I have been to Pemba Island 3 times since the island was first opened to foreigners circa 1990 to go diving and it hasn't changed a lot except that today there is the newly-upgraded Manta Resort which is a lovely, comfortable hotel but has remained quiet. Zanzibar, in contrast, is well on the road to "development" with its international airport and numerous top-end hotels and growing crowds. I first went to Zanzibar in the late 80s (1980s, that is !) after it was just opened for tourism and it was a VERY sleepy destination with only one decent hotel, the Stone Inn, I believe it was called at the time, which didn't even have mosquito nets !! There weren't any car rentals but we managed to rent a 4 wheel drive jeep for a week for $100 in cash from a General in the Tanzanian Army. His military jeep had an official flag and all the police and soldiers on the island would salute as the mzungo drove by..... Those were the days !! .......If you are looking for a yet still "undiscovered" destination, Pemba Island just to the North of Zanzibar is very similar in topography to Zanzibar and just as beautiful but not yet developed. The beaches and coral reefs in Pemba are untouched and astoundingly beautiful. The blindingly-white coral sand beaches are amongst the most beautiful in the World, Bahamas included ! The 40 kilometers of coral reefs are truly virgin and untouched except for the occasional Pembian fisherman rowing by in his dugout. Pemba hosts some of the best dive sites in the World with it famous Manta rays and well-known herds of dolphins. There are a myriad of shallow reefs where you can snorkel in an aquarium of fish (without much current for children) and you'll be the only boat on the horizon. For accomplished divers, there are dozens of fantastic dives to do as well. (see photos)
The Manta Resort is a very relaxing yet luxurious lodge. The views from the restaurant, bars and pool over Pemba Sound are amazing. The food is delicious. Mostly locally-caught fish and seafood. The beach is one of the nicest I've ever seen and on a bad day there will be 10 people sharing it with you....the service is very friendly and low key....no nightclub but you can enjoy watching the star-filled skies......( a few photos attached)
We enjoyed a special local cultural treat one night where the villagers came to the beach for a traditional Pembian "Voodoo Dance" near the sacred caves......now this isn't some Club Med show for the white folk but a tradition on Pemba Island and some of the hotel guests and most of the employees joined in....the rythmic sound of the drums and local Swahili chanting and dancing had an exorcism effect on some people and several of the dancers started to thrive on the ground and speak in tongues to release the spirits and devils ( it wasn't evident they were all evil) in them. Even one apparently beleaguered and frustrated French banker was taken in by the spell and sunk into a trance-like state and started to dance uncontrollably and screamed as if he was being burnt on the stake....so much so that he scared the locals and me too !! (He is probably a derivatives trader who lost a fortune ??...)......Anyway, it was quite a scene and completely unrehearsed. Thisthe stuff Life and travel should be made of ! Maybe you will be lucky enough to experience the same ?? I highly recommend Pemba Island and the Manta Resort.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Elevated and crafted along an idyllic island beach, The Manta Resort offers privacy, romance, adventure, and diving on East Africa's finest island sanctuary. Pemba Island for real. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Manta Hotel Pemba Island
- Manta Hotel Pemba Island