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World | Tanzania | Pemba:

Pemba overview


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Pemba, Tanzania dive site map

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Scuba Diving in Pemba, Tanzania

Water temperature:

27°C - 28°C (81°F - 82°F) is average


3mm wetsuit should be adequate


10 - 30 metres (30 - 100 feet)

Type of diving:

One wreck, quick drifts, big currents, picturesque reefs

Marine life:

Hammerhead sharks, turtles, giant trevally, giant barracuda, tuna, lionfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, unicornfish, clownfish, sea cucumbers and more reef life

When to go:

The best diving is from October to March. The seas can be unpredictable in the Pemba Channel for the rest of the year affecting currents and visibility

How to get there:

S.Y. Jambo will pickup from Shimoni or Manta Reef Lodge. If coming from Shimoni you will need to fly to Mombassa, Kenya then transfer to Shimoni by road which takes about 2 hours. If staying on Pemba itself or getting picked up by a liveaboard from Pemba there is an airport on the island that has flights to and from Dar Es Salaam

Pemba, Tanzania

Pemba is an island in the Indian Ocean off of Tanzania in East Africa, 30 miles north of Zanzibar. It is home to some beautiful scenery that has been left relatively unspoilt due to its location away from mainland Tanzania and Kenya. There are very few modern developments on the island with the few resorts being small and contained, and in keeping with the surroundings. There are also few tourists to Pemba and those that do visit mostly come for the diving and snorkelling. The hot sun, blue sea and green mangroves with no real evidence of human inhabitation except for the fisherman make it a picture-perfect island to explore. Interestingly it is also the centre for voodoo and people used to travel for thousands of miles to see the witchdoctors living there.

Jambo liveaboard, Pemba, Tanzania

Diving on Pemba can be divided into two halves: the west side and eat side. The west of the island is sheltered by Pemba itself from the thousands of miles of open Indian Ocean that stretch all the way across to Australia and Indonesia. The reefs on this side are more sheltered and pretty, and home to large numbers of reef fish although currents are still usual at the dive sites. It used to be common to see manta rays on the west side at Pemba's cleaning stations, but unfortunately these encounters have become very rare as local fishermen have taken them all out of the water and instead you can find them for sale in the markets of Zanzibar. There is a wreck in the southeast of Pemba, which we didn't dive during our holiday as we ran out of time. We were told that from a wreck divers point of view it was not much to look at but the marine life on it is good and it is common to see giant barracuda if you dive there.

The east of the island is home to some phenomenal drift diving due to its exposed coastline and consequently you get the opportunity of seeing big game fish such as tuna and giant trevally in large shoals and hammerhead sharks. However this side should also come with a warning: the currents are so strong that you will frequently be carried over a kilometre during a 50 minute dive. There are also some strong downcurrents and upwellings that you cannot really do anything about if you get caught in except fin frantically and either inflate or deflate your B.C. and wait until you come out the other side. If you are unfit, not a strong swimmer or not confident about diving in 4 knot currents I would really recommend that you think twice before getting in Pemba's eastern waters. The only way to reach the east side of the island is by liveaboard as it is simply too far for the day boats to get to. It is even possible that on a liveaboard you won't make it around the island if the weather is against you. Another word of warning is that if you suffer from seasickness it is worth taking tablets with you!

Pemba, Tanzania

A liveaboard trip will allow you to travel around the circumference of Pemba in about 5 days, stopping off and diving at numerous locations on the way. Liveaboards are a must for any diver seriously wanting to explore the sites around Pemba although day diving is an option for those who just want to do a handful of dives throughout their stay. Whilst we were in Pemba we stayed onboard liveaboard S.Y. Jambo, a wonderful wooden sailing yacht originally made in Turkey. The crew were very welcoming and accommodating and sailing between dive sites on the 23 metre yacht certainly beats motoring!

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