Pemba Island is a jewel, protected from the west by a barrier reef. In between there is a labyrinth of small islands with mangroves and tiny villages. Pemba lies 25Nm NE of Zanzibar Island in the Indian Ocean. The waters of Pemba are mostly shallow and the people are welcoming.


We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning, ran our last errands and loaded the boat for her first long journey. The Kaskazi (NE monsoon) was blowing gently as we set sail at noon, testing the accuracy of our old charts. We sailed all through the night and had a great feeling of freedom and discovery. With the break of a new day we sailed to our first stop: the small nature reserve island of Mesali.

West of Pemba lies a barrier reef running from north to south. We enter through the gaps between the reefs. We anchored at the stunning beach and were welcomed by the nice rangers on the island. A bonfire on the beach for coffee and breakfast for the rangers and us. We spent the day on the beach playing backgammon, snorkeling, cooking and bumming around.

Njao gap

Next morning after drinking coffee we said goodbye. The wind dropped and we motored to a small island not too far. As we reached our anchorage the wind picked up and we decided it’s a good time to put our vessel and crew skills to a test. It was low tide and the depths were less than 0.6m, we took a gamble because we felt it was doable.

Tawfiq hovered over a seabed we can clearly see and sometimes we scratched the seabed. We tightened the sheet to gain speed and hover over it. It was an amazing feeling of sailing close to the seabed, made feasible by this sturdy, shallow draft work boat. A few hours later we stopped next to Fundu gap. Coffee, dinner, backgammon and talking through the night. We were all excited by this amazingly navigable and basic boat.

Just after dawn we moved out of the gap for a morning snorkel and sea toilet. The gaps are hosts to an undisturbed coral reef ecosystem which connects the shallow, nutrient filled waters to the Indian Ocean. You can see big schools of Bonitos and Tunas feeding on bigger schools of sardines and other fish.

In this part of the world it is hard to find a variety of provisions. We are restricted to rice and beans and canned food, Alex called it Fuel. In the villages we can sometimes find fruits, vegetables and the basics like sugar, salt, flour and oil and sometimes nothing at all.

We weighed anchor and sailed north to Njao gap where we entered the sheltered waters again, local fishermen with their small canoes come to sell us their daily harvest of fish and smile. They are all keen to meet us, we are a very strange bird for them, white people living on a local work boat.

We anchored off a small village with no running water and electricity. Some youth with canoe transported us to the village for a visit. We strolled around the village with the children, laughing and playing all along. We were shown around the school and then handed the schoolmaster notebooks and pencils that we brought with us, he was grateful for that.

Our walk around the quiet village was disturbed by a great commotion. We followed the noise and came to view Africa in reality: the entire village people were chasing a monkey. The monkey climbed one of the tall coconut trees, we thought that the chase was over, not for the villagers. Groups of 4-5 people climbed the 20m tall coconut trees around the tree with the monkey, they were shouting and waving their arms. On the ground the dogs were barking and the people howling at the terrified monkey that howled back.

The monkey runs down the tree where the dogs and people await but manage to escape to the next tree. Excitement is growing and the howling and crying get stronger, people climb up and down 60ft. trees like it is a staircase. We watched with an awe when after 30 minutes, to our surprise, the monkey ran down the tree and escape.

WOW, thank you Africa.