The Green Island. That is what the Arabs called Pemba island during the historic period of the sultans. Characterized by green valleys, palm trees, clove plantations, mangroves and lagoons, Pemba offers the kind of beauty that will make you forget life’s troubles.
Pemba island is part of the Zanzibar archipelago and sits 40 kilometers north of the main island called Unguja.
Visitors should note that Pemba is not an ideal beach destination. If you are expecting endless sandy beaches like the ones in Zanzibar-Unguja then this is not the place for you. There are however several activities that would interest every tourist.
Its ideal for the discerning traveler who values exclusivity and wants to escape the crowds in Unguja and in the mainland. Very few people make it to Pemba and so the island is never crowded even during the peak tourist seasons in Tanzania.
The islands of Pemba and Unguja generally have a very rich history. Interacting with the locals will give you a hint of this. There is unmistakable Arab influence on the East African coast. You won’t help but notice the dhows. The dhows were used to deliver cloves to India and textiles to the Arab countries.
Pemba is also popular for its ju-ju traditions dating back to the 1930s . Evidence of this is still present today. People came all over the world to be initiated into black magic. It was the place to go to if you wanted the ‘best’ magicians. Despite all the tales of black magic and wizardry, Pemba’s beauty is still bewitching. No pun intended.
Diving in Pemba
In Pemba it is all about swimming, fishing and more fishing. Pemba is the divers’ paradise. The water strip that separates Kenya from Pemba boasts of so many of the big fish species that it has built itself a reputation as one of the top go to places for divers in East Africa. Fish species like marlins, sail fish, broad bill among others are not in short supply.
Sampling the Pemba Culture
It helps to go to a place and interact with the locals. There is no way to learn a culture than to immerse yourself in the activities of your hosts. Sample the food. Know three or more words of the local language. Learn a dance or two and sing to the tune of their favourite songs.
One thing that will definitely make your Pemba trip memorable is the friendliness and the hospitality of the Pemba population. It’s a Tanzanian thing. And its easy to make friends in Tanzania. Just walk through the open air markets and notice how easy it is to start a conversation with a stranger. If you are a visitor you will probably notice the many smiles that will be flashed your way.
To the south West of the Pemba island lies a boutique hotel hotel offering luxury safari style accomodation called the Fundu lagoon. It offers safari style bangalows with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.
This is the big deal. In addition to its previous 16 or so rooms, Mantra Resort has added underwater rooms. Forget the giant aquarium at The Dubai Mall. This is where you ought to be if you want to watch tropical fish… and they will be in their natural habitat.
Mantra resort is located 250 metres off shore. The view is breathtaking. I cant just find the words to describe the scenery. Its a cool way to enjoy watching fish… as the fish enjoy watching you.
Pemba affordable accomodation
The Keryan Saray beach offers a mix of affordable and simple accomodation. You can never lack a room that suits your pocket. The fact that very few people are yet to discover Pemba also helps. Most of the people remain in Unguja and never make it to Pemba. Hotel rooms or lodges are available throughout the year.
So when do you go?
I cant quite propose the perfect time; that depends on you and your schedule. I can however tell you the least interesting time to go. The period between the months of April and May is the season of long rains. You don’t want to be in Pemba during the long rains. Any other time is perfect time.