Pemba is the second largest island of the Zanzibar archipelago, the northernmost. Pemba lies between the island of Unguja (known worldwide as Zanzibar) and the border of Tanzania and Kenya. The Arabic name means Green Island – due to the lush landscape of densely overgrown hills. Four million clove trees grow on Pemba, some of which are over 100 years old, which is why the island is also called “clove island”. You can go to a farm and visit a local factory to find out how carnation stalks turn into essential oil.
Pemba enjoys much less attention than Unguja (Zanzibar). For those who think Zanzibar is too crowded, Pemba is the right choice. It offers a peaceful atmosphere among spice plantations, fruit trees and lush tropical vegetation. it is an escape from the beaten track and allows you to experience the authentic life of the local people on the island. A trip around Pemba reveals untouched territory. A stroll through the village lets you learn how rural communities cook, fish and produce the goods they need to survive.
Despite many attractions, such as primeval forests, picturesque ruins and deserted beautiful beaches, there are rarely more than a few dozen tourists here. It is a perfect destination for individualists, honeymoon couples and divers. The ocean waters around Pemba are beautiful coral reefs. Waters and islets along the entire west coast of Pemba are officially protected as the Pemba Canal Conservation Area (PECCA). The Pemba Canal is considered one of the last great virgin, world-class diving and deep sea fishing areas.
It is not thoroughly researched, but probably the first inhabitants of Pemba came from the African continent several thousand years ago. Already in 600, the island became a key stop for traders. Merchants from Arabia, India and China used the deep waters around the island to anchor securely when they stopped to stock up on spices imported from the continent, gold, ivory and slaves. Pemba’s role as a trade center reached its peak in the 11th and 15th centuries.
Due to the protective mangrove forests of Pemba, few beaches. Many resorts at Pemba offer private beaches and dive sites. The most famous is Vumawimbi beach, located in the northwest of the island.
Being on Pemba you can go on a one-day trip to Misali Island, an uninhabited marina on the central west coast of Pemba, famous for its beautiful beaches and shallow coral reefs ideal for snorkelling.
Today, Pemba is best known as one of the most interesting dive sites in Africa. Although the island is surrounded on all sides by a coral reef, most diving sites are located on the west coast. The island’s underwater topography provides a natural habitat for all kinds of sea creatures, including turtles, reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse, and large gamefish. Pemba has excellent diving conditions at all levels, but above all, it is known for diving in walls and drifting. Experienced divers can plunge into the stronger currents of the island and soar over the amazing vertical walls, where the manta and eagle rays thrash around. The proximity of the Pemba canal makes the island an ideal playground for deep-water fishermen. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in safari for fishermen. A fishing safari is best planned between September and March.
Nature lovers should visit the Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary, which houses about 4,000 endemic flying Pemba foxes (called Swahili Popes). Flying Pemba foxes are huge bats eating fruit with a wingspan of 1.6 meters. You can also see flying foxes on the hiking trails of the Ngezi Forest Reserve. The Ngezi Forest Reserve is a beautiful humid forest area. It is probably the best place on the archipelago to see endemic species such as monkeys (Kirka red columbus, who settled here with Josani in the sixties and vervet), miniature antelopes, birds, as well as the much sought after three species of Pemba owl.
The most interesting trees include three species rarely mjoho (odyendea zimmermanni) around the world, chrystalido pembanus and ensete proboscoideum. It is also believed that there are many unique species of small plants and insects that have not yet been registered. Let’s hope that Ngesi will soon be upgraded to National Park status so that these unique genes will be preserved for future generations.
All walks in the reserve must be accompanied by a local guide.
In addition to historical places, water sports and natural beauty on Pemba, you can also watch a curiosity – bullfighting. It is a remnant of the Portuguese who appeared on the island in the 17th century. The fight looks like a Spanish bullfight – with the bull, the matador and the audience, but the Pemban version is milder than its predecessor, the bull and the matador make a few moves and in the fight the bull is not killed and not injured. Bullfighting is accompanied by music, singing and percussion. After finishing it parades through the village decorated with flowers and cheers of appreciation.
