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Pemba or Mafia for snorkeling and other activities?

Seattle, Washington
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Pemba or Mafia for snorkeling and other activities?

My boyfriend and I will be in Tanzania in August, and are trying to decide whether to spend 4-5 days in Pemba or Mafia. We are primarily invested in snorkeling (not diving- we aren't certified!) and island exploring. Beaches are nice, but we don't want to just lounge. Which island would be better for those types of activities? Another consideration is that we'd like to be as far away from the tourist/party scene as possible… Any insight or travel tips for either is appreciated!

Nature Responsible Safari
Nature & Wildlife Tours, Multi-day Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Safaris
Brisbane, Australia
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1. Re: Pemba or Mafia for snorkeling and other activities?

I haven't been there yet, but we are heading for Mafia at the end of our safari in September this year, for just those reasons- quiet, relaxed, good snorkelling.( Just compare how many flights into and out of each island Zanzibar vs mafia)

We are staying on the western side at Butiama beach resort- can snorkel off the beach and kayak along the shore.

Edinburgh, United...
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for Uganda
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2. Re: Pemba or Mafia for snorkeling and other activities?

I've been to both islands, loved 'em! First thing you should know is that as a general rule beaches are not as good as on Zanzibar, but the islands themselves are incredibly unspoilt and charming. I found that Mafia has a more laid-back feel to it than Pemba, but could've been the luck of the draw or the times that I visited.

If in Mafia I would make sure to stay in the Marine park for the snorkelling. From Pemba Mesali Island is a good bet. From both places you will need to get a boat offshore to get to the most rewarding snorkelling. I enjoyed both.

Exploring- I loved both. If your legs (and bottom) are up to it, I'd get a bike one day and pedal around. The ones I found were proper bone-shakers, but pedalling around Pemba remains one of my favourite ever memories of travelling in Tanzania.

In terms of where to stay, this sort of depends on how fancy you want to go. There are a number of great mid-top end options in either place. More backpacker-style options are also there, but I must confess it's a long time since I did that so others are probably better qualified to advise on those than I am. Get a Bradt guide though, I think there's a Zanzibar & Islands specific one that may be helpful.

Alexandra Matts- Travel Director- Extraordinary Africa

3. Re: Pemba or Mafia for snorkeling and other activities?

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