Pemba Island is the lesser visited cousin of Unguja and Zanzibar. Lush, hilly and full of mystique, Pemba received 1930s notoriety the world over for the power of its sorcerers and witch-doctors, and still retains some of the magic to this day. Untouched beaches, ancient ruins, rice paddies, palm trees and the hideout of the infamous Captain Kidd (who is said to have buried treasure here!), Pemba easily captures any romantic’s heart…it is the very image of a tropical paradise.
The island has several guesthouses dotted about its thickly vegetated interior, and the lack of a tourist infrastructure means that you’re pretty much left on your own out here. A few luxurious diving hotels are available for those looking for some comfort around the coast – but otherwise the hideaway is perfect for those willing to ride a dilapidated bicycle around winding forest roads and spontaneously snorkel about spectacular coral reefs.
Apart from the historical sites and natural beauty (check out the old town fort of Chake Chake, and the Pujini fortified town dating from the 13th century), Pemba also hosts a local sport based on the Portuguese bullfighting imported by 17th century invaders. The Pemban version is gentler than its predecessor, with the bull simply being put through a series of agile motions by a matador, before being paraded through the village bedecked in flowers and cries of praise.
Still highly superstitious, traditional and religious, visitors are asked to respect the mixed community found on Pemba – although this is little trouble given the friendliness of the locals.
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