Pemba Island lies about 80km to the northeast of Zanzibar Island (Unguja), which is about a 30-minute flight away from Stone Town airport. Although broadly comparable in size to Zanzibar, Pemba is much less developed. Pot-holed roads lead through villages where women in bright kangas sit and chat, ox-drawn carts are stacked high with fruit, and the air is filled with the smell of spices.
Pemba is very fertile, and always seems greener and more arable than Zanzibar Island. It also produces far more cloves than Zanzibar - and its economy is still far more dependent on agriculture than Zanzibar, and far less dependent on tourism.
Pemba is one of the most densely populated areas of Tanzania, with most of the people living in fairly traditionally-designed square houses, built using mud walls around a wooden frame and with roofs of thatch or corrugated iron. Pemba's main town, and the island's administrative capital, is Chake Chake - and that's where the island's airport is.
Pemba's inhabitants are predominantly Muslim. It has a culture that is even more traditional than Zanzibar, and the island gets far less visitors - and hence sees less of the outside world. Thus expect to see Pemba's women wearing the veil, and few villagers who speak anything other than Swahili.
Things to do in Pemba
Pemba Island is one of the top diving and snorkelling locations off the coast of Tanzania with the entire island surrounded by coral reef. Between the island and mainland Tanzania, the Pemba Channel shelves off to depths of more than 2,000m, and Pemba is famous for seriously large sea fish, which include barracuda, tuna, shark, and even whales. This is a glorious playground for experienced divers. Visibility is generally very good and there are some spectacular pinnacles. Currents are strong at Pemba so it’s not ideal for first-time divers.
Visit Misali Island:
You can get to Misali by arranging a boat from Wesha, but it's easier to arrange excursions through hotels or travel agencies. This part of the island is part of the Pemba Conservation Area and covers Pemba’s entire west coast. All divers, snorkellers and beachgoers here must pay the admission fee, but it is well worth the cost.
Once you enter the area you'll be surrounded by crystal waters and stunning coral reefs, Misali offers some of the best diving experiences in East Africa, while snorkelling is spectacular and easily reached from the beach. While around some parts of the island, you'll find nesting turtles across some beaches on the western side.
Ngezi Forest Reserve:
If you make your way to the far North Eastern side of Pemba, you'll be greeted by the dense and wonderfully lush Ngezi which is one of the last remaining areas of indigenous forest that once covered much of the island, and is as close to the rainforest that you'll get anywhere in the area. This sanctuary is protected by a 1476-hectare reserve; the forest is complete with vines providing swings for raucous vervet monkeys.
Feel free to explore the two nature trails tunnel through the forest with off-trail walks allowed but be advised all visits must be done with a naturalist guide.While bird enthusiasts are in for a treat, by taking on an easier route on the specific birdwatching and bat-watching walks, plus night walks to see bushbabies and for keen birdwatchers to spot the endemic Pemba scops-owl.
Spice Farm & Rain Forrest Tour :
The Zanzibar islands are known as the ‘spice islands’, with 70% of the world’s cloves coming from Pemba. A visit to the spice farm will have you experiencing the true tastes and smells of Pemba Island.
This is followed by a walk through the Ngezi Rainforest for about 45 minutes. A protected reserve home to endemic bird species, vervet and black colobus monkeys, the forest ranger will also point out all the protected fauna and flora.