Pemba, Mafia
and the Indian Ocean Islands

Pemba, Mafia and the Indian Ocean Islands

Tanzania’s numerous islands provide the perfect location for the ‘beach’ part in a ‘Safari and Beach’ itinerary. We’ve covered Zanzibar, the largest and most popular of the islands separately but there are other islands you may want to consider.

Pemba island beachPemba is Zanzibar’s often overlooked neighbour, 50km to the north. In complete contrast to flat and sandy Zanzibar, Pemba is green and lush with fertile hills and clove plantations. 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. 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. If you are looking for a more remote island experience with plenty of diving and snorkelling then Pemba could be it.

Mafai Island lodgeThe cluster of idyllic, peaceful islands that make up the Mafia Archipelago include Mafia, Chole, Juani, Jibondo and Juani islands. Covered in rainforest, grasslands, mangroves and beaches, this area is less visited than Zanzibar and provides the perfect setting for a quiet and peaceful beach holiday with more of a ‘desert island’ feel.

The diving here is exceptional, thanks largely to the Mafia Island Marine Park which protects the coral reefs and it’s far quieter than Zanzibar’s dive sites too. Chole Bay provides secluded and calm waters for snorkellers and divers alike, the shallow coral reef providing shelter for a host of tropical fish, and there are of course the endless sandy beaches lined swaying coconut palms where you can enjoy some R&R.

Fanjove island lodgeSlightly further south and 20 miles from the coast is Fanjove Island on the Songo Songo Archipelago which, up until recently, was totally uninhabited, although there is a dilapidated lighthouse that would suggest the island was once home to someone other than the spectacular birdlife and the green turtles that use the beaches as a nesting site.

Things to do in Pemba, Mafia Archipelago and Fanjove

  • Diving and snorkelling – Mafia Island Marine Park offers superb diving and snorkelling. At Fanjove island the waters are virtually untouched and there is an abundance of marine life waiting to be discovered. It is said that Pemba offers some of THE best diving and snorkelling in Africa, perhaps more suited to experienced divers.
  • Fishing – Deep sea fishing is a popular especially in September to March. If you fancy just dangling a rod in the waters, then some of the lodges offer simple fishing trips close to shore.
  • Dhow trips – Take a dhow day-trips out to remote sandbars. A sunset sail is also a wonderful experience.
  • Discover the inner island – Take a ‘road’ trip inland and take a guided walk through Mlola Forest or enjoy a picnic on a banana plantation. (MAFIA)
  • Kite Surfing – Keen kite surfers should head for Fanjove Island, June to August offer perfect conditions. (FANJOVE)
  • Swim with whale sharks – Keep a respectful distance and share the water with whale sharks from October to February. (MAFIA)
  • Picnic lunch on a sandbar – Head out on a dhow trip, and have a picnic lunch out on an exposed sandbar.
  • Kayak – Some lodges offer kayaks so you can explore the shorelines. Best in November to March when winds are low and waters calm. 


When to visit Pemba, Mafia Archipelago and Fanjove

PEMBA & MAFIA: The temperatures on Mafia Island are pleasant and even in the ‘hot’ season, they rarely exceed 30C though humidity can make it feel uncomfortable especially when there is no breeze. In short, March to May sees the long rains and the lodges are almost all closed in April and May.

November to early December sees the short rains. The trade winds come twice a year. July through to mid-September is the windiest and milder winds come after the short rains in November.

FANJOVE: December, January and February bring some light rain which cools things down. In March the rains increase. The rains in April and May closes the only accommodation on Fanjove . April to July sees the turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea. June through to mid-September can be windy but diving is still good. October and November are the hottest months as there is little or no wind. Humpback whales usually visit between June and October and bottlenose and spinner dolphins can be seen year round.



  • The main dry season and the most popular time to visit
  • Cooler and more comfortable than January to March
  • From April to July green turtles hatch on Fanjove Island
  • This is peak season and accommodation is in high demand
  • July to mid-September can be quite windy on Fanjove


  • January to March are dry and hot
  • Even in rainy season (April, May, Nov) it doesn’t rain all day
  • The rain reduces humidity
  • The main rains come in April /May and some lodges close
  • There are shorter rains In November and early December
  • Some water-based activities are unavailable in the wet season

Island holidays

Below you will find some island based itineraries that we’ve put together as recommended suggestions. You might find one of these is perfect for your needs as we’ve put a lot of thought into including some wonderful experiences in each of these safaris, and we really love what they offer. However, if none of these quite fit the bill for you, do call us and let us know what you’d like. We ready to help you plan your perfect Tanzania safari holiday..

Best Zanzibar Beach Holidays

Prices from £675 pp for 6 days
(exc. intl flights)

The well-known tropical island getaway in the Indian Ocean.

Pemba Island Holiday

Prices from £860 pp for 6 days
(exc. intl flights)

An island escape with excellent diving and snorkelling.
Choice of 2 lovely rustic properties.

Mafia Island Getaway

Prices from £715 pp for 6 days
(exc. intl flights)

A small island, much quieter than Zanzibar, with world-class diving sites. Choice of 4 lovely beach resorts.

Fanjove Island Escape

Prices from £2,770 pp for 6 days
(exc. intl flights)

A tiny tropical island with only 6 beach bandas. Think Robinson Crusoe, but with good food and comfort.

Where to stay around Pemba, Mafia Archipelago and Fanjove

While Zanzibar has 150+ accommodation options, Pemba has just 2 to choose from on the island, making it a little easier. Fundu Lagoon is a romantic option, popular with honeymooners. The remote Manta Resort offers laidback accommodation. With just 5 rooms Pemba Lodge, on Shamiani Island offers rustic, environmentally conscious accommodation for those who really want to get away from it all.

Mafia Island has several accommodation options, Kinasi Lodge and Pole Pole have their own small areas of beach in front of them, on the opposite side of the island is Butiama Lodge, a pleasant and enjoyable lodge. Accommodation here is simple, and low-key – anything else wouldn’t fit the destination.

There is only one accommodation option on Fanjove Island, which is Fanjove Private Island Lodge, a simple, yet stylish lodge with just 6 bandas.