Published: April 16th 2011March 22nd 2011 Going to Pemba feels like reaching the end of the world but if I had to do it again I would not hesitate a second… This island located within the Zanzibar Archipelago off the coast of Tanzania is truly one of these place where you feel like you have discovered a hidden jewel, untouched by tourism & where the environment both above and under the water has kept all its beauty.
Manta Resort, Pemba
Known a little bit amongst the divers thanks to the famous marine reserve surrounding Misali island, a 20 mn speed boat ride from the South of Pemba, it is still today a very remote & untouched destination. The number of proper resorts on the island says it all, found six of them including one “hotel” where the only comment on the tripadvisor was “they stole our things”, guess that let us with five options!
So the question that everyone asked is “how the H*** did I end up there?!”.
It all started with a glass of wine shared with colleagues in Baghdad and a brainstorming on where to go for my next break (by then it was something like 10 days before the
actual departure day). Middle East not really being an option, Zanzibar quickly popped in as being a good alternative, a bit of googleing later I quickly realized that the main Zanzibar Island might be a bit too touristic for me and that is precisely when I came across a diving report about Pemba.
The actual organization of the trip took only a few days, the most difficult part being to find the best way to reach the place! By then, my colleague and housemate had decided to join so we were now two on the lookout for a real break!
On the way to Paradise…
This was a really long journey with flight through Iraq, then Amman, Dubai & Nairobi before finally reaching Zanzibar airport to catch the Coastal Air tiny “safari plane” to Chake Chake airport on Pemba Island. It could have been a bit more direct should I have planned this trip a bit earlier but anyhow allowed me to sleep most of the time which was not such a bad thing!
The last flight, a short 30mn flight between Zanzibar and Pemba Island is definitely a must do! Seated on board of a
tiny 15 seats plane with large window, “safari style”, you end up flying over Zanzibar & its lagoon, the sea and then Pemba, all this at a quite low altitude thus fully getting a grasp on just how beautiful the place is, from light turquoise blue the sea turns to a deep blue before going back to the lagoon blue color.
Flying over the Pemba Island, the contrast with the Island of Zanzibar takes its full meaning: not much deforestation there on the contrary, the Island is covered with forest, the long white silky coastline is untouched, and outside of the local fishermen boat we couldn’t see much happening.
Chake chake airport is exactly what you could expect when going to a remote area, except that they actually have a real tarmac. It takes about 30 seconds to go out & the minute you step out of the airport the driver arranged by the hotel would immediately recognize you, not difficult you are the only foreign face around!
Crossing Pemba Island heading to the North
For the first part of our trip, we decided to head to the North part of the Island and more precisely
to the Manta Resort. The trip there is just like everything else when you go to Pemba, quite an adventure!
An hour and half on the main road, bypassing tuck tuck full of people & goods, with suicidal chicken crossing the road whenever they saw our car approaching, lots of forest & a fantastic glimpse into the daily life of locals.
An important point to note here is that most people living in Pemba are Muslim (mix of Shiite and Sunnite) thus girls & women are covered and as a tourist visiting the Pemba it is important to wear appropriate clothes while traveling across the island (once at the resort you can wear whatever you want)
Back to the road trip! After an hour and half, we both felt like we were about to reach the Manta Resort, well not quite! Our very friendly driver informed us that for the remaining leg of our journey we were on for some 4x4 drive, crossing one of Pemba reserve on a tiny sand & mud path across the forest…right…by then both of us couldn’t feel our back anymore!
More traditional villages, kids playing football in the middle of the
Back to the resort
Manta Resort, Pemba
path, rubber tree plantation and finally the Manta Resort !
Karlyn the manager of the resort was there to welcome us & right from the beginning we felt that the Manta Resort was just what we needed!
Chill out time, diving & cocktails by the sunset…
The resort in itself is set in a beautiful location with lots of open spaces, nice view point from the breakfast area, swimming pool & cocktail hut by the beach. The sea front villa is a nice pick as it offers a full sea view and no vis a vis with the other villas.
One of the real added values of the resort is that except the scuba diving (which is offered at a very reasonable price), everything else is included… The least to say is that we have fully enjoyed this with between other things daily spa, cocktails by the beach and lobster dinner!
Bubble time !!
Scuba diving was one of the main things we did at the Manta Resort (outside of chilling out on the beach or by the pool). Initiation to scuba diving for Dominique who ended up loving it (yes
!!) and after the pool and her first sea dive, asked to go for one more and the usual two dives a day for me with some worth to remember dive spots!
The Swiss Reef : a system of sea mountain located on the north western tip of the Pemba peninsula with mild current (lucky!). The site is known for its interesting topography (you go from one mountain to another) with lots of barrels sponges & spiral corals and school of fish. Nice encounter with white moray eels & plenty of leaf fish.
Manta Point: said to be one the finest dive on the island, it is indeed quite mind blowing! This 40 meters pinnacle is covered with abundant colorful and healthy corals, and you are surrounded at all time by a multitude of reef fish. The encounter with a huge school of jacks while exploring the western side of the pinnacle (the wall which goes down to 60m) was absolutely spectacular & one of those moment where you simply forget about time…mmm…ended up doing again a 60mn dive…
Mandela Wall: a perfect second dive after the Manta Point. The dive starts with a wall dive and
finish on the shallow platform covered by lettuce and table corals. Nice encounter with a huge Napoleon and just like in all the other dive sites we got to do on Pemba, plenty of school of reef fishes! Next
: South of Pemba & amazing luxury stay at the Fundu Lagoon resort
There are more photos below