10 Things To Do On Pemba Island
A short 20 minute flight or 2 hour ferry ride from Dar es Salaam gets one to the Zanzibar archipelago’s biggest island of Unguja – commonly known as Zanzibar island: a pristine beach paradise with stunning wildlife, palm-fringes and a rich tapestry of culinary and cultural influences. If you’ve visited Zanzibar previously, then you may have heard about the tranquil smaller island of Pemba, another short flight or ferry rise to the north.
Pemba boasts almost 400 square miles of mangrove coast, clove plantations, and tropical forests. And to cap it all, Pemba’s sand beaches are some of the hottest destinations in this part of Africa.
The best time of the year to visit Pemba is January to March and June to November. And don’t come to Pemba if you’re in a hurry. The island has so much to offer that it takes an entire week to absorb it all. This is truly a gem in the Indian Ocean and whether you’re a fan of water sports, wildlife or Swahili cuisine, Pemba has something for everyone. Grab the chance and visit this magical island and you’re guaranteed to experience an unforgettable holiday. Here are 10 things to do on Pemba Island:
The waters around Pemba have the best sites for diving in the world, with untouched coral reefs, superb visibility, and deep channels. The warm waters are the perfect place to dive into if you’re looking for underwater sports. Ample varied dive sites provide for both the experienced and novice divers alike. You get a chance to see all kinds of marine wildlife from red tooth triggerfish to lionfish, game fish to moray eels, brightly coloured corals include the beautiful nudibranchs and hard corals alike.
2 Stunning birdlife
Pemba Island is famous for its wildlife. It boasts some 180 bird species both migratory and indigenous; if you’re a keen bird watcher then check out the Scops owl and the black crow. The birds can be spotted from dusk when they leave their nests on the clove plantations to hunt for food.
3 Explore the rainforests
Ngezi forest, which is located in the northerly parts of the island is a protected zone and remains one of the last indigenous areas of the forest. The forest is habitat for the rare colobus monkey and the flying fox. You can spot the two in the early morning or late afternoon when it has cooled down. If you look closely, you will notice the colobus monkeys missing thumbs.
Apart from diving, there are other exciting water sports you can engage in. Go kayaking on the breathtaking coastline and enjoy the azure waters as you paddle peacefully through the shoals of tropical fish and the occasional humpback whales. The Tanzanian coastline is also home to a large population of sharks and dolphins.
5 Dine out
A trip to Pemba would be incomplete if you missed out on its rich culinary offerings. The main streets of Chake Chake, Pemba’s capital, are littered with cafes boasting feasts for both the palate and the eye. Wander through Chake Chake’s alleyways and get immersed in the flavors of spiced-rice, clove-flavored tamarind paste, and ginger. If you love fish then Tumbe fish market in the north of the island is a must visit. Pemba is renowned for its seafood and the Pemba channel is a great deep sea fishing site.
6 Go tree-planting
You can mix your adventure tour in Pemba with a little environmental activity like planting a couple of trees. Visit the Community International camp, the small tree planting project led by Jeff Schnurr and Mbarouk Mussa Omar, a couple who have made great inroads in putting up low-cost tree planting nurseries and working alongside residents to grow trees from collected seeds.
7 Visit the Clove oil Factory
Pemba is well known for growing cloves and its own distillery is where the cloves are crushed to produce clove oil. It is run by the Zanzibar Trading Corporation. It’s located at Machomane about one kilometer from the town center and can be reached using a Dala Dala (local taxis).
8 Go snorkelling
Pemba is a well-known snorkelling destination and the entire island is surrounded by coral reef. The Pemba channel attracts both seasoned and novice snorkelers and boasts a depth of more than 2,000 meters. You can go deep fishing and catch tuna, barracuda, shark and even whales.
9 Visit Kidike Flying fox
Kidike is located near the village of Kangagani about 2km off Chake Chake. The sanctuary is home to a host of wildlife with the highlights being the flying foxes. These are large bats that are indigenous to the island.
10 Visit Chwaka ruins
Chwaka ruins are located about 3km south of Tumbe and consist of two separate sites. The Haruni site and the Mazrui Tombs which go as far back as the 17th century. These two form the original Pemba town that existed between 11th and 15th centuries. They are very popular with historians and once you’ve seen enough you can take a walk and watch the beautiful bay area.
Do check our article Travel guide to Pemba for more information.