Barefoot Luxury, Hidden Paradise, Laid Back, Undiscovered Gem – you could legitimately accuse the travel industry of overusing these clichéd phrases. But we’re not always ‘guilty as charged’! It is less well know than it’s more illustrious cousin Unguja, which is nearly always (and mistakenly) referred to as simply Zanzibar, but Pemba Island is genuinely ‘all of the above’.

Pemba Island is 60km from the coast of Tanzania, part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Access is by air (a small aircraft) from Arusha, Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar; the airport is barely bigger than a 4-bedroom detached house. The flight is simply spectacular, before you even land you know that you are arriving somewhere special.

Getting to one of the three decent hotels and beach lodges takes a little more effort still. 90 minutes by road through al-Jazira al-khadra (Arabic, translated as The Green Island), will get you to the two properties in the north of the island. 45 minutes by road and a 20 minute speedboat journey to the lodge in the south. Heading north you go through the bustling capital city of Chake Chake, past numerous villages, before a final 30 minutes of bumpy sand road (a free massage, according to my driver) through Ngezi Forest. Head south, and the road undulates through more greenery and villages, before you get to the small picturesque port of Mkoani. For the hardy traveller you can get to Mkoani by ferry, if you want to experience a ‘real’ African journey!

But is all this effort worth it? Well if you want to go somewhere that is truly unique, stunningly beautiful and very remote, then the answer has to be yes. If you are looking for great diving & snorkelling, authenticity, and a travel experience that is inherently original, again yes. If you want a homogenous resort hotel, with strong mobile signal and slick service, then it has to be a resounding no; Pemba is not the right destination for you.

The three accommodation options are varied.

Starting in the south is Fundu Lagoon, the real definition of barefoot. Wooden and thatched structures are cut into the verdant forest, the bedrooms and bathrooms are housed in traditional safari tents. Rooms are divided into hillside and beachfront rooms, all with great views and decks. Jungle and Beach Suites each have huge decks and outside lounges, and plunge pools. Superior suites have a larger bedroonm (tent), also with plunge pools and for those that can’t do without it, these rooms also now have air-conditioning units. There is a large communal pool and deck, with simply breathtaking views from the poolside bar. All rooms are very comfortable and well equipped, so barefoot doesn’t mean ‘roughing it’. But the lodge is about the location and the activities. You can walk to the three villages behind Fundu, which supply 70% of the staff; the snorkelling and diving, from the PADI dive centre, are simply spectacular; kayak in the nearby mangroves; deep sea fishing; or simply stroll along the beach.

Constance Aiyana in the north couldn’t be more different. A very stylised architectural design, with 30 villas, this has more of the feel of a luxury hotel. But this is luxury Pemba-style. The luxury is in the uniqueness of destination, and whilst it is more polished than Fundu in some respects, it is still pretty laid back. The service operates sometimes at the same pace as the rest of daily life on the island. Again most of the staff come from the nearby village, they haven’t been to hotel school! But again the location of Aiyana is just jaw-dropping, with a fine beach, and plenty of great activities. I took a cycle through the village with one of the hotel staff members, it really is rural and traditional Africa.

The Manta Resort is different again, and they also have a very unique proposition. The lodge is comfortable and traditional, whitewashed walls and thatched roofs. The Seafront Villas have the Evening Breeze air-conditioning system inside your mosquitoe net, for added comfort. But, what’s that moored just offshore? Why, it’s an underwater room of course!

Pemba is not for everyone, that’s for sure. There are no towns and smart cocktail lounges. You can’t walk out to a local cafe or restaurant, there aren’t any. You probably need to like seafood, or simple vegetarian fare, don’t expect Chateaubriand. You have to take cognisance of exactly where you are. And it’s not that cheap. However, if you are searching for something different and want Hidden Paradise, the Undiscovered Gem, and need to reconnect with something pure, then I think Pemba is somewhere you should consider.