Marta's Photo Album of Pemba Island & Zanzibar - March 2006
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Air Tanzania at 13H10. After a short while we were well on our way towards East Africa. We were served refreshments which consisted of a choice of soft drinks, Chilean wine and Kilimanjaro beer. Lunch followed shortly and there was a choice between, chicken, fish and beef. The presentation of the food was lovely and I found the crew to be exceptionally friendly. The drinks trolley provided a constant supply of refreshments throughout the flight which was to be around 3 hours until landing in Dar Es Salaam. There are no TV screens on board so it is best to take a book along for the flight. We landed at Dar at 16H40 and many of the passengers got off. The flight from Dar to Zanzibar was around 15 minutes.
We proceeded to immigration control and purchased a visa on arrival at a cost of USD 50 and this took no time at all. After collecting our luggage we were met by a representative of Mtoni Marine and transferred to the hotel within 15 minutes.
Mtoni Marine is situated north of Stone Town on the West coast. The hotel is set in amongst lush tropical gardens and is an ideal location from which to explore Stone Town and the rest of the island.
We had chosen a Club Room which is comfortable and authentically furnished. The room is complete with a king size bed draped with a mosquito net. There is also a mini wall safe in the room. The bathroom is well appointed with a shower. All the rooms have a private verandah overlooking the tropical garden.
We went to explore the restaurants at the hotel and chose to have dinner at the Mcheza Bar and Bistro. This is for casual dining and lunches. Here they offer a variety of pizzas prepared in fire wood ovens, char grilled specialities, a large selection of Sushi and many other fantastic dishes. We had our meal on tables set in the sand on the beach. I had sushi to start followed by grilled prawns and a salad. The food was beautifully presented and very fresh.
The Mtoni Marine Restaurant is more elegant, and features an experience of continental cuisine combined with the spices of Zanzibar. At night the tables are set out on the beach with candles creating a very romantic atmosphere. There are theme evenings featuring African dances and Zanzibar night with Taarab Orchestra music. The indoor area has live Swahilli Jazz with a superb variety of food styled and cooked to perfection.
Mtoni Marine has much to offer their guests in planning island tours, spice tours. aromatherapy massages as well as diving and snorkelling. There is the added convenience of the hotel being close to Stone Town for the shopping.
Scuba Diving Stone Town
After a hearty breakfast we called a taxi from reception, and travelled to One Ocean Divers 5 star Padi dive centre, which are located in Stone Town. The cost of the car to Stone Town is around USD 4. We arrived at One Ocean Divers and were welcomed by friendly staff. We were going on a two tank dive trip on a dhow to experience the diving around Stone Town. Our first dive to Bawe South was along an interesting wall where we saw a variety of small reef fish and many varieties of soft corals, the visibility was around eight meters. The next dive to Murago was great, the waters were very calm and the visibility around fifteen meters. We sighted a large potato bass amongst numerous brightly coloured reef fish and many interesting corals. Murago is known for its numerous variety of hard and soft corals. After the two dives we had a light lunch on board consisting of a selection of samoosa and roti, most enjoyable. The crew and dive team where very professional and a pleasure to dive with. We arrived back at the dive shop at around 14H00. Following that we had some time to explore the numerous restaurants in Stone Town before our planned late afternoon excursion to Prison Island.
Prison Island Tour
The island, is also known as Changuu, was first used by Arab slave merchants to detain unruly slaves, before the British built the prison for Stone Town in 1890. The excursion to the island included a sunset cruise and was organised by One Ocean Divers. We departed at around 16h00 and slowly sailed across the mirror like water towards Prison Island which is approximately a twenty minute sail. On board we were served South African wine with a selection of beers and soft drinks and snacks.
We arrived at Prison Island and waded through the crystal clear waters to the beach. There is an entry fee of USD 8 payable at the island. Upon arrival we were greeted with numerous giant Aldabra tortoises, imported from Seychelles. They are totally tame and enjoy being hand fed with spinach leaves. Some of these beautiful creatures must be two hundred years old. After our interaction with these amazing creatures and a short walk around the island, we sailed at a leisurely pace towards the mainland. Along the way we were able to witness a spectacular African sunset. This excursion is well worth doing.
Day three took us to explore the East coast of Zanzibar. Early that morning we transferred from Mtoni Marine for a 45 minute scenic drive to Matemwe Beach Resort. We were to do a single tank dive from here with One Ocean Divers who have a dive centre at the resort. Our gear was carried down to a well appointed dhow with a very professional team on board.We headed out towards Mnemba Atoll. On route to the dive site Aquarium we sighted an enormous school of dolphins playing with their young. We dropped down into the crystal clear water, the colour of deep turquoise, where the visibility was around 30 meters. The dive was a drift dive and most exciting. The variety of coral was superb and the fish life prolific. We spotted a huge Napoleon wrasse, two turtles and numerous king fish in mid water. We were limited to one dive that day, as we were flying the next day. After a wonderful morning of diving we were transferred to a beach north of Matemwe due to the low tide. There was a dala dala ( traditional taxi ) waiting to take us back to Matemwe. The ride was not really comfortable, however it provided one with a great experience, through the rugged terrain and interesting fauna of Africa.
We had a delightful lunch at Matemwe’s restaurant overlooking the ocean. Following that, I did a room inspection and found the rondaval style accommodation very spacious and well decorated. My favourite was the honeymoon suite with a Jacuzzi in the centre of the open plan unit, which overlooked the sea, but at the same time had complete privacy.
