Pemba, lying 50km north of Zanzibar is a true island, rising sheer from great depth and topped with gentle, undulating hills and deep verdant valleys covered with dense clove, coconut and mango plantations.
The main reason people come to Pemba is for the marine life, so you shouldn’t be surrounded by hordes of holiday makers on a “beach” holiday. Because of this ‘exclusivity’ the island remains a pristine tropical wilderness and this extends to the surrounding marine environment too.
The outlying islands of Pemba are beautiful and completely untouched, with untrodden sandy beaches. Some have remote villages, others are uninhabited. Spending a few days on a boat in these waters is superb and you can sometimes have the whole place practically to yourself.
The waters around these islands are among the richest and most exciting in the world and home to thousands of species of tropical fish and other exotic marine life.
Pemba is renowned for it’s unspoiled coral reefs but also for its vertical coral cliffs, which plummet to depths of more than 800 meters. With underwater visibility often reaching 60meters or more looking over the precipice of some of these outer walls can be a mind-blowing experience- you better watch out for the vertigo!
Dramatic and exciting coral reefs stretch as far as the eye can see. Napoleon wrasse swim side by side with the large pelagic game fish such as tuna, jacks, wahoo and barracuda as they hunt amongst the thousands of small, brightly colored reef fish. Manta and eagle rays frequent the area, as do many species of shark.
Giant groupers can reach lengths of 2 meters. Hawksbill and green turtles swim by, as curious garden eels peer out of their hides and whale sharks, pilot whales, dolphins, marlins and sailfish are also regularly seen by divers.
Divers are always telling us they want to swim the un-swum where they are not surrounded by dozens of other people all fighting for the same ‘water’ space and where they can experience something different. This is why we decided to include the very unusual destination of Chumbe Island.
Although Chumbe is not a scuba dive destination its reefs have been acclaimed by a leading coral reef expert as “one of the most spectacular coral gardens to be found anywhere in the world”. In 2000 Chumbe Island Marine Park was awarded the Global 500 Roll of Honour by the United Nations Environment Program for outstanding achievements in environmental conservation and protection.
The chance to snorkel in such a well preserved and pristine marine environment is a must for anyone who has a love of the ocean and all its exotic life. This marine park contains over 400 species of fish, lobster, turtle and dolphin and over 200 species of pristine coral in an area the size of only 24 football pitches.
Chumbe Island is the first private marine park in the world! Scuba diving is not allowed on the reefs directly adjacent to the island, but diving can be done on other reefs around Zanzibar, all within easy reach by boat.
The Mafia Archipelago Marine Park supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature, forms part of the coral reef protecting the coast of Tanzania. It is situated about 130 km south of Dar-es-Salaam and about 25 km from the mainland. Mafia is little changed from ancient times. It retains a traditional, unspoiled non-commercialized friendly culture, where local people go about their business as artisans, farmers, fishermen and sailors.
Comprised of a number of islands and uninhabited coral atolls, Mafia is a spectacularly diverse natural environment. It offers a unique mix of Africa within a tropical setting. Large palm groves, mango & cashew nut trees dominate the island while impressive baobab trees are dotted amongst typical African Savannah grassland. Monkeys, small antelopes, wild pigs, lemurs and dwarf hippos run wild while falcons, fish eagles, Comoro bats ‘flying foxes’ and giant turtles have also made it their breeding ground.
Whilst Mafia’s topside is fascinating let’s not forget why you want to visit this island. The Marine Park reefs offer a range of corals and fish like no other in the Indian Ocean. There are over 400 species of fish in the park with an unparalleled variety of hard and soft corals with fabulous dive sites offering shallow reefs of immense beauty and richness. Channels, walls and caves, wrecks, drift and night dives await and there are still years of exploration to do!
Almost all Mafia’s best diving is at depths of less than 30m so it is a sport diver’s paradise. Large predatory fish and turtles are common and surprisingly unaffected by approaching divers.
400 species of fish so far identified; many more still await determination. Expect to see shoaling and solitary fish giant clams, sea fans, large groupers, wrasse and turtles (especially the hawksbill) Sharks, guitarfish, turtles and basket sponges also feature and there are many large pelagic here, including sailfish, very large tuna and dolphins.