Pemba airportPemba Bay Mozambique (Port Amelia on the marine charts at 13 degrees South, 40 degrees 30 East) is not to be confused with Pemba Island north of Zanzibar. Pemba Mozambique lies 270 kms south of the Tanzanian border. 650 kms inland to the west lies Lake Malawi. Pemba is the capital of Cabo Delgado, the most northerly province of Mozambique. It is a pretty palm-roofed coastal town built at the mouth of an enormous natural harbour (said to be the world's 2nd largest). On the opposite side of the mouth, 2,5 kilometers distant, is Londo point, populated with giant boababs and exclusive holiday residences. It is part of the greater elephant migration reserve that sweeps down the coast from Mocimboa de Praia and then inland from Londo towards Montepuez and beyond. In 2007 a tourist was killed by elephants some 10 kilometers from Londo point and a lion invaded a village near the airport. The increasing presence of humans and their dogs has chased away the antelope and leopard that were to be seen only 6 years ago. It is a tropical paradise surrounded by clear aquamarine seas and spectacular coral reefs. Arab dhows with their characteristic lateen sails are prolific.

Pemba town view 1Not the ideal destination for the international traveller seeking comfort and efficiency, it does, however, provide a challenge to the intrepid adventurer wanting to discover a part of Africa still unspoilt by coastal high rise. Most visitors come for the beaches of golden sand and palm trees and coral reefs. Offshore diving and snorkelling is reckoned to be some of the best in Southern Africa. To the north lie 200 kms of lonely waterless islands and coral reefs, the Quirimba archipelago, named after the southernmost island in the chain.  In the days of raids by local tribes and Madagascar war canoes, the administrative centre was on Ibo Island.  Since the 1930's Pemba has taken over.  Ibo's ruins and its fort are now a tourist curiosity.

Pemba town view 2Wimbi (meaning "waves") is a virtually waveless beach, and rainless from May to October. Here are arrayed most accommodation and other basic tourist facilities. It is about 5kms east of Pemba town itself. In the town you will find shops, banks, a pharmacy, restaurants, garages, a bakery with the freshest of rolls and bread (pao), baked twice a day. And, Yes!!!, we found a coffee shop where you can have a good cup of coffee and cake. The outdoor market, which is nearly 2kms long, has numerous stalls selling everything from spices to items of clothing. "Butterfly" foot pedal sewing machines, just like the old Singers, can be bought for R600. A visit is a must. The oldest part of town, the low town (Baixa) near the harbour, is a delapidated informal museum of traditional architecture and lifestyles.

Good morning PembaThe local people, the Makonde and the Mokua, will share their way of life with you and welcome you to their land with smiles while pressing you good humouredly and politely to buy their wares. They are master carvers and crafters of silver plated jewellery (much coming from Ibo in the north). Vendors are active on the beaches, the market and the airport. A warning: If you value your peace and privacy do not buy until you are leaving. The population of Cabo Delgado is 80% muslim (compared to 95% catholic from Nampula Southwards). Rape and murder are unknown, but "petty theft" is an ongoing problem.

There numerous grand baobabs, some estimated to be 800 or more years old.  These are shrines for departed spirits and enjoy protected tree status. To understand better this spirit world read Ben Okri's "Famished Road". The traditional animist beliefs still lurk behind many of the outwardly muslim faces.

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