By Katie May
Concealed beneath the Zanzibar Archipelago's prominent silhouette lies Pemba Island, whose Arabic name fittingly translates to "The Green Island." While it shares its geographical vicinity with the neighboring flat, sandy islands, Pemba stands apart as a unique haven. Unlike the typical palm-fringed beaches and crystal-clear waters of most islands, Pemba presents a coastal retreat framed by a verdant, undulating terrain teeming with biodiversity. Despite its densely forested hills and the presence of a thriving farming community, Pemba remains largely uncharted by the masses of tourists.
Ultimate Guide To Pemba Island: If you’re looking for an authentic island experience, Pemba offers not only a green wonderland begging to be explored but also an underwater world that makes for some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling.
Getting To Know Pemba Island
Pemba remains relatively unexplored by tourists, and this adds to the island's charm, making it a significant point in Pemba Island tourism. Despite being hillier and greener than its larger neighbor, Unguja, Pemba often stays in the shadow. It is a hidden gem adorned with lush forests, secretive beaches, mangrove swamps, tranquil lagoons, and shifting tidal sandbanks. Scattered across the island are the remnants of mosques and tombs, reminders of the Arab rule during the 17th century. The pristine beauty of Pemba has been remarkably preserved due to its relative obscurity. With only a few towns and hotels, it's a destination for adventurous travelers. Known as the 'clove island' for being the world's primary cloves exporter (accounting for 70% of global production), Pemba is also renowned for its juju traditions in medicine, earning it a reputation as the 'magic' island of the world.
The calm waters make Zanzibar Beach summers a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts
How to get to Pemba Island
The most popular way to get to the island is aboard a chartered aircraft, which is frequently provided by Coastal Air or Auric Air. Many tourists choose to fly in only 30 minutes from Unguja. However, Dar es Salaam is also a possibility. As an alternative, you may go from Zanzibar to Pemba by ferry, but be warned that the trip can be dangerous and rather choppy. How to get to Pemba Island? As far as dependability goes, Zazm Marine is the best ferry company. Your resort should organize transportation for you to and from the airport or ferry terminal upon your arrival; this may be part of your package or charged separately.
Pemba Island weather quick facts
- Resorts close in heavy April-May rains.
- Monsoons create mangrove forests and marshes.
- Shorter rainy season: November-December.
- Fewer malaria mosquitoes but poorer diving visibility.
- Equatorial location keeps a pleasant 26°C average temperature.
Is Pemba Island safe?
Pemba Island, like many travel destinations, has its safety considerations. It's generally a safe place for tourists, and many visitors have enjoyable, trouble-free experiences.
Top Things To Do In Pemba Island For Visitors
1. Treat your taste buds with a visit to the ZSTC Clove Oil Distillery
Pemba is well-known for its clove industry, and this distillery is where the clove stems can be turned into essential oil. The distillery is operated by the Zanzibar State Trading Corporation (ZSTC)
The distillery can be found in the suburb of Machomane, about 1km north of the town centre and east of the main road. You can make the trip by taking a dalla-dalla to the junction then walk or arrange a tour to get you there.
Pemba Island snorkeling is one of the top diving and snorkeling locations off the coast of Tanzania, with the entire island surrounded by coral reefs. 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.
Pemba Island is one of the top diving and snorkeling locations off the coast of Tanzania
3. 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.
4. Dive Into The History of The Island At The Pemba Museum
Take a few hours to explore the history of Pemba Island by hitting up the Pemba Museum. Among the top things to do in Pemba Island, this small museum has well-organized displays of island history. The museum fills up an 18th-century Omani fort, which could have been built on the remains of a 16th-century Portuguese garrison. It is recommended that you check out the museum if you plan on visiting the ruins at places like Ras Mkumbuu just to have a better understanding and context of the area.
Let's dive into the history of the island at the Pemba Museum
5. Prison Island
Prison Island may not sound like the most attractive place in the world, but this tropical paradise is the perfect place to escape from the hustle of the main Zanzibar and relax in the sun. Taking its name from the fact that it is a former prison for slaves, this field of natural beauty holds all kinds of pleasures, including many giant tortoises that roam freely around the island. The island can be reached from Zanzibar in about 30 minutes by boat, and once there, you will not be able to stop yourself from jumping in the water. This is one thing to do on Pemba Island.
Let’s Explore Some Ultimate Guide To Pemba Island
Pemba Island, a hidden gem in the Indian Ocean, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that beckons travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Consider these practical tips to make the most of your visit to this tropical paradise.
The best time to visit is during the dry season from June to October
- Check Tanzania visa requirements: Before embarking on your journey to Pemba Island, ensure you check the visa requirements for Tanzania and make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date. Visitors should check the visa requirements on Tanzania Immigration Services to apply for a Tanzania visa and other travel necessities.
- Check the weather forecast: Pemba Island has a tropical climate. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from June to October, to enjoy sunny days and pleasant temperatures.
- Book accommodation in advance: Pemba Island offers a range of accommodation options, from luxurious resorts to eco-lodges. Before traveling to this magnificent, visitors should book a stay in advance to secure their preferred choice.
- Purchase travel insurance: Consult a travel clinic for vaccinations and health advice before your trip. Malaria is prevalent in the region, so take necessary precautions. We recommend that you should buy Tanzania travel insurance when traveling the country
- Currency and Banking: The currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling. Carrying some local currency for small expenses is advisable, as credit cards may not be widely accepted. ATMs can be found in towns like Chake Chake and Mkoani.
- Transportation: The island is relatively small, and getting around is typically done via taxis, rented cars, or local buses (dala-dalas). Taxis are readily available, but negotiate the fare before your journey. If you're comfortable with it, renting a scooter or bicycle can be a great way to explore the island at your own pace.
Pemba Island is a hidden gem in Tanzania, and by following these practical tips, you can have a memorable and enjoyable experience while respecting the local culture and environment.
Pack your bags and prepare to be mesmerized. Pemba Island awaits, ready to bestow its beauty and wonder upon all who venture to its shores. Without going to the embassy or consulate, you may apply for a Tanzania eVisa more quickly and conveniently through Tanzania Immigration Services. No paperwork is involved in visa processing, which can take up to 3 working days.