Alternatively, leave the better-known island of Unguja behind and set sail for Pemba – smaller than its neighbour, lusher and hillier. Scarcely any tourists come here, and the beaches are beautiful, unspoiled, and otherworldly. At night the wind that whispers through the clove plantations which cover most of Pemba might bring the sound of distant drumming. But don’t be tempted to set off toward the noise – in the 1930s Pemba was famous the world over for the power of its sorcerers and magicians, with devotees of the black arts coming from as far away as Haiti to be initiated into the rites of Pemban witchdoctors. By all accounts Pemba is still a centre of witchcraft today, but visitors will be unlikely to see any hint of the occult. Instead you can float across spectacular coral reefs, laze on those untouched beaches and explore the winding hills and dense vegetation of the interior.
The tiny number of visitors to Pemba every year means that the island has little in the way of tourist infrastructure – which for alternative travellers is the main attraction. Small guesthouses are dotted around the island, and a couple of upmarket diving hotels have recently opened.
Visitors may be surprised to find that bullfighting is a popular local sport, supposedly imported by Portuguese invaders in the 17th century. The Pemban version, however, simply involves testing the skill of the bull in a series of bold moves by the matador, after which the bull is loaded with flowers and praise, and paraded around the village. Misali Island, to the west of Pemba, is reputed to have been used as a hideout by the notorious pirate Captain Kidd, who is even said to have buried treasure here. Today a conservation program has been established, and visitors can come for the day, snorkel off the beach and walk in the forest. Locals believe the island is holy, having been used by the prophet Hidara as a prayer mat. Visitors to the island are asked to respect local customs and beliefs.
There are many historical sites and ruins to explore on Pemba including many old mosques and tombs and the old town fort of Chake Chake. The Pujini ruins southeast of Chake Chake are the remnants of a fortified town built around the 13th century.
The Ngezi forest is a protected area in the northwest corner of .the island. It is home to endemic flora and fauna species such as the Pemba Flying Fox (a big bat) and the Pemba Palm (Dyopsis Pembanus) which is found only in the region ofNgezi Forest and is known locally as Mapapindi Palm.
The beauty ofPemba is bewitching. The epitome of a tropical paradise, Pemba has green valleys with rice paddies and palm trees and clove plantations ~hat shade the roads. Vistas of the Indian Ocean are breathtaking as they appear through the peaks and depths ofPemba’s terrain. It is a sight not to be missed.