Pemba, the mystique beauty of Tanzania’s clove island

Dhows coming back home, Nungwi Village, Tanzania. Photo: flickr member id_germain

Dhows coming back home, Nungwi Village, Tanzania. Photo: flickr member id_germain

Pemba Island has been separated from the mainland and Zanzibar for decades, leaving an untouched and pristine island of great beauty and fertility. The mosaic of forests, swamps, mangroves, hidden beaches and lagoons is scattered with the ruins of mosques and tombs mostly reclaimed by the forest – sites that date back to Arab domination when Pemba Isalnd was seized by the Sultan of Muscat (Oman) in the 17th century. He loved the Spice Islands and established his court in Zanzibar and ruled Muscat from there.

Cloves from Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Cloves from Pemba Island, Zanzibar. Photo: The Manta Resort

Pemba is still the world’s major clove producer, around 70% of all cloves deriving from there, but now plays its more traditional role of being an Island Paradise with small inter-island trade. Pemba Island also has a strong reputation as a ‘magic’ island, a centre for ju-ju traditions of medicine and wizardry.

How can such a beautiful place be so devoid of visitors? On an island with a population of 300,000 there are rarely more than a couple of dozen foreigners. It is as though the people of Pemba have a secret that they refuse to share.

Local Pembians

Local Pembian girls. Photo: The Manta Resort

Traveling in Pemba is discovering untouched territory. Villagers are eager to talk to anyone that passes and small children will give you their biggest and whites smiles as the yell bye-bye as you pass them by. You will be called over in markets by the stallholders to sit you down to try their fruits, waiting paitiently for your reaction.

ChakeChake harbour is mainly used for swimming & fishing. When the Western Colonial powers came to East Africa the British forced the Sultanates of Muscat and Zanzibar to separate and then administered the Spice Islands in the name of the Sultan.

Dhow aginst Sunset-Tanzania-photo flickr member eric laffrogue

Dhow traditional vessel. Photo: flickr member Eric Laffrogue

Historically the huge traditional trading vessels, the dhows, followed the monsoons, down from the Arabian Peninsula toEast Africa. Following the winds they transported cloves to India, textiles to the Arab countries and silver and wood back to the Spice Islands of Unguja and Pemba.

A line up of Dhows sailing in perfect sync, Tanzania. Photo: flickr member Eric Laffrogue

A line up of Dhows sailing in perfect sync, Tanzania. Photo: flickr member Eric Leffrogue

The Dhows have remained a constant throughout the history of Pemba. To this day they ply  the run from Wete to Shimoni in Kenya and, when the winds are favourable they plough through to Northern Mozambique.

Pemba is a magical island. Unlike Unguja, Pemba is hilly. Gentle, undulating hills and deep verdant valleys are all covered with a dense cover of clove, coconut and mango plantations. A more fertile land is difficult to imagine.

Clove tree on Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Inspecting the cloves from the tree, Pemba Island. Photo: The Manta Resort

Pemba offers a good range of accommodation beachfront resort that make an excellent base to enjoy the island’s beaches, the superb diving and game fishing. Most resorts are small and eco-oriented, luckily the island’s pace of development has stayed minimal, with no immediate plans to attract large-scale resort development. Recommended beach resorts: from the top of the heap Fundu Lagoon the epitome of barefoot luxury, the rustic and  The Manta Resort & Spa and the Kervan Saray Beach Resort that takes its eco credentials seriously. All are beach-front properties and offer full PADI diving operations. All are wonderful in their own right, and take full advantage of Pemba Island’s natural tropical beauty.

Fundu Lagoon-Pemba Island-TANZANIA 7

The pool at Fundu Lagoon Resort.

Fundu Lagoon Resort guest room.

Fundu Lagoon Resort guest room.

Outdoor dining area, Fundu Lagoon Resort

Outdoor dining area, Fundu Lagoon Resort

Kervan Saray Eco Resort. Rustic bungalow accommodation.

Kervan Saray Eco Resort. Rustic bungalow accommodation.

Kervan Saray Eco Resort, guest room

Kervan Saray Eco Resort, guest room

Tha Manta Resort & Spa. Pool are.

Tha Manta Resort & Spa. Pool Area.

The Manta Resort & Spa. Beach Lounge Area

The Manta Resort & Spa. Beach Lounge Area

The Manta Resort & Spa. Dining Area

The Manta Resort & Spa. Dining Area

Map-TanzaniaMap-Tanzania-Pemba Island

Source: The Manta Resort, Pemba Island

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