40km north of the main island of Zanzibar (Unguja), Pemba Island is slightly smaller and much more rural than Zanzibar. While Zanzibar is relatively flat, Pemba's hills and escarpments are green and picturesque, coloured by the rich greens of ten types of mangoes and many hundreds of clove trees that have traditionally supported the fortunes of this island of spice.
Although Pemba is surrounded by a fine coral reef and pristine seas, its shores are also flanked with dense mangrove forests, and the best beaches
take a bit of hunting out and getting to. Generally, however, the beaches here are nowhere near as good as Zanzibar's. Pemba has remained virtually unknown to the hordes of beach-bound tourists, with just a couple of luxury lodges, and the island is mainly visited by those who come to dive and snorkel its coral reefs and channels.
The office here has always been slightly split about what we really think of Pemba. Yes Pemba's off-shore islands have great beaches, and the diving and snorkelling are unquestionably superb, but Pemba's beaches are poor in comparison to Zanzibar's - so are the lodges really worth the money here when you don't have a good beach on your doorstep? On balance our opinion is - only if you want to make your Tanzania safari
holiday an underwater one. Otherwise, no!
Flights to Pemba Island
It could not be easier. There are two flights a day to Pemba from Zanzibar (both 30 minutes) - one at 8am and another at 3pm. Pemba being just off the shores to the North of Zanzibar makes it very accessible & easy to spend a few nights on.
Pemba Island - Activities
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.
Pemba Island - When to go
Pemba is best visited during the dry season from July through to late October. There are a few showers in November time but generally Pemba is still great all the way through until March. April and May should be avoided as it is the heavy rains and the lodges actually close during this period.
Manta Resort Pemba Island Zanzibar
There are only three lodges that we sell on Pemba, one is The Manta
which is a good value and fairly basic hotel on the north of the island with access to some good diving. The lodge is good fun but very remote and a bit rough around the edges. The beach is probably the best on the island though.
Pemba Island Underwater Hotel
Part of the Manta Hotel, is their unique underwater room which sits just off shore, and allows guests to spend a night underwater with the fish, or star gazing up above on the top deck. It is a popular choice for honeymooners if you don’t mind small spaces and aren’t prone to sea sickness! For a little insight into this truly unique experience Pemba offers, see our blog about the famous underwater bedroom
Funduu Lagoon Lodge Pemba island
The other option, at the other end of the price spectrum, is Fundu Lagoon
, where the tented rooms are dotted around a hillside on a beach; this is not the best beach on the island but a boat ride can take you out to Misali island where there is a lovely beach with fantastic diving and snorkelling.
The newest addition to Pemba Island is Aiyanna, in the luxury brand Constance chain. It is very shiny and new, and offers all the luxuries (very powerful air con!) and mod-cons you could want for a world class, off the beaten track Indian Ocean experience. Set just beside the Manta, it has a good beach and lots of activities to be enjoyed. The food is also delicious.
Pemba - Further Details
While we try and make our website as comprehensive as possible, if you would like some more background information, have a read through the Cadogan Guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar - Pemba Chapter,
written by one of our director’s Annabel. The most recent edition was published in 2005 so some of it might be slightly dated but generally it’s as comprehensive as they come. For a little insight into a truly unique experience Pemba offers, see our blog about the famous underwater bedroom
We don't just know Tanzania!
For more information on Tanzania, the best thing to do is to give us a ring for an impartial chat. Although we love Tanzania, we also love the rest of Africa
too and have experts in all the main safari countries. If you are undecided as to where to visit, please do just drop us an email or give us a call!