Welcome to the beautiful Indian Ocean island of Pemba. Although part of the Zanzibar archipelago, Pemba is a destination in and of itself with numerous surrounding islands and islets spread all along its coast. Pemba has some of the world's bestdiving and fishing and because it is not as travelled as it's more famous neighbour - Unguja (Zanzibar Island) - it is that much more pristine.
Pemba Island lies approximately 80 km northeast of Zanzibar Island (Unguja) and is about the same distance from the Tanzanian mainland, situated directly east of the of the port of Tanga.
Unlike Unguja, which is flat and sandy, Pemba's terrain is hilly, fertile and heavily vegetated. The early Arab sailors called it 'Al Huthera', meaning 'The Green Island'. Today more cloves are grown on Pemba than on Unguja, in fact 75% - 80% of all Zanzibar's clove production comes from Pemba. During the rule of the Sultans, it was Pemba, with its extensive clove plantations and agricultural base, that provided the economic foundation for the archipelago's dominance.
Today, earnings from the clove crop are supported by other agricultural products, cattle raising, and by fishing, which is an important source of livelihood. Pemba is also renowned for its voodoo and traditional healers. Even today, people come from throughout East Africa seeking cures or to learn the skills of the art from practioners on Pemba.
In addition to its rich history and traditions, Pemba is of interest for its wealth of natural resources ranging from beaches to mangrove ecosystems to natural forests. The coral reefs surrounding the island protect a multitude of marine species and offer some of the best diving in the world. While much of the coast is lined with mangroves, there are a few amazing stretches of shoreline and enough attractive offshore islands with pure, clean beaches and interesting bird-life to keep you busy for quite a while.
The tourism industry in Pemba is still in its infancy and infrastructure is therefore quite basic, although this is slowly beginning to change with a few exclusive resorts springing up on the island. Pemba is definitely one of the jewels of the Indian Ocean and is patiently waiting to be explored.
This small island lies to the west of Chake Chake town and is surrounded by a coral reef. The notorious pirate Captain Kidd is supposed to have had one of his hideouts here in the 17th century. Some believe he actually buried treasure here too. These days, local fishermen use the island as a temporary base and set up simple camps. It has some pristine beaches and excellent swimming and snorkelling and diving as, unlike most places in Pemba, the tides make no difference to these activities.
Misali is mostly covered by forest, notably large baobabs and there are a number of bird species to spotted including mangrove kingfisher, paradise flycatcher and red-eyed dove. An increasing number of green turtles are also successfully nesting on beaches on the western side of the island.
Due to the rich variety of marine life around the island it has received official recognition and is now called Misali Island Marine Conservation Area. Among the locals, Misali has religious status as they believe the prophet Hadhara used the island as his prayer mat. The strong Islamic enviromental maintenace ethic is used to support management and enviroment education, and the island is a 'sacred gift' to the earth from the Islamic faith as part of an ecumenical Millennium celebration arranged by the World Wildlife Fund in Nepal in November 2000.
Misali Island can be reached by hired boat from either Chake Chake or Mkoani.
Also known as Kiweni Island, Shamiani is a beautiful and isolated island east of Mkoani. It is the perfect place for relaxing and doing absolutely nothing at all. The island hosts a wide variety of bird species and aslo provides a nesting ground for some sea turtle colonies. Shamiani also offers good snorkelling and diving, with one side of the island protected by the reef, and drop-off diving on the other side.
Private transport needs to be arranged from Chake Chake to the village of Kengeja. From Kengeja there is a small beach from which you can sail across to Shamiani.
There are many tiny islets dotted along the coast of Pemba, most of which have nothing at all on them. Some of these islands make for interesting excursions including the tiny fishing islands offshore from Tumbe village like Mtambwe Mkuu Island and Kojani Island.