Pemba Island Travel Guide
Pemba is one of the largest islands that form the Zanzibar archipelago in the Republic of Tanzania. It is located some 50 km north of Unguja but is not as developed as Unguja when it comes to tourist attractions. But the island packs its own identity within relative isolation. The main towns in Pemba include Chake Chake the main city, which is located some 7 km from the main airport. Other smaller towns are Mkoani, Konde,and Wete.
The green island
While it doesn’t boast as many amenities as Zanzibar, the island is an extraordinary destination for its natural beauty,and since the Sultanate Period, it has retained its name “Green Island.” There is a sizeable Swahili population that gives the island an authentic Swahili culture. The tourism is not as developed, and only a few lodges straddle the north end of the island, and one notable lodge off the south end. The few scattered hotels are quiet enclaves that attract visitors who want peace. This means that there are almost no loud touts and tourist traps like the hordes to be found in Stone Town and other upmarket hotels and lodges that straddle the coastline of Zanzibar.
The island is famous mostly as a snorkelling and scuba diving destination. Divers and snorkelers from around the world make it a point to visit the island and explore the Ocean and marine life. If you want to relax you can do so in the white sandy beaches of the island. You can dive in the ocean, swim around and come back and laze in the sand and get a tan in the bargain.
Daily flights from Zanzibar
Pemba receives daily flights from both Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. The common planes that ply the route are Cessna-type aircraft by companies such as As Salaam Air. Flight time from Dares Salaam is about 1 hour, which includes a stop in Zanzibar island. Depending on the season, flights from Dar cost upwards of $100 usd.
Ferries are also available at the town port of Mkoani on the south. Ferries ply the Zanzibar Pemba and Pemba Tanga routes.The main ferry carriers are Azam Marine who operates the safest vessels. The trip takes seven hours from Dar es Salaam and tickets cost $75 one way. Tickets from Tanga cost $35.
Getting around Pemba
Getting around Chake Chake and the city can be chaotic. Local taxis called Dala Dalas crowd the narrow streets. They run frequently between the other towns picking up and dropping passengers along the way. You may also opt to tour the city on foot and window shop on the many well-stocked shops for clothing items, electronics or souvenirs. The main streets are also lined with cafes that serve authentic Swahili cuisine where you can order meals such as Biryani, Pilau, Wali, Mchuzi wa Papa, and Samaki Nazi.
If you don’t like the street food, there are a few formal restaurants in Chake Chake catering for both locals and foreigners.This will include a delicious choice of chappati and seafood, chips and grilled meats. Be sure not to miss out on the fresh fruits, and especially passion fruit juices and mango chutney which are commonly found at the street outlets.