Pemba Island

Fifty kilometres north of Zanzibar main island and directly opposite the mainland port of Tanga, is the highly fertile Pemba Island which, although smaller than Zanzibar, is hillier and greener and grows three times as many cloves. Pemba has its own distinct character with more historical monuments, particularly ruined mosques and tombs, than on the main island; some excellent beaches; and spectacular diving and fishing.


In the centre of the island is Chaka. Chaka, the capital and main town, where there are remains of a 200 year old Arab fort. Some 14 km to the west, at Ras Mkumbuu, are the ruins of a 14th century mosque and some elaborate ‘pillar’ or ‘chimney’ tombs used to mark the burial place of prominent Muslims. While 10 km to the south the Pujini Ruins feature a fort built around the 15th century and known locally as Mkame Ndume.

Other interesting sites may be seen near Kangagani, Mkamandume, Chakalakati and Mtangani Island, on the east coast, and near Wete to the north. Also in the far north of the island is the Ngezi Forest Reserve, a protected area containing rare trees – some not found anywhere else in the world. These include the Pemba Palm known locally as the Mapapindi Palm. The wildlife features the indigenous Pemba Flying Fox – really a large bat – blue duiker, civet, vervet monkey, marsh mongoose and tree hyrax. Bird species include flycatchers, hornbills, kingfishers, turacos, starlings and several varieties of owl. Four species – the Pemba scops owl, white-eye, green pigeon and violet- breasted sunbird – are endemic to Pemba.

The much smaller Ras Kiuyu Forest Reserve, joined to the north east tip of mainland by just a narrow strip of land, is home to a much less impressive range of flora and fauna. Pemba offers some of the best diving in the world although, because of the strong currents, some are best suited to more experienced divers. Misali Island, to the west of Chake Chake, is now a Marine Conservation area, rich in biodiversity, and with more than 40 different species of coral, 350 varieties of fish, and five types of turtle. It is therefore a perfect place for both snorkelling and diving.

There are also some idyllic beaches where swimming is possible at both high and low tide. Popular dive sites are Emerald Reef and Wreck Dive, off Panza Island in the south, and Fundu Reef, Kokota Reef, Njao Gap, and Uvinje Gap in the north-west. Other good beaches can be found at Fundu, Varani, Vumawimbi and on the lesser islands of Funzi, Kiweni, Panza and Uvinje. Green and hawksbill turtles nest on the western side of the island. Pemba also offers some of the best game fishing in the world with barracuda, billfish, blue marlin, dorado, kingfish, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, and hammerhead and tiger sharks all found in the waters around the island and, especially, in the Pemba Channel that runs between the main Unguja island and Pemba.