Pemba, Mozambique - Stein Travel

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Welcome to Pemba

Pemba is a port town and the capital of the Cabo Delgado Province, in the north of Mozambique. It has banks, patisseries, supermarkets and restaurants yet it retains a ramshackle feel with its pot-holed streets. The town was built over rolling hills and most people live in wooden huts set amongst the many thick baobab trees. The history of the people of the Cabo Delgado province lies in many centuries of African, Arab and Portuguese sailing, trading and settling. The Niassa Company founded Pemba in 1904 as Porto Amelia, named after a queen of Portugal. It was renamed Pemba at the end of Portuguese rule, in 1975. Tarred roads connect Pemba to Nampula and Ilha de Mozambique, and international flights and tourist facilities are steadily on the increase.

Pemba is renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture; however, many of its attractions are natural, as it is a prime location for water sports and diving. Nearby Ibo Island offers empty stretches of beach to explore some of the world's richest coral reefs, and Quipaco Island is just 12 miles (20km) to the north. Nacole Baobab Nature Estate and Nkwita Lake are also within an hour's drive.

There is an authentic local market (souk souk) in the centre of Pemba selling arts and crafts, as well as traditional silverware. It is quite large, extending 1.2 miles (2km) along one of the town's main thoroughfares. Avoid the ivory sold at the market, as this is sold contrary to Mozambican and international law. Maconde arts and crafts are popular Mozambican souvenirs available from Pemba.


Pemba experiences a tropical climate with a very hot and humid rainy season which runs from December to April. Much of the rain is often accompanied by strong monsoon winds. Pemba's dry season runs from May to November and sees average daytime temperatures of around 82F (28C). The average temperature throughout the year ranges from a minimum of 72F (22C) to 90F (32C), making it an ideal destination to visit at any time of the year.

Portuguese is the official language, and there are 13 main national languages spoken. English is taught in secondary schools, but is only spoken in the southern tourist regions.

The official currency is the New Metical (MZN), which is divided into 100 centavos. In the southern parts of the country, South African Rand, US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are also accepted to pay for accommodation. Credit cards are accepted in some upmarket hotels in Maputo, but facilities throughout the rest of the country are limited; it is advisable to carry cash or travellers cheques. ATMs are limited and tend to be unreliable, but local banks have branches in most cities.

Spanning an area of 42,000 square kilometres (10 million acres), the Niassa Game Reserve is the largest protected area in Mozambique, and one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the whole of Africa. Twice the size of South Africa's famed Kruger National Park, the Niassa Reserve boasts a high concentration (if not massive variety) of wildlife, incredibly varied bird life, and absolutely stunning natural scenery. Visitors to the Niassa Game Reserve will be spellbound by the interesting and changing landscape, ranging from mountain forests to miombo forests and savannah grasslands - not to mention the high concentration of wild animals, including 13,000 elephants, 200 endangered wild dogs, lions, leopards and a huge assortment of birds. Tourists are urged to visit between April and October, as this is the prime viewing season. The best place to stay in the Niassa Reserve is definitely the world-class Lugenda Wilderness Camp, which offers visitors comfortable lodgings, game drives, hiking trails and incredible star-gazing opportunities.

Soon to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Quirimbas Archipelago is fast becoming Mozambique's new tourist hotspot. This island chain - 31 in total, stretching south from Cape Delgado for 200 miles (320km) - is not only home to some fantastic sun-soaked beaches and world-class diving sites, but some truly fascinating cultural sights as well. Easily accessed from Pemba, the Quirimbas Islands should be one of the first destinations on any tourist's Mozambique travel itinerary. Whether you choose to go diving or snorkelling from one of the 1,300-foot (400m) drop-off sites sprinkled around the archipelago, or you choose to hide away from the world in a wooden chalet on the resort-island of Medjumbe; whether you decide to go exploring around historic Stone Town on Ibo Island or you choose to head to the mangrove-fringed Quirimbas National Park, you are sure to leave this little corner of paradise vowing to return. Beautiful, exotic and full of exciting things to do, Mozambique's Quirimbas Islands are one of the surest bets for an unforgettable beach holiday you'll find anywhere in the world.

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