Beaches of Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar

31 Aug 2022

Beaches of Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar

The top Tanzania's islands are Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar. All of them are the perfect beach getaway to spend some days in paradise.

Zanzibar is the largest and most popular of the islands separately but there are the other two islands as Mafia and Pemba you may want to consider.

Mafia Island

Mafia is a conglomerate of several small islands in the mainland in Zanzibar. It means “group of islands” in the southern part of Zanzibar.

Mafia has pristine sandy beaches and a relaxed, personable atmosphere, which are both perfect for some rest after a safari. The waters around the island are famous for having some of the richest reefs in the world with a huge diversity of corals and tropical fish. More than 350 marine species have been recorded off the shores of Mafia, but between the months of November and March whale sharks are particularly prominent here. 

There are also land-based activities, including trips to the bustling village on tiny Chole Island and the ruined one on Juani Island.

Pemba Island

Pemba is 50km to the north of Zanzibar and there is minimal tourist infrastructure in this island. It is still untouched by commercial tourism and continues to be mostly ‘undiscovered’ by visitors to Tanzania. 

In complete contrast to flat and sandy Zanzibar, Pemba is green and lush with fertile hills and clove plantations. Pemba is called “The Green Island” and for good reason. Its perfect growing weather and rich soil produce a wealth of vegetation so it’s magnificent walking country. Good beaches are a little harder to find here, with dense mangroves along much of the coastline but this largely undiscovered island is home to some of the best diving and snorkelling in Africa. The coral reefs that surround Pemba provide a home and shelter to an abundance of marine life, yours to discover. The Island offers some great dive sites with abundant marine life, untouched corals, and dizzying vertical drop-offs. A short boat ride away are various off-shore islands such as Msili where you can find great beaches that may be lacking on Pemba. 

The towns of Chake-Chake (the capital), Mkoani, and Wete have some interesting cultural and archaeological attractions influenced by the local Arab and Waswahili peoples.

Zanzibar Island

Located about 22 miles (35km) off the east coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an archipelago consisting of the main island of Unguja (commonly known as Zanzibar),Zanzibar is the largest and best known of these three islands, in particular for its tropical nature and exotic appearance. It is a mixture of multiracial and multicultural backgrounds, which makes Stone Town a fascinating historic center. Stone town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact the old quarter of Zanzibar town is the largest population centre on Unguja island (Zanzibar island).

Also known as the Spice Islands, Zanzibar evokes images of an exotic paradise with white palm-fringed beaches and turquoise coves, dreamy dhows with billowing white sails, and ancient Islamic ruins. Today's idyllic beach resorts belie the island's haunting history of slavery, and Zanzibar combines Arabic alleyways and historic monuments with coral reefs and excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities.

The northern beaches of Zanzibar are particularly celebrated for their beauty, and excursions to Pemba Island and Mafia Island are a treat for beachgoers. Other tourist favourites include Kendwa Beach and Nungwi Beach, which are close together on the northwestern tip of the island, and have good resort facilities; Uroa Bay, in the middle of the east coast, which still retains a pleasant local flavour; Paje Beach, on the east coast, is said to be the best spot on Zanzibar for kite surfing; Nakupenda Beach, accessible by a short boat trip from Stone Town, which is pristine and usually deserted, a true paradise beach; and the beaches of Changuu Island (Prison Island), where beach lounging can be combined with a visit to the old quarantine centre and the resident giant tortoises. It is possible to arrange many different water sports and boat trips, and the scuba diving and snorkelling is world-class.

Zanzibar is more than just picturesque beaches, though, as the Islamic heritage infusing the island with an exotic, ancient atmosphere, and the legacy of the slave trade ensure some historical interest.


When is the best time to visit the archipelago?

The best time to visit the archipelago is late June, July, August, September and early October. This is the time of the so-called dry season with lots of sunshine. Water conditions are also perfect at this time of year, with lots of wildlife and marine life to see around the archipelago.

November and some of December bring a short rain season, which means there will be some powerful but also refreshing rain during the day, which shouldn’t spoil your Zanzibar holiday at all.


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