10 things to do in Pemba, Zanzibar

The beautiful blue Pemba Sunbird

A short distance from the coast of Tanzania lies the Zanzibar archipelago; a tropical paradise with palm-fringed beaches, incredible wildlife and a rich tapestry of cultural and culinary influences.

You may be familiar with the larger island of Zanzibar, but have you experienced the more tranquil island of Pemba?

Lying to the north of Zanzibar Island itself, Pemba Island boasts 380 square miles of tropical forest, clove plantations, mangrove coast and white sand beaches – sounds like paradise!

Pemba sunsetExperience a true escape

The best months to visit? You’ll find Pemba at its most beautiful from January to March and from June to November. And how long will you need? Stay for around a week to see everything the island has to offer.

Pemba Island, Zanzibar is truly a gem in the Indian Ocean. Whether you’re fascinated by wildlife, crazy about water sports or a total foodie, Pemba has something for everyone. Make the most of what this magical island has to offer and you’re guaranteed to experience an unforgettable holiday!

  1. Magical underwater worlds

The Zanzibar archipelago is home to some of the best dive sites in the world, with untouched coral reefs, deep channels, excellent visibility and warm waters. It’s the perfect place to go on an underwater adventure.

Pemba Zanzibar coral and fishShoals of colourful fish and bright corals await!
Photo credit: Christopher Bartlett

There are lots of dive sites around Pemba Island, some suited only to experienced divers and some perfect for novices! You can expect to see all kinds of marine life from lion fish, red tooth trigger fish and colourful nudibranchs on the shallower reefs to green turtles, large pelagic fish and even whitetip reef sharks at some of the deeper sites.

Pemba’s dive sites are less well-known and therefore less busy than those on the larger island of Zanzibar, providing an unparalleled diving experience. From Constance Aiyana on the northern tip of the island, you’ll have access to some of the best sites – will you be adventurous enough to visit the underwater cliffs plunging into the Pemba channel?

  1. Breath-taking birdlife

Pemba island is renowned for its birdlife – 183 species, both indigenous and migratory, can be found on the island. Among the endemic species, look out for the Pemba scops owl – these beautiful birds can be seen from dusk when they leave their clove tree homes to hunt, but very little else is known about their behaviour and habits.

Bird watching on Pemba IslandHow many species will you spot?

The Pemba sunbird has bright, shiny blue feathers – easy to spot! Other species to tick off your list include the mangrove kingfisher, the Pemba white-eye and the Ethiopian swallow.  

  1. Explore untouched ecosystems

Pemba Island is surrounded by islets, many of which are unsettled. Take a trip to the tiny Misali Island west of Chake Chake and explore pristine beaches and incredible diving and snorkelling sites – packing your swimsuit, towel, sun cream and snorkelling gear is essential!

Misali IslandMisali Island is surrounded by coral reefs
Photo credit: Venture Co.

You can also enjoy the rich forest ecosystem where you might spot a rare subspecies of vervet monkey. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see coconut crabs on the beach and the green and hawksbill turtles that nest on the island.

  1. Ramble in rainforests

The protected indigenous Ngezi rainforest is found at the most northerly point of Pemba Island, close to Constance Aiyana, and is one of the last remaining areas of the indigenous forest that once covered much of the island.

The forest is great for spotting birds like the Pemba scops owl as well as rare red colobus monkeys and Pemba flying foxes, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

Red colobus monkeysUnlike other monkeys, colobus monkeys don’t have thumbs!
Photo credit: Oliver Lejade

Red colobus monkeys are under threat, primarily due to loss of habitat. To aid conservation, these monkeys were introduced from Zanzibar Island to Pemba’s Ngezi forest in 1974 – a protected reserve.

Bordered by beautiful white sand beaches to both the east and west, the lush Ngezi forest is a true paradise and a must-visit for nature lovers.

  1. Photographic expeditions

Is your Instagram feed full of jaw-dropping scenic photos? During your stay on Pemba Island you won’t be able to put your camera away! From mangroves to forest to beaches, there’s so much to discover and capture.

Pemba mangrovesWhat scenic spots will you discover?

Don’t forget the wildlife! If you want to make the most of your camera skills, you can spend the day with our professional wildlife photographer who will take you to the best spots on Pemba Island and help you snap some unique species.

  1. Take to the water

As well as diving, there are so many water sports to try. Discover the breath-taking coastline and azure waters from a kayak as you paddle peacefully past shoals of tropical fish… or maybe even a humpback whale?

Humpback whaleTanzania’s coastline is home to a huge number of humpback whales!

Or maybe you want to learn to windsurf? The lagoons at Constance Aiyana have the perfect conditions for windsurfers with stunning scenery. Water skiing is also on the cards – plenty to choose from!

Pemba Island coastlineWill you explore this stunning coastline in a kayak?

  1. Pemba’s essential oil distillery 

Located just outside Chake Chake, the factory produces essential oils from some of the island’s natural resources like lemongrass, cinnamon and clove. As well as seeing first-hand how these luxurious oils are produced, you’ll be able to buy a selection of your favourite oils to take home some souvenirs!

Clove plantSee for yourself how essential oils are produced from cloves

  1. Mkama Ndume fortress

These ruins of a fortress dating from the fifteenth century are within easy reach of Chake Chake, and are the only known early fortification on the whole Swahili coast.

Mkama Ndume is a fascinating spot for anyone with an interest in history and archaeology – explore subterranean chambers, shrines and the fallen arch.

Swahili coastThe Swahili coast has a long and fascinating history
Photo credit: Swahili Coast

  1. Culinary adventures

A trip to Zanzibar would be incomplete if you didn’t manage to explore its rich culinary offerings.

Cloves drying in the sunPemba is famous for its cloves – the buds are dried in the sun
Photo credit: BBC

A visit to Pemba Island’s capital Chake Chake is a feast for both the eyes and the palate. Wander through the alleyways and you’ll be immersed in the flavours of the island – cloves, tamarind paste, ginger and nutmeg.

Tumbe fish market, on the north coast of Pemba Island, is a must-visit for any seafood lover. The Indian Ocean is renowned for its seafood, and the Pemba channel in particular is a fantastic deep sea fishing location.

Pemba ChannelThe deep waters of the Pemba channel are home to some incredible species like sailfish, spearfish and marlin! Photo credit: Fishing Zanzibar

Take a trip to Pemba’s spice plantations where you’ll see cloves, lemongrass, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and vanilla being grown, dried and processed both for local consumption and exportation across the world.

Spices fro ZanzibarSpice up your holiday!
Photo credit: Elegant Gates

  1. Picnicking in paradise

Vumawimbi beach must be one of the most picturesque beaches in the whole of Tanzania. A two-kilometre of white sand set between tropical forest on one side and warm crystal clear water on the other makes for the perfect picnic spot.

The beach circling Constance Aiyana Pemba is amazing too; ideal for a tranquil and secluded time where you can truly escape and relax.

View from AiyanaCan you imagine a more idyllic spot?

Book a stay at Constance Aiyana Pemba, Zanzibar and enjoy all that this incredible island in the Zanzibar archipelago has to offer.

Constance Aiyana started a new chapter under Constance Hospitality Management since the 1st January 2018 under the direction of Ms Barbar Elkaz, previously Resident Manager at Constance Halaveli in the Maldives.

Is Pemba Island next on your travel bucket list?

Featured image credit: Terje Grimsgaard

Does a holiday on Pemba Island sound perfect to you? What would you most like to explore?

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