Zanzibar's Pemba Island-Serene & Undiscovered

Emerald waters clear as gin surround Pemba Island


Adventure, Beach and Island, Hidden Gems, Uncategorized

For a change of pace and scenery, many safari itineraries end with a stay in Zanzibar, just off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a beautiful destination where the tradewinds fuse history, art, music and cuisine into something unimaginable. The easy atmosphere, the white sand, and the emerald water comes together for a soothing unwind from a safari’s rough and tumble.  It is a relaxing beach safari.

Most people don’t realize there is more than one Spice Island. The usual understanding of “Zanzibar” is the big island with the ancient port city known as Stone Town. The Stone Town island is focused on tourism with a multitude of resorts, eateries, entertainments and shopping options. There are many historical and cultural attractions in Stone Town and an international airport makes it easily accessible. But there is also another Zanzibar, less traveled, quieter and unique.  This is Pemba Island, the other Zanzibar.

Just 30 miles to the north of Stone Town, Pemba is a world apart. To this day, Pemba remains a quiet island with white sands and sapphire waters.  Pemba is a traditional community. Fishing and agriculture are the mainstays. There are a handful of small lodges for visitors and each has its own charm. Big hotels and t-shirt shops won’t be found. The entire island has an ancient feel. The local inhabitants go about their business and pay little attention to what few tourists may arrive.

Tranquil as it is, Pemba is still an active destination. Bicycling around the island, visiting traditional villages and exploring ancient ruins is a memorable adventure. If you love the water, the emerald clear waterways are great for swimming and kayaking. The coral reefs offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in East Africa. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, Pemba is a rewarding alternative to the mainstream Zanzibar.

Toys Pemba

Below are three of my favorite lodgings on Pemba island:

Manta Resort, Kigomasha Peninsula. The cabins here all face the ocean. The food is first rate and all is laid-back and casual. This is an especially good stay for divers, as diving is the specialty here. You get diving lessons here if you haven’t dived before. They have every level from beginner to advanced. The water visibility is excellent. As for other activities there is a full menu of possibilities: Dhow Cruise, Swimming, Beach Walking, Village walking tour to a local school and  market, Beach dinners, Snorkel for Conservation, Scuba Diving, Kite Boarding, Kayaking, Windsurfing, Casual Fishing – Eat What You Catch, Sandbank Safari, Reef and Wall Diving, Sunset Cruise, Stay in the Underwater Room, Spice Farm Tour, and Rain Forest Tour.

Emerald Bay Hotel, Chokocho Village. This casual waterfront lodge has seven rooms. It is remote, quiet, easy going and peaceful. The owners have a great relationship with the adjoining village so you can freely wander around and immerse in local culture. It’s a short walk from the lodge to the beach. The lodge has a boat to take you into and around the main attraction, the Emerald Bay with its pristine coral beaches and crystal emerald waters.

Emerald Bay Resort

Fundu Lagoon, S.E. Pemba Island. Luxury lodging is not my main interest, but here I will make an exception. I could stay here a very long time, in the lap of luxury, and never get bored. This little lodge is way off the beaten path. I arrived by boat from the Emerald Bay Hotel. The setting is breathtaking, especially at sunset. Though it's a luxury stay, it feels comfortable and casual. The vibe is hard to describe, it’s part Robinson Crusoe, part Tiki Culture, with a dash of Gilligans’ Island, but not in a hoaky or annoying way as you might expect. So much fun stuff to do: scuba diving, snorkeling, sailboarding, dolphin safari, fishing, kayaking the mangroves, and exploring the vine covered ruins of an ancient city, just to name a few.


We can add Pemba to most Tanzania safaris and  and for more ideas view our pages on Manta Resort and Fundu Lagoon.