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Pemba Island

Africa's best authentic tailor-made safaris

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Pemba Island

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By Vihann Van Wyk

Safari Travel Planner

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About 50km (31mi) northeast of Zanzibar Island (more accurately, ‘Unguja’) lies the archipelago’s second largest landmass, Pemba.

Boat off a beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.
Boat off a beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.

Pemba has forever been Zanzibar’s most green and fertile isle, and most of the cloves for which Zanzibar is famous are grown here. The annual harvest runs from July to January, when the scent of drying cloves lingers on every passing breeze.

Sunrise on Pemba Island beach, Zanzibar.
Sunrise on Pemba Island beach, Zanzibar.

However, most visitors to Zanzibar never make it to a Pemba holiday, and the island remains far quieter than its big brother Unguja.

Tropical beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.
Tropical beach on Pemba Island, Zanzibar.

Accommodation options are also far more limited but by no means run-of-the-mill. Most fall between the mid-range and ultra-luxurious, including some of the most spectacular beach resorts Zanzibar offers for a perfect vacation.

Highlights of Pemba Island

See Zanzibar’s endemic species: Ngezi Forest Reserve, on Pemba’s north-western tip, is perhaps the best place in the archipelago to see Zanzibar’s indigenous wildlife.

Seascape of Zanzibar.
Seascape of Zanzibar.

A beautiful, unspoiled expanse of forest in its own right, it also hosts the Pemba flying fox (an enormous but completely harmless fruit bat), various species of monkey and miniature antelope.

Red colobus monkey in the trees of Zanzibar rain forest.
Red colobus monkey in the trees of Zanzibar rain forest.

Ngezi Forest Reserve is home to Zanzibar’s three endemic bird species, the Pemba scops owl, Pemba white-eye, and Pemba violet-breasted sunbird.

Beach in Zanzibar.
Beach in Zanzibar.

Low visitor numbers: Pemba is ideal if you’re looking to escape the crowds. Beaches are quieter, snorkeling reefs are barely visited, and on the whole, the island exudes exclusivity while still retaining enough accommodation options to suit most budgets.

Tropical coral reef in the waters of Zanzibar.
Tropical coral reef in the waters of Zanzibar.

Excellent wall and drift diving: Pemba has excellent diving for all levels but is perhaps best known for its more technical diving opportunities.

Free diver swimming with a whale shark, Zanzibar
Free diver swimming with a whale shark, Zanzibar

Experienced divers can dip into the island’s stronger currents and glide along astonishing vertical walls as manta and eagle rays flap by.

Travel Tips for Pemba Island
  • Most visitors arrive on Pemba by air, with scheduled daily flights and charters available from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar Island. A substantially cheaper ferry service is also available. 
  • Forex is only available in the capital, Chake Chake, but the exchange rates are generally quite poor. 
  • Don’t expect much connectivity on Pemba. Even the top-end resorts struggle to provide high-speed wi-fi. 
  • The best months on Pemba are July to October. December to March tend to be more humid and windier as the north-eastern Kaskazi blows.

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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | Pemba Island | Last Updated: 29 September 2023