After an exciting and jam-packed few days on safari seeing the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti or walking in the wilds of the Selous, you are ready for some serious downtime on the beach. We believe there are few places better than Zanzibar to simply unwind, soak up the African sun, and swim in the pristine warm waters of the Indian Ocean. For those of you who haven’t had your fill of wildlife – fear not, we have put together the 9 best places to go diving in Zanzibar, so you can enjoy the under water world as much as the bush.
South Coast of Zanzibar
On the southwest tip of the island lies a lesser-known diving spot called Kizimkazi. This has always been a hot spot for seeing and swimming with dolphins in open waters, but now it has become a fantastic diving site in its own right. The area is part of the protected Menai Bay Marine Conservation Area and is made up of beautiful coral gardens, which provide superb opportunities to see small reef sharks, dolphins and even manta rays. Kizimkazi is better for more experienced divers, as you can come by the occasional ‘unexpected’ current.
South East Coast of Zanzibar
This stretch of Zanzibar’s coastline is home to some of the beautiful beaches and consequently hotels. Villages such as Paje, Bwejuu and Dongwe all offer some incredible dive sites, all of which are perfect for beginners with typically calm conditions. Many describe the South East coast as the place to dive, with gentle coral slopes and breath-taking drop offs, inhabited by turtles, sharks, barracudas, rays, dolphins and whales. We recommend staying at Zawadi or Baraza if you are staying on this side of the island. Both hotels work with the Rising Sun Dive Centre, the only PADI 5* Gold Palm and National Geographic Dive Centre in Zanzibar. They were the first to discover the unexplored underwater world in this region.
Misali Island is located just off the East Coast of Pemba Island. This is the nearest dive and snorkelling spot from one of our favourite beach lodges, Fundu Lagoon. Misali Island is a firm favourite for divers and snorkelers alike on the island, always commenting on the vibrant turquoise colour of the water and calm waters, creating your very own natural aquarium. Misali’s selling point is its rich ecosystem, which boasts 42 types of corals and over 300 species of fish – not forgetting the rare subspecies of vervet monkeys, coconut crabs and green and hawksbill turtles you can find on land! Not big on diving? Misali Island is also a snorkeler’s paradise, with bigger often fish coming in close to the beach.
For more relaxed and rustic accommodation, with an unforgettable diving experience, we suggest you head to Mafia Island, located south of Zanzibar. Mafia’s Marine Park is home to some of the most staggering coral reefs in Tanzania, with a vibrant display of marine life. The shallow reefs combined with the diversity of animal and plant life are hard to match, with over 48 genera of coral and 400 species of fish identified so far. Our top pick on the island is Pole Pole, or Butiama Beach for guaranteed sightings of whale sharks from October to February.
Bwejuu Island is considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the archipelago, situated just South of Mafia (3 hours by boat). Picture spectacular white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees. Spend a full day getting lost on this tropical island and its rich waters during a stay on Mafia Island.
If you are considering diving in Zanzibar, the Mnemba Atoll is a must. It is the only protected marine reserve on the island, with divers seeing dolphin, turtles and reef sharks regularly. You can also expect to encounter neon-tinted fish, such as the blue potato grouper, the indigo Napoleon fish, the deep red cubera snapper, and the green blocked turtle. The area varies from shallow coral gardens to deep wall dives, so no matter what your experience is, there is something for you. For the trip of a lifetime, we recommend staying at Mnemba Island Lodge, the most exclusive lodge in East Africa, and the only lodge located on the island.
Fanjove Private Island is everything a beach holiday in Africa should be – wild, beautiful and completely laid back. The island is characterised by palm-fringed, power-white sands, shimmering blue waters and the feeling that you have the whole island to yourself. The island lends itself mostly to those who are there to take advantage of the delights of the Indian Ocean. Fanjove offers exceptional diving and snorkelling opportunities, with clear and warm waters that teem with brightly coloured fish. Dives may include sightings of grey or black-tip reef shark, whales, turtles, butterfly fish, Angelfish, Damselfish and many more. Fanjove offer snorkelling either from the shore or from a boat. Diving from a boat is with an expert guide who will make your underwater experience unforgettable.
If you are a very experienced diver looking for more of a challenge, Mapinduzi is the one for you. Located off Pemba Island, the site lends itself to a stronger current – the stronger the current the greater chance to see big marine life. Divers should look out for giant groupers, shoals of barracuda, mobula rays, eagle rays, big napoleon fish and occasionally hump head parrotfish.
Coral Mountain is located off Pemba Island, and is based on submarine eminence. It is not a mountain as such, but rather a wall that rises from 80m to 5m. This site is used by beginners and experienced divers alike, and is particularly good for those who want to experience wall diving for the first time. Coral Garden is home to an impressive variety of marine life. Divers can expect schools of surgeon fish, black snappers, bump head snappers, moray eels, octopus, and string rays, to name a few.
Turquoise oceans and beaches from a postcard, the island of Zanzibar is one picturesque scene after another. The perfect spot to relax, take in the scenery and reconnect with your loved ones.
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