We transferred back to Mtoni in the afternoon and embarked on a spice tour, which was organized by Abu Trans through Mtoni Marine. We were taken through the plantations to witness the numerous exotic spices of Zanzibar. We saw the black pepper vines, cinnamon and nutmeg trees as well as the cardamom bushes. We also saw how pineapples grew and were able to taste some of the fruits and spices along the way. Just outside the plantation you could make your purchases of the various spices. This is a most interesting and worthwhile tour.
Pemba Island - Manta Reef Lodge
The following morning we departed Mtoni at around 08H45 for our next experience to Pemba Island. We arrived at the airport and checked in at the Zanair counter by a very friendly staff member. The luggage allowance of 15 kgs was strictly adhered to, for our short flight on board a 12 seater which would take us to Pemba Island.
After a short scenic 30 minute flight we landed at Pemba Island. We were collected by a representative of Manta Reef Lodge in a 4 x 4 for our transfer to the lodge. The drive was around one and a half hours, and we passed through Chake Chake the local town and onwards through lush forests and villages along the way. This gave me the feeling of being in Africa and I felt very close to nature.
Upon arrival at Manta Reef Lodge we were served welcome drinks and shown to our magnificent sea view villa. The entire property is very private and built on a hill which provides a panoramic view over the exquisite ocean that has no boundaries. The lodge has eleven sea view villas, five garden view villas and one honeymoon suite with a jacuzzi.
The sea view villas have an enormous feeling of space as the villa is open plan, with an uninterrupted view of the ocean. The bed is king size draped with a mosquito net and there is a day bed where you can enjoy the view or read a book.
Meals were served in the open plan dining area, which also has a reading area with interesting books and magazines for the guests. The meals were all buffet style, with a great variety of interesting salads, seafood calamari, and pastas. The chef was always on hand at an enormous cast iron grill with a selection of fresh fish and meat, barbeque style.
The early evenings were spent lazing on the white sand beach, snorkelling and swimming out to the moored boats. Dinner was served on the outside verandah, with beautifully set tables with candles. During the dinner one would look up to see millions of twinkling stars and there was an awesome feeling of total tranquillity.
Scuba Diving at Pemba Island
The dive centre is located at Manta Reef Lodge and run by a great dive team. We were informed that we would be doing two tank dives in the morning and one after lunch if we wished. We travelled out on a dhow which was well equipped with helpful crew and the organization was great. We had both a dive master and an instructor on board. We plunged into blue water with a temperature of 28 degrees, onto Suzi reef which had amazing topography, with a numerous variety of reef fish. The following day we did a two tank dive to Victoria’s secret a really beautiful site and spotted a turtle and a stone fish. We ascended from a depth of 27 meters slowly along the reef making this a comfortable multi level dive. The next dive was a drift dive to Shimba Wall where we swam between two undersea atolls. Once again the topography was spectacular and I sighted a large moray eel, and turtle, really excellent.
The following day we dove Manta reef on Fundo Gap which was a long range dive, the boat ride being around 60 minutes to the dive site. The sea conditions were once again perfect and the dive a sheer wall. Here numerous reef fish could be spotted, many king fish in midwater and the corals were of pristine quality. The next dive site was Mandela Wall on Fundo Gap. This was a slight drift dive along the wall, which had beautiful coral outcrops with numerous small fish, punctuated by the odd nudi branch, moray eel and lion fish.
My last dive was Njao Gap, the South wall. This is a stunning wall dive which graduates in steps. The visibility was around 30 to 40 meters. We encountered two large trigger fish, lion fish and numerous king fish. There were numerous gorgonian fans down the sides of the wall. This was a truly fantastic dive.
Zanzibar is a true Africa experience with many accommodation options ranging from rustic to five star luxury hotels. Many diverse activities can be arranged from Zanzibar including safaris into Tanzania, sunset and dinner dhow cruises, beach barbeques on deserted islands, or just snorkelling and lazing on the pristine white sand beaches. Stone Town is famous for the bazaars of handcrafted antique furniture, curios and carved doors. A visit to Freddie Mercury’s bar on the waterfront is a great experience.
Pemba Island offers much for the traveller in the way of excursions. From Manta Reef Lodge one can do a half day island tour to the northern part of Pemba to the famous light house built in nineteen hundreds and experience the most stunning view from the top. A visit to Thumbe village meeting local people and fishermen, visit the five hundred year old mosque and explore Pombo’s exquisite Ngezi rainforest and experience the endemic fauna and flora. Pemba is famous for the rare endemic bat species the Pemban flying fox, whose wing span can measure up to 1.5 meters. Manta Reef Lodge offers orthonoligists a numerous variety of endemic bird species, among which are the Pemba scops owl, Pemba sunbird and Pemba green pigeon. One can also enjoy therapeutic massages at the lodge. Both islands have something to offer everyone and promises to be an unforgettable experience!
General Info and Tips
Visas are obtainable on arrival, your passport must be valid for at least six months after the return date. Yellow fever vaccinations are compulsory for re entry into South Africa after visiting Tanzania. These vaccinations are valid for 10 years and can be obtained at a travel clinic, along with advice regarding malaria and other recommended precautions.
Money changing facilities are available at most hotels, but the rate is better at the banks in town. Travel with US dollars as these are also accepted for payments at hotels. The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, when we travelled it worked out to around R1 = Tsh 10. Do not convert more money than you need as Tsh cannot be exchanged for dollars or rands.
With Special Thanks
A very special thanks to all the wonderful people who made our stay in Zanzibar and Pemba so unforgettable.
Zanair – Sponsoring our flights
Mtoni Marine – Complimentary accommodation, transfers and meals
Abu Trans – Complimentary Spice Tour
The Zanzibar Dive Centre One Ocean Ltd – Sponsoring the scuba diving and sunset cruise to Prison Island
Manta Reef Lodge – Complimentary accommodation, meals and daily scuba diving trips