Travel Guide to Pemba Island

Pemba Island is a Tanzanian island forming part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, extending within the Swahili Coast in the Indian Ocean.

It is a mystical island that is a part of the Zanzibar Archipelago in Tanzania, located around 50 km north of Unguja, the largest island in the archipelago and main travel destination. Visitors to Pemba however with find a dramatically diverse exposure from the frequently touristy and resort-developed Unguja, as Pemba has succeeded in preserving a strong sense of mythical identity within relative seclusion.

Though very much dominated by the larger and far more popular Unguja to the south, Pemba is an excellent destination for its intrinsic beauty and relatively virgin authentic Swahili culture. There is very little tourism infrastructure here, and other than a few hotels on the north end of the island there are no accommodations geared towards foreign travelers. Refreshingly this all means there are almost no touts and tourist traps like the multitude to be found on Unguja, making it the excellent destination for authentic cultural exploration. The island overall is conservative in its culture and adherence to Islam, hence it is advised to dress modestly when in public and be respectful of local customs. Otherwise, the people of Pemba are wonderful and welcoming and it is assumed that visitors will have an individual and unforgettable experience.

Here are a few things to do in Pemba Islands:

  1. Diving: Pemba is one of the diving jewels of the east of Africa. There are at least two dive operators (Swahili Divers and Manta Reef) serving under the PADI and BSAC codes that assist visitors. Divers’ highlights include Extensive plate coral gardens on the west coast which make for a world-class drift dive and the marine reserve surrounding Misali Island. The yearly whale migration is in July and August when humpback whales can be seen off the east coast of the island.
  2. Beaches: The best beaches (along with the foreigner lodges) are located on the north side of the island. The beaches are clean, free from pollution and you will have the time of your life sitting without any humane disturbance around you. Beaches will purify your soul here due to its unusual isolation and clean waters. 
  3. Forests: Forest reserves with endemic animals including the Pemba Flying Fox can also be observed in the north. It is also possible to arrange spice tours to visit farms where cloves are grown (the main economic export of the island). Exotic mammals roam freely in the North end of this island making it a treat for wildlife lovers and photographers.
  4. Swahili food: While there are few precise restaurants in Pemba, most lodges (catering to locals or foreigners) operate restaurants with traditional Swahili food cooked to order. This will serve you a delicious selection of rice, curries, chapati (Indian flatbread), and seafood. Street food is also widely found along the roads of the main towns and largely consists of chips and grilled meats. Be sure not to miss out on the fresh fruits, in particular mango and passion fruit, which are generally found at street stands or squeezed into juices.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.