Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Many would say that Pemba is far, far more beautiful than Zanzibar, and it's true that its seas are some of the loveliest in the world, and the network of islands that hangs like jewels in a necklace down its eastern coast create an exciting and exotic coastline that looks like something from a child's storybook, a place to dream of pirates and treasure, and castaways.  Zanzibar is not just one island, it is an archipelago of many islands, large and small. Pemba is the second largest island in this group, and very much a partner to Zanzibar politically. The difference between Pemba and Zanzibar however, is enormous.

Pemba has experienced nothing of the surge in tourist development that Zanzibar has in the last decade, and this isn't because it's not nice enough. Hoteliers that have tried to set up there - and many have - know that Pemba is very challenging , with huge resistance, even suspicion, at a high governmental level. There have been many failed attempts. None but the most determined, and perhaps passionate, have survived, and at the moment that means there are just two international hotels on the whole island.

This of course makes Pemba all the more special - as long as you're not in search of nightlife and lots of hotels. Much of the main island, which unlike Zanzibar is patterned with steep hills and valleys, is still covered with natural forest; where Zanzibar is mostly cocunut plantation on the coastline, here wild woodland trails right down onto the beach. The beaches are glorious and empty, and most of the many tiny offshore islands are uninhabited. Even the roads are practically empty of traffic apart from the odd moped, or the ancient timber Pemba buses which wind indomitably around the island.  Pemba wouldn't be for everybody, it can hardly be accused of vibrancy, but it is a fantastic retreat for the world weary, and one of the most beautiful islands on the African coast.

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