Pemba Island, Zanzibar Archipelago: The Best Tours
Hidden in the shadow of Zanzibar is Pemba Island – an Arabic name that aptly translates to the Green Island. Although it may form part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba is unlike any of its flat, sand-strewn neighbours.
Whilst most islands offer palm-lined beaches and azure waters, Pemba offers a seaside escape set against a lush, hilly landscape that’s teeming with life. Although its thickly vegetated hills are home to a densely-populated farming community, Pemba is still vastly undiscovered by tourists.
If you’re looking for an authentic island experience, Pemba not only offers a green wonderland begging to be explored but also an underwater world that makes for some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling.
As a piece of paradise that truly lies off the beaten track, the remote island offers only a handful of places to stay – something that makes Pemba all the more intriguing.
DATES & PRICES
The average price of a 7-day trip to Pemba Island is $2,161 for a solo traveler, $3,881 for a couple, and $7,276 for a family of 4. Pemba Island hotels range from $61 to $277 per night with an average of $107.
If you would like to enjoy all the aquatic activities and inland excursions, we recommend you to stay between 5 and 10 days.
NO AVAILABLE DEPARTURES
All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy or single occupancy unless otherwise noted, are subject to change without notice, and do not include airfare. Optional activities are at an additional cost. All prices and fares are quoted in U.S. dollars.
FIRST-CLASS | TAILOR-MADE
After a safari in Tanzania, why not spend time relaxing on the island of Pemba off the coast of this country. Pemba Island is a very attractive and scenic island known for its outstanding coral reefs and diving
A Green Wonderland – Thriving crops, Resident Monkey Population and More
Dating as far back as 600 AD, Pemba Island formed an integral part of the Swahili Coastal trade route. The island’s arable land yields a significant percentage of the world’s cloves and continues to play an integral part in the global farming community.
Forming a green wonderland, the lush landscape of the island is interspersed with thriving clove plantations. The diversity of the island is truly captivating with everything from thickly vegetated hills and dense mangrove forests, to sandy beaches and secret coves.
A more fertile island is difficult to imagine and unlike Zanzibar, the community of Pemba Island is more dependent on agriculture than tourism. The undulating hills of the island not only produce cloves but are covered in coconut, mango and other fruit plantations.
Pemba’s ancient fields and forests are also teeming with life. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy the population of the island of red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys and impressive species of birds. The resident Pemba scops owl is also a highly sought find.
Worth visiting is the Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary, a place that 4,000 Pemba flying foxes call home. These fruit bats soar above the forest canopy with an impressive wingspan of 1.6 metres and can also be spotted when you walk the trails of Ngezi Forest.
Hidden Beaches and Secret Coves
With its dense mangrove forest belt, the beaches of Pemba Island are not as easily accessible as those in Zanzibar – something that makes getting to them all the more rewarding. Boat trips run throughout the day to the island’s hidden beaches and secret coves – something you get to enjoy without the usual throngs of tourists.
Hidden in the northwestern corner of the island is Vumawimbi Beach – Pemba’s most popular beach. The idyllic waters and white sand stretch to the east of Kigomasha Peninsula and to the north of Ngezi Forest.
Just another boat ride away is Misali Island – an uninhabited piece of paradise off Pemba’s west coast. As you explore the northern edge of the island you’ll discover a lighthouse that provides unparalleled ocean views.
If you’re looking to laze around on secluded shores or snorkel the shallow reefs in utter isolation, the remoteness of both locations will not leave you disappointed.
While Pemba Island used to be most famously known as a trade centre, today it is renowned as one of the world’s diving and snorkelling meccas. Dip beneath the tropical waters of the island and you’ll discover a magical world for divers and deep-sea fishermen alike.
The remoteness of Pemba Island takes you back in time and reveals a glimpse into how marine life used to thrive before human interference. Whilst the island is ringed in by coral reefs, to the west the land plunges into the depths of the ocean and opens up a diving haven.
This is known as the Pemba Channel – a porthole that feeds the surrounding waters with life and invites sea creatures like turtles, game fish, reef sharks, and Napoleon wrasse.
