Visit Pemba Island : Pemba Island is a magical Island, part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. The island lies between Unguja Island formally known as Zanzibar and the Tanzania – Kenya border. Pemba Island is a remote island off the East coast of Africa and probably as far away from civilization.
Pemba Island’s name “Pemba” is an Arabic name translated as “The Green Island” which is a reference of the lush landscape of thickly vegetated hills on the island interspersed with clove plantations, these hills are separated from the island’s secret coves and white sand beaches by a belt of dense mangrove forest. The beaches at Pemba Island are a home to some of the most pristine coral reefs in East Africa.
Due to the remoteness of Pemba Island, it visited by few tourists and it has less tourist infrastructures than Zanzibar its neighbor. However the island is a perfect off-the-beaten track getaway for travelers who wish to experience authentic island life in addition to a world – class scuba diving and fishing.
A History of Trade and Invasion
The prehistory of Pemba Island still remains veiled in mystery, however it is said that the first inhabitants arrived from the African mainland several thousand years ago. As early as 600 AD the island became a key stop on the Swahili Coast trade route, traders from Arabia, India and china used the deep waters of the island for safe anchorage when they stopped to stock up spices, gold, ivory and slaves. All these were transported to the archipelago from the interior of the continent, Pemba played a great role as a center of trade between 11th and 15th centuries.
At the dawn of the 16th century, the island was invaded by Portuguese colonialists. The island stayed under the control of the Portuguese until the 17th century when it was taken over by the Omani Arabs, the Sultan of Muscat and Oman moved his capital from Muscat to the Stone Town of Zanzibar the neighboring island to Pemba Island in the 19th century.
When the Zanzibar Archipelago became a British Protectorate in 1890, Pemba and its sister islands remained under the governance of the Omani Sultan. In 1963, the protectorate was terminated and a few months later thousands were killed in a revolution against the sultan that resulted in the creation of the people’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.
In a964, the republic merged with mainland Tanganyika to become the present day the United Republic of Tanzania.
Scuba Diving and Fishing in Pemba Island
Pemba island is currently not famous as a trade center but as one of the most rewarding dive destinations in Africa, the island is ringed by coral reef on all sides and the majority of the island’s dive sites are located off the west coast where the land plunges hundreds of meters into the deep waters of the Pemba Channel.
Pemba Island is nominated by pinnacles and magnificent submarine walks and the topography of the underwater provides natural habitat for all manner of sea creatures such as turtles, reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse and big game fish. The Island experiences strong current and has excellent visibility best for experienced divers. For inexperienced drivers, companies such as Swahili Divers offer diving courses for all experienced levels.
The proximity of the Pemba Channel makes the island the ideal playground for deep sea fishermen, for travelers interested in day fishing trips, they are offered at the island offering you an opportunity to target 6 different billfish species such as black, blue and striped marlin. Other game fish found in the waters of the channel rich with nutrients include Giant trevally, dogtooth and yellowfin tuna.
Beaches and Wildlife on Pemba Island
Pemba Island comprises of protective mangrove forests and a few beaches which are accessible when compared to Zanzibar, there are a few beaches hotel and lodges offering boat excursions to the coves that litter the East coast of the island where there are stretches of white or pink sand with few tourists and clear waters, Visit Pemba Island.
Vumawimbi Beach is the most famous beach on the island, this beautiful beach is located in the extreme northwest of the Island on the Kigomasha Peninsula with secluded shores looking like a postcard from paradise.
Daily trips to Misali Island – an uninhabited haven off Pemba’s Central West Coast famous, this island is famous for its beautiful beaches, premium dividing and shallow reefs perfect for snorkeling.
On the island there is Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary which can be visited, the sanctuary is a home to approximately 4,000 endemic Pemba flying foxes. These foxes have a wingspan of 5.3 feet (1.6 meters), this enormous fruit bat is impressive when flying in tandem with hundreds of its roost – mates above the forest canopy.
Flying Foxes can also be spotted on walking trails of Ngezi Forest Reserve, the reserve is untouched tract of indigenous forest providing a safe harbor for red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys and several bird species including the much sought after endemic Pemba scops owl.
Pemba Island has a rich culture which can be explore in many ways including
- A village tour to learn how to rural communities prepare meals from fish and other manufactured goods
- Visit the old fort and slave port of the capital, chake chake
- Visit spice farms, the biggest export of Pemba is clove with more than 3.5 million clove trees growing around the island, during the visit to the island you get to discover how the clove steams are turned into essential oil at the ZSTC Clove Oil Distillery.
- Visit the Ras Mkumbuu ruins which include a mosque, tombs and houses from the 14th century and Chwaka – a home to the ruins of Haruni – a town that existed from the 11th to the 15th
- Visit the Mkama Ndume ruins – a 15th century palace that had the distinction of be, Visit Pemba Island
Where to Stay on Pemba Island
Pemba Island is a secluded island and is a more of a destination for luxury travelers, the island has a number of exquisite lodges to choose from including
- Constance Aivana
- Fundu Lagoon
- Lala Lodge
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Pemba Island is by flying using a private / chartered flight to Pemba Airport near Chake Chake, these flights are operated by several aviation companies like Coastal Aviation, Auric Air among others. You can fly to Pemba from Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar on a journey of approximately 30 minutes.
Alternatively you can use a ferry from Zanzibar to Pemba, the most reliable and trusted ferries are operated by Azam Marine. Once at the island, you can use local minibuses or dala dala, Visit Pemba Island.
When to Go Zanzibar
Pemba Island is situated on close proximity to the equator and because of this the temperatures are relatively consistent all year round with average of 80 F/26.5 C, the island experience 2 rainy seasons, from November to December and April to May. In the rainy period of from April to May, the rain gets to be heavy that many lodges close.
The best time to travel to Pemba is during the driest season that is June to October, in this period the visibility makes the period great for diving and the humidity is at its lowest and chances of malaria are less.
For travelers wishing to catch billfish should visit the island between September and March.