The town is on the tip of a peninsula to the south of Pemba Bay, and has a large semi-enclosed natural harbour. With wide beaches that are sandy and clean and a protective coral reef guaranteeing safe waters for swimming and snorkelling in, this is the perfect place to savour the warm and rich Indian Ocean.
Pemba is the capital of the Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique, and as coastal towns go has fairly modern standards. Originally the site of a failed Portuguese attempt to build a settlement, it was founded as the headquarters of the Niassa Company, and has grown to a fairly large size.
The old town centre is near the port, and the run-down colonial buildings fringed by an attractive reed-hut village give it a rustic atmosphere. The reed-hut village was the original site of the settlement, and is built on sandy ground which sometimes floods at high tide.
There is a small woodcarving co-operative nearby which is an interesting place to watch some incredible work taking place. The craftsmen here are known as the best craftsmen in Africa, and their intricate work follows a tradition that is hundreds of years old. The sculptures are centred on the feminine figure, primarily mother figures, which are carried around for protection. The carvings are orally linked to the Makonde’s original occupation of the plateau from which they originate.
On weekdays the markets are open and the docks are a lively place to spend a day. For those who are after a beach holiday, Wimbe Beach is extremely pleasant, and not only a Westerner’s attraction; the locals come here too, giving it a refreshing atmosphere. A celebration of traditional Mozambican music takes place in July, and music is played on the beach in the afternoons.
Around the mainland of Cabo Delgado there are plenty of interesting places to visit as well. Montepuez is a small town that shares its name with a river that is sourced in the mountains to the east, and joins the Indian Ocean south of Ilha do Ibo. Montepuez is also a form of marble that can be found in the area. The town is surrounded by granite inselburgs, and is a pretty place to stay.
Mareja is a community based project to the northwest of Pemba, and is centred on the conservation of riverine, palm and upland forests, as well as coastal savannah and inselbergs. Animals found in the area include elephant, kudu, bushbuck and sable deer, as well as lion, leopard and wild dog. One of the key points about this area is that hunting is illegal and there are game rangers, so wildlife is able to thrive.
In terms of beach holidays…
- Pangane is a small beach that is clean and pretty, with surrounding reefs that are easy to explore by boat, as well as usual beach activities. Adding a bit of exclusivity is the fact that there are significant populations of buffalo, elephant and lion, amongst others. With the fishing villages on the coast, sunset is an extraordinarily beautiful time of day
- Another excellent beach, one that has been voted the 14th-best deserted beach by the UK newspaper ‘The Observer’, Guludo is a long, unspoilt beach fringed with palm trees and a population of dugongs in the water around the beach. A wonderful place to get away from the worries of the modern world, this is definitely worth a look
- Finally, Palma is a small and pretty town on an attractive natural harbour with a stunning view across a coconut palm fringed lagoon. With no sound of traffic and a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, this is an idyllic place to spend a few days. This is a good place to stop off if you are visiting or returning from the Quirimba Archipelago. Niassa Reserve is relatively close and has one of the best African Wild Dog populations on the continent, as well as a multitude of birds and fascinating flora.
Ask an expert
We've helped first-timers and seasoned travellers in Africa since 1995. We can help you take advantage of mainstream options.
Better still we'll show you how and where to step off well beaten paths for the more interesting journeys.
Drop a note right here...