The deep waters are also ideal for fishing enthusiasts who hope to reel in a catch like the famous billfish. Single-day or multi-day deep sea fishing trips can be booked through several of the island’s charters.
Adding to the timelessness of Pemba Island is its rich cultural heritage, which over the centuries has been greatly influenced by Arab traders. Ancient ruins litter the island and have become intertwined with the forest vegetation.
If you have an interest in archaeology, you will find the sites that date back to as early as the 14th century fascinating. The Ras Mkumbuu ruins, for example, include a mosque, tombs and houses from the 14th century. To gain a greater context of the island’s history before you visit the sites, it is highly recommended to visit the Pemba Museum in Chake Chake first.
There are also other ways to experience the culture of the island. Village tours allow you to get a first-hand encounter of the lifestyle within Pemba’s rural communities – from fishing and cooking to farming and inter-island trade.
Quiet Serenity – Where are all the tourists?
For years, Pemba Island has been overshadowed by its more popular Zanzibar neighbour. It might seem surprising that the captivating island can be so devoid of tourists, especially when Pemba is populated with more than 500,000 people.
The absence of crowds, however, is exactly what gives Pemba its charm. When travellers walk through the rural villages, the entire community comes alive – eager to share the island that is kept so secret. Travelling to Pemba allows you to discover the untouched territory, with everything from the hilly landscape to the tantalising waters exactly as they were thousands of years ago.
Due to its close proximity to the equator, Pemba Island has a consistent climate all year round. Thermometer readings average 26.5°C/80°F, but it can be much warmer. The most notable differences aren’t seen in the temperature of the island, but in the contrast between the wet and dry seasons.
Best Weather – Dry Season (June to October)
Many visitors prefer the moderate dry season over the hot, humid and rainy summer months. The humidity starts building from September, so plan your trip in the dry season before then if that’s something you’d like to avoid.
Another benefit to consider during the dry season is fewer mosquitos and a smaller chance of catching malaria.
Pro Diving and Snorkelling Tip: Generally, August and September are the best months for travellers who enjoy diving and snorkelling as water clarity is at its highest. If it’s a fishing catch like the famous billfish that you’re after, you should aim to travel between September and March.
Best Rates and Off-Season Perks – Wet Season (November-May)
The dry landscapes of Tanzania are transformed into a lush, green wonderland in the wet season. Temperatures increase during this period and reach highs of 30°C/86°F along the coast. There are two types of rainy periods in this season:
Short rains (November-December): Afternoon thunderstorms are often expected to take place. For this reason, the short rainy season is still considered an excellent time to plan a trip to Pemba Island.
The first two weeks of December are considered a highly underrated time to visit. With many travellers flying to East Africa for the festive season, the lower demand over early December can result in good deals and special off-peak rates.
The landscape will be spectacularly lush after the November rains and beach trips can be planned around the usual afternoon showers.
Long rains (March-April):
The long rains usher in the peak of the wet season. While it may still be a good time to visit Pemba Island, your trip will be impacted by the amount of rain and the type of conditions the area receives that year. Tourists who find hot, humid conditions unpleasant should preferably avoid this season.
If you’re up for an adventure, there are major advantages of travelling here during this time. Prices are reduced dramatically and with crowds being dispersed – you’ll have thrilling wildlife sightings and the beaches all to yourself.
All of the hotels in the north are located on the beach and it’s just a matter of what your budget allows for you to handle.
Staying At The Fundu Lagoon, this is another popular option among tourists. Located in the central part on the western side of the island, this luxury boutique hotel is located by itself without any other resorts around. It is still well positioned enough that you can dive at the best sites as well.
Pemba Island is one of the top diving and snorkelling locations off the coast of Tanzania with the entire island surrounded by coral reef, which act as world class dive sites, the marine life you could discover is phenomenal. 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 African playground for experienced divers. 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. If you don’t fancy spending all your time underwater, sunset cruises aboard dhow boats are available and are extremely popular.