pemba Island is located on the whale migration route. The ideal way to meet them, from July to September, and experience a magical moment. Take a boat and sail out to sea for the chance to observe them.
Go diving or snorkeling
The island of Pemba offers very beautiful diving and snorkeling sites. Its crystal clear waters are home to healthy coral reefs. Humphead wrasse, groupers, manta rays, eagle rays, trevallies and even barracudas swim peacefully in the island’s calm sea. The Manta Point and Fundo Gap are the two most famous sites in Pemba, especially reserved for experienced divers. The Swiss Reef is a spectacular site perfect for encountering pelagics, turtles and large schools of exotic fish. Finally, wreck enthusiasts can dive on Panza Point or Ras Miungani, more than 20 meters deep.
Hike through native forest
Located north of Pemba in the Zanzibar archipelago, the Ngezi Forest Reserve is a protected indigenous forest. On nearly 2500 hectares, there is fauna and flora of incredible beauty. Nearly 355 plant species, but also exotic animals (monkeys, bats, galagos, etc.) can be observed there during a hike. There are two trails within this forest: The Joshi Trail, a hike of about 1 hour which will allow you to observe birds, colobus monkeys and bats; as well as the ruins of an old sawmill. And the longer Taufiki Trail, which allows you to cross the forest to Vumawimbi beach.
Visit the clove plantations
The island of Pemba is completely preserved and lives mainly from the production of cloves. Its land, very fertile, can accommodate many plantations of cloves. Take advantage of your trip to Tanzania to admire the harvesting sites and the remarkable work of the island farmers who cultivate this spice.
Where to sleep on Pemba Island?
There are not many hotels on Pemba Island. We have selected two that will give you a unique and luxurious experience in the heart of unspoiled nature.
The beauty of the 5-star Constance Aiyana is captivating. Its 30 spacious villas offer panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. In addition to hosting a spa, restaurants and a bar, the hotel offers a wide range of activities to make the most of the island: Diving, nautical activities, boat trips… Everything to spend a stay of dream away from the hustle and bustle of Zanzibar.
Address: Makangale Beach, Pemba Island, Tanzania
For an unusual experience, book a room at Fundu Lagoon, in the southwest of the island. The 18 thatched-roof maisonettes perched on top of a hill offer spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. The atmosphere is tranquil and the staff attentive and courteous. The hotel consists of three bars, an excellent restaurant and a beautiful infinity pool, all designed to blend naturally into the natural setting of the island. The establishment is only accessible by boat, ideal for playing Robinson Crusoe or Commander Cousteau for one night.
The waters of the Indian Ocean are of fascinating beauty and richness, and the island of Pemba , known as the “ evergreen ”, is an essential destination for both the best divers and deep-sea fishermen.
Fundu Lagoon is located on this island , an accommodation located on some remote and paradisiacal beaches, where it is “mandatory” to rest and relax in an informal but always elegant environment.
The rooms at Fundu Lagoon vary in size and category, but all share very similar characteristics.
All 16 bungalows and suites are designed as spacious canvas tents with wooden roofs, some of them nestled among the trees on the beach, others on the hill, but all facing the bay. They are independent, comfortable and have a private bathroom, terrace, minibar and ceiling fans.
All rooms offer a cozy atmosphere with the comfort of a luxurious place.
The main dining room and living room is located slightly above the beach, on a wooden deck and under a high ceiling made of makuti (palm tree branches), decorated with natural fabrics and wicker furniture that inspires a natural rustic style, very in keeping with the environment.
During the day, the jetty allows you to bathe in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean while having a drink at the Jetty Bar, a great place to taste delicious Swahili barbecue and ideal for those who want to stay up late.
This accommodation is highly oriented towards lovers of the sea and offers a wide range of water sports, from scuba diving courses to water skiing, sailing or canoeing.
Address: Wambaa Peninsula, Tanzania
Manta Reef Lodge
Manta Reef Lodge is located on the northern tip of Pemba Island , in a lagoon, with stunning views over the ocean.
The rustic, but attractive hostel can accommodate only up to 30 people in 14 bungalows, and the property offers an exclusive location.
The hotel offers a wide variety of water sports, and especially scuba divers will find it the perfect place to explore the underwater world of Pemba , which is one of the best diving spots in the world.
There are 2 Honeymoon Cottages, 10 Beachfront Bungalows and 2 Garden Family Cottages with two bedrooms in each.
The beachfront bungalows are perched on wooden terraces, with stunning views of the Indian Ocean.
The spacious bungalows offer large beds, mosquito nets, terrace sofa, and private bathroom with hot and cold water. The decoration is simple but very charming and the rooms are very comfortable.
Meals are served in a dining room under a large, makuti-thatched roof, with a terrace facing the sea, and the cuisine blends African, European and Indian flavours.
Pemba Island: How to get there?
Pemba Island is located about 80 km from the island of Zanzibar (Unguja), just east of Tanga on mainland Tanzania. Pemba is smaller than Unguja, but has a more mountainous landscape, with lush vegetation, earning its nickname “Evergreen Island”.
This Tanzanian island is famous for its spectacular tides and for its rich and varied marine life that surrounds its paradisiacal turquoise waters , offering an image that is difficult to forget.
Pemba is covered in steep hills filled with palms, cloves, rice paddies and lush natural forests, such as the Ngezi Forest in the north.
There are many beautiful unspoilt beaches around the coast of Pemba Island, and the northern tip of the island is one of the most beautiful places in the world for scuba divers.
Until now , it has received little tourism, since its beaches are difficult to access, and that together with its scarce infrastructure, makes this island a place with a virgin and wild environment .
Pemba Island is 80 km north of the main island of Unguja (Zanzibar) and 30 minutes from Stone Town airport. Direct flights daily connect Zanzibar to the green island (see the website of the company Zanair). Pemba Island is accessible by boat using the Azam Marine ferry.