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Pemba Island: A Complete Guide

Pemba Island is one of the biggest islands in the Zanzibar archipelago. This remote island offers a peaceful and serene visit as guests can relax away from the crowds. The extraordinary beauty of the island makes the visit a special experience, as visitors can enjoy the scenic views of lush vegetation, vivid greenery, white sands, and crystal clear blue water. As I write this, it has been announced that Tanzania is open for travellers from early June 2020, so read about this gorgeous location! Here’s a guide for a trip to Pemba Island. 


  • Things to Do

The island offers excellent opportunities for diving, swimming, snorkelling, and scuba diving. As it is a tranquil area, guests can walk or relax on the sandy beach. The Swahili culture is present in the island’s cuisine, architecture and interactions with the everyday lifestyle. Known as the ‘Green Island’, Pemba is rich in farming activity, and well known for its spices.


Pemba is much, much quieter than bustling, sometimes crowded with visitors, Zanzibar (Unguja).


  • Wildlife

The pristine island is home to colorful coral reefs, manta rays, deep sea turtles, green pigeons, crowned hornbills, malachite kingfishers, Pemba vervet monkeys, African goshawk, the Pemba Flying Fox (a fruit bat), red colobus monkeys, owls, palm nut vultures, miniature antelopes, and violet breasted sunbirds. 


  • Best spots
    • The lush green Ngezi Forest Reserve is a must-see, as it has vivid greenery, covers 3600 acres, and has several biomes including riverine forest, shrubland, and tropical forest, which are home to exotic wildlife. 
    • Vumawimbi Beach is an untouched stretch of white sand, which has crystalline waters and sweet smelling air. Tourists can enjoy the privacy and tranquility of this extraordinary and isolated beach.
    • The 13th and 14th century Ras Mkumbuu ruins include the old chief’s house, several elaborate graves, and an ancient 11th century mosque. 
    • The beautiful Makangale villages are perfect for cultural tours. 
    • Kigomasha Peninsula has beautiful shores and is best for diving. 
    • Since 1904, the cast iron Ras Kigomasha lighthouse is still operational.
    • Visitors can see nesting turtles and colorful coral reefs at Baobab Beach.
    • Located on a beautiful hill, Chake Chake Bay has many government buildings, a fish market, a town market from 1904, and an Old Fort.
    • Misali Island is a breathtaking beach with amazing opportunities for snorkelling. Inland, caves are believed to have the spirits of ancestors.


  • Locals 

The locals are friendly, helpful, and easygoing. Tourists should ensure that their actions and behaviours are respectful to the native population, and they should try to observe and interact with locals to understand the culture of Pemba. Few speak English so visitors should learn basic Swahili words. Common greetings are the religious phrases of Assalamu Alaikum and Waalaikum Salam which mean “peace be upon you”, so visitors may learn and use these as well. 


  • Food

With Indian, Portugese, African, Arabic, and Swahili influences, the delicious local cuisine offers food such as rice, biryani, date nut bread, soup, spiced potatoes, curry, chapati, grilled meat, kebabs, and fresh seafood such as tuna, prawns, lobster, shellfish, calamari, and octopus. Local foods use spices such as pepper, cloves, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, vanilla, nutmeg, fennel, and lemongrass.


  • Travel

Pemba Airport (PMA) or Katume Airport, 7km away from Chake Chake, is accessible through flights from Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam. Alternatively, the island can be reached by taking a ferry from Stone Town, Mkoani, and Tanga. Travel within the city is done by public minibuses called dala dalas, which are a cheap way to get around. Tourists can also get taxis but these are comparatively more expensive. They may also rent a bicycle to explore the island!