Although separated by only 100km of sea, Pemba and Zanzibar are very different. Unlike Zanzibar, where tourist infrastructure is well developed, Pemba remains largely ‘undiscovered’. Much of the coast is lined with mangroves and lagoons; however, there are stretches of sand and some idyllic uninhabited isles. The healthy coral reefs, the steeply dropping walls of the Pemba Channel and an abundance of fish provide the best diving in East Africa. Inland, unlike flat, sandy Zanzibar, Pemba’s terrain is hilly and fertile, lushly planted with fruit and spice trees. In the days of Arab traders, the island aptly bore the name Jazirat al Khuthera, the Green Island. Surprisingly, very few tourists cross the channel. Those who do, however, are seldom disappointed.
Pemba is best visited during the dry season from July through to late October. There are a few showers in November time but generally Pemba is still great all the way through until March. April and May should be avoided as it is the heavy rains and the lodges actually close during this period.
Pemba Island is one of the top diving and snorkelling locations off the coast of Tanzania with the entire island surrounded by coral reef. Between the island and mainland Tanzania the Pemba Channel shelves off to depths of more than 2,000m, and Pemba is famous for seriously large sea fish, which include barracuda, tuna, shark, and even whales. This is a glorious playground for experienced divers. Visibility is generally very good and there are some spectacular pinnacles. Currents are strong at Pemba so it’s not ideal for first time divers.