Bullfighting at Pemba is a test of skill, not a fight to the death. Corrida na Pemba is a popular annual event on the island. Traditionally, locals organize bullfights in the hottest season, after harvesting cloves (August-February) or during state festivities such as Revolution Day. Bullfight is seen as a test of courage for men raising farm animals. Bullfighters and Matadors consider what they do as an art form. Although the bull is tied with a long rope and has no horns, it is still dangerous.
Bullfights take place in many small villages such as Chuale and Kangagani or on the island of Kojani. The event attracts a crowd that gathers around the pitch. The show often starts with a traditional stick fight show by local farmers, followed by a bull fight. Each of them has their turn to perform specific maneuvers and entertain an enthusiastic crowd.
Chake Chake is the largest city, capital and administrative center. Start your Historical Tour with the Pemba Museum at Chake Chake, where you will find the most important information about the island’s past. The museum is located in the eighteenth-century fort Omani, which was probably built on the remains of the Portuguese garrison of the sixteenth century. This small museum has well organized exhibits about the island’s history. A visit to ruins in places like Ras Mkumbuu will help you understand a lot more if you first stop at a museum.
The oldest preserved building in the city is the Old Fortress, which probably dates from the 18th century. Documents from the early nineteenth century describe the fortress as rectangular with two square and two round towers in the corners, topped with thatched roofs. The round towers are typical of the contemporary Arabic and Swahili architecture, but the square towers are unusual and indicate the possible influence of Portugal.
The ruins consist of two separate places. Place Haruni and Mazrui tombs that date back to the 17th century. These two form the original city of Pemba, which existed between the 11th and 15th centuries. His name comes from Harun, son of Mkame Ndume and, according to local tradition, as cruel as his father. The ruins are very popular among historians, but it is also a good place for a walk on the hill and a view of the beautiful atoka.
Located southeast of Chake Chake, the largest city of Pemba. These overgrown ruins are the remains of a 13th-century city of Swahili ruled by a despotic king.
The ruins of the ancient city of Ras Mkumbuu are located on the peninsula north of the Chake Chake stream. Situated just above the beach, the city must have had a vast panorama of the surrounding area and the sea beyond the island of Mesali to the mainland.
The city of Ras Mkumbuu is referred to in Arabic scriptures as one of the main commercial cities on the East African coast since at least the 10th century.
Visiting Ras Mkumbuu you can go by boat to the nearby Mesali Island, allegedly the hideout of the legendary pirate Captain Kidd, who allegedly buried the treasure here in 1698. The island has an idyllic beach and is known as an ideal place for diving. 40 of the 60 types of corals and about 240 different species of fish are represented here.
Ras Kigomasha Lighthouse Located on a promontory (races) at the far northern tip of the Kigomasha Peninsula, this lighthouse was built by the British in 1900 and is still actively maintained by its owner. Unlike many lighthouses in Zanzibar, it is built of iron, not stone. Walk 95 degrees, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the sea and the island.
Pemba is perfect if you want to get away from the crowds. Beaches are quiet, diving reefs are rarely visited. The whole island exudes exclusivity, and at the same time you’ll find various accommodation options for most budgets.
Secluded Pemba is a dream place for couples for a romantic honeymoon, for luxury travelers, but there will also be a place for budget backpackers (e.g. Lala Lodge).
The most unique accommodation option is the Underwater Room at Manta Resort – a private floating island in the middle of the ocean with a submerged bedroom with glass walls through which you can watch the water life flowing by.
The easiest way to reach Pemba is by arriving with a private airline company such as Coastal Aviation or Auric Air, which offer daily scheduled flights to Pemba Airport (PMA) near Chake Chake. Flights and charters are available from Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The cheaper option is jet ferry. The cheaper option is a ferry from Zanzibar (we suggest Azam Marine). On the island you can
move local minibuses or stay away.
The Chake Chake is the only currency exchange on the island, but offers a low exchange rate.
Pemba has a tropical climate, but milder than the continent of Tanzania and milder than on the island of Unguja. The average temperature is 25.5 ° C. There are two rainy seasons: one lasts from November to December and the other from April to May. The April / May rains are so strong that many lodges are closed during this time. The best time to travel is in the dry season (June to October). Visibility is best for diving, humidity is lowest, and mosquitoes carrying malaria are less numerous.