Little flaunted Pemba in Northern Mozambique is one of Southern Africa’s ultimate getaways with pristine beach and endless fun activities. It caters well for both the luxury-seeking set and backpackers. Here’s a list of 10 things to do.
1. Get your drink on
Pemba is so hot you won’t walk, you’ll stagger from place to place, drunk with heat. Stagger over to Russel’s Place, a mix bag of a lodge, for a cold beer or a flat cider. The Zimbabwean staff make the place. There are many bars, and all of them are awesome for meeting seasoned road hogs (think a tanned silver fox) and the town’s amazing locals (at local bars where beer is plenty, ice cold and cheap)
2. Sunrise on the beach
It’s a beachfront cliché and yet there is nothing more rewarding than catching the sun rise and set on the beach. I especially love sun rises because the beach is desolate. My only companion is Russell’s dog. Russell is the owner of Russell’s. The hotel is two minutes away from the rugged side of the beach and the houses on the cliff from which an orange sun rises, marking the end of the cool morning breeze.
3. People watching
Wimbe beach is the heart and soul of Pemba. This is where old Europeans couples brush up on their broken Swahili and where you are most likely to meet South African expats. The beach front has several cafes that have great food and great ambience. People watching are also the easiest way to meet touts and tour guides. Their beads and shell souvenirs are garish but their experience is invaluable. They know the best deals in town.
With 425km of one of Africa’s most pristine coastlines, Pemba has become water sport central with an array of diving spots. You don’t have to be an expert to jump into coral reefs gardens that comes with sightings of exotic fish and sometimes Dolphins. Pemba Dive offers lessons and organises a variety of diving safaris.
This slice of the aquamarine Indian Ocean offers great fishing opportunities. Catches include tuna, kingfish and barracuda. Playing in the water is Pemba Dive’s forte. They have a motorised boats and kayaks and take you fishing in one of the many mangrove forests that are characteristic of Quirimbas Archipelago, which Pemba is the getaway to.
6. Go sight seeing
Away from Wimbe beach, Pemba’s asset is rolling hills dotted with mud houses nestled in palm trees and endless views of a rugged coastline. The cliche, in other words. I love beautiful cliches. The town is also colonial and an enchanting show and tell lesson of Mozambique’s colonial past. Rumbling buildings are cheek y jowl with new buildings; the picture perfect beach tourist beached is juxtaposed with the port and villages that are on the outskirts of town. Get a tuk tuk and explore a town where time seems to have stood still. You are likely to see women selling tomatoes and small cucumbers they have arranged in pyramids and boys selling freshly baked bread on the road side. This is Pemba at its most vibrant.
7. Unwind at the first Spa to be opened in Mozambique
Sanctuary spa is a must experience. Infused with touches of Arabic and African culture, the spa lives up to its name. When I was here two friendly beauticians relaxed and calmed me with their smiles and professionalism before even laying a hand on me. I had a facial. Other options include body wraps, manicures, pedicures and a Swiss massage. The sound of the waves adds to the soothing ambience.
8. Street bash with a twist
Every Sunday from around 3pm, the main road, just behind Wimbe beach, fills up with cars, party animals and people selling drinks and kebabs. The aim is to party like its 1999. Pemba is small and nowhere near Maputo when it comes to being a party zone but the town knows how to keep people entertained. This being Mozambique, chances are there will be an impromptu jam session features a guitar, drums, rhythmic clapping and gyrating hips. If you are not interested in the street food, there plenty restaurants selling Mozambique’s famous peri peri prawns, other seafood and traditional Mozambican and Portuguese cuisine Peter’s Place offers a great mixed grill, Russell’s serves pizza that comes second to none in town and
9. Cash in at Casino Nautilus
It’s not Las Vegas, or Monte Casino for that matter but what Casino Nautilus lacks in the wow factor it more than makes for with the eclectic characters you’ll find here. They range from expats to the town’s beautiful young things and the odd vagabonds to be found in Pemba. You don’t have to be a gambler to enjoy the casino as everyone is always up to a chat and a drink.
10. Pour it Up at Brazuca Bar
The most (in)famous bar in town is owned by a jovial Brazilian who kept the tequila flowing to our group. My group was made up of South African expats I met in Pemba. Brazuca is unimaginable until you step inside to well-dressed local gents and female expats who bloom into tropical flowers on the dance floor. I was supposed to party for a few hours, sleep and catch a bus to Mocimboa da Praia. I partied all night, stumbled out of the bar just after dawn and hitch-hiked a motor bike to take me to the bus stop.
Note to party animals: leave your bags with a bus company if you’re going on an all night bender before an early morning trip.