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About Pemba

The island of Pemba, also known as ‘Al Jazeera Al Khadra’ (the green island, in Arabic), is an island forming part of the Zanzibar archipelago, lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It is situated about 50 kilometres to the north of the Unguja (the island proper of Zanzibar). In 1964 Zanzibar was united with the former colony of Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Pemba lies 50 kilometres east of mainland Tanzania.

Together with Mafia Island (south of Zanzibar), these three islands form the Spice Islands (not to be confused with the Maluku Islands of Indonesia). In 1988, the estimated population was 265,000, with an area of 980 km². Most of the island, which is hillier and more fertile than Zanzibar, is dominated by small scale farming. There is large scale farming of cash crops such as cloves — there are over 3 million clove trees on the island.

There is a quite large Arab community on the island who emigrated from Oman. The population is a mix of Arab and original Waswahili inhabitants of the island. A significant portion of the population also identifies itself as Shirazi people.

The most important towns in Pemba are ChakeChake (the capital), Mkoani, and Wete, being the largest city. The centrally located Chake-Chake is perched on a hill with a view to the west on a bay and the tiny Misaliisland where the tides determine when a dhow can enter the local harbour. Pemba is, with the exception of a strip of land along its east coast, a very fertile place: beside clove trees, the locals grow mainly rice, coconut, bananas¸ cassava and red beans called maharagwe in Swahili.

Pemba is also becoming well-known for its dive sites, with steep drop-offs, untouched coral and a very abundant marine life.


Pemba is also famous for its rich fishing grounds. Between the island and the mainland there is the deep 20 miles wide Pemba channel, which is one of the most profitable fishing grounds for game fishing on the East African coast. A large proportion of the Zanzibar export earnings come from cloves.

The greatest concentration of clove trees is found on Pemba (3.5 million trees) as growing conditions here are superior to those on Ungujaisland. Clove trees grow to the height of around 10 to 15 metres and can produce crops for over 50 years.

More recently with the booming tourism industry in neighbouring Zanzibar, more adventurous travellers are seeking out the less-crowded Pemba, led by dive tourists seeking the uncrowded and unspoiled reefs the island offers to the experienced diver.