Pemba and Zanzibar: Coral Gardens, Pelagic Encounters and Sustainable Sponge Farming
Journey to the faraway spice islands of Pemba and Zanzibar on this two-week itinerary to Tanzania. You'll dive in gin-clear water over cabbage coral reefs while sharks, eagle rays and turtles cruise by. On Zanzibar, you'll have the chance to visit a successful and sustainable sponge farm that has changed the lives of the local community.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Dive in the pristine waters around Pemba Island with napoleon wrasse, turtles, sharks and thriving coral gardens
- Watch the sunset as you sail over the azure water in a traditional dhow
- Visit the local sponge farm in Zanzibar to observe sustainable aquafarming supporting the local community
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When To Travel
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Day 1: International Flight
Your dive journey begins today with an overnight flight to Zanzibar, via Doha. Total travel time should be around 15 hours, so throw on the eye mask and try to catch some zzz's.
Day 2: Pemba Island
Your international flight will arrive early this morning. You'll have a couple of hours to collect your luggage and check-in for your domestic flight onwards to Pemba Island. This flight should take less than an hour and upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a representative from The Manta Resort who will assist you with your bags and transfer you to your island home. This final journey will take approximately 90 minutes, arriving just in time to check into your bungalow, get refreshed and settle down for a delicious lunch of fresh fish caught earlier that morning. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure, possibly stopping by the dive centre to discuss the next few days of diving, before settling in for a well-deserved sleep.
Days 3-5: Diving at The Manta Resort
For the next three days, you'll peruse the waters of Pemba Island on two dives a day. With visibility stretching 30-40 metres, the reefs here remain untouched by the devastation you may have seen elsewhere in the world, with layered structuring of hard and soft corals, thriving coral heads and cabbage coral gardens. From shallow reefs, home to eagle rays, napoleon wrasse, dog tooth tuna, green turtles and much more; to deep-water drop-offs where pelagics swim by at leisure; the diving here is some of the best in the world, without another dive boat in sight.
Day 6: Day at Leisure
Enjoy today however you like, either dipping below the waves for another couple of dives or snorkel excursion; or staying surface-side on a dhow trip, island hopping adventure or a trek in the Ngezi Rainforest. The options are endless, just make sure to rest up this evening because tomorrow you are off to your next destination.
Day 7: Hello Zanzibar
After a leisurely morning, you will be transferred back to Pemba Airport to catch your short flight back to Zanzibar. Once you land, you will be collected by a representative from your resort who will assist with your bags and transfer you one hour and 20 minutes to your resort, located on the east coast of the island.
Day 8: Visit the Local Sponge Farm
A sustainable alternative to pearl and fish farming, the aquafarming of sponges in Jimbiani, Zanzibar has created a new future for the locals, the vast majority of whom are women with the need to provide for their children. You'll be briefed on the practice of tending the sponges before wading out into the water to where the farm is located. Your guide, an expert sponge farmer, will show you how to clean the line that cultivates the young sponges, making sure they are attached securely and checking for any signs of disease to be trimmed away. With no negative impact on the natural sponges and corals in the surrounding area, this sponge farming project removes pressure on the natural marine resources while enabling the local women to build a career with much-needed income to drastically improve their lives. It's an incredible thing to see in person.
Days 9-11: Explore Zanzibar
For the next few days, enjoy the stunning beach and local history and community of this vibrant island. Make sure to take a day trip to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stone Town, the historic centre of Zanzibar which acted as a hub for the spice, silk and slave trade in centuries past. Treat yourself at the on-site spa with a massage, body wrap or facial (or all three!); or head down to the water for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, kitesurfing or more diving.
Days 12-13: Return Home
Today it's sadly time to leave paradise behind and head home. Your international flight back to London doesn't depart until late this evening, so enjoy your final day in Zanzibar before heading to the airport for your overnight journey home. Once again, you'll transit through Doha and arrive back in London early in the afternoon the following day.
Emily C, Eleanor, Rachel and Jacqui are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.