The warm, clear waters around the spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia offer great diving holidays, especially as an end to a Tanzania safari…
Mafia Island Diving
The Mafia Archipelago, including Mafia Island and Chole, lies south of Zanzibar. Mafia Island forms part of the Mafia Island Marine Park – Tanzania’s first marine national park. This spectacular, pristine area offers coral gardens of hard and soft corals and diverse marine life. So it is excellent for diving with sightings of whale sharks, southern stingray, whitetip shark and even hawksbill turtles. Mafia Island offers the meeting point between coral reef fish species and the larger oceanic fish with over 400 fish species on offer. The best diving is usually at less than 30 metres. On the beaches, giant sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs – an additional attraction both in and off the water.
Please note that this sleepy backwater is far less touristy than Zanzibar. It offers just a handful of beach lodges catering to keen divers. So it’s ideal for those who value some of the richest coral reefs in world much more than the full range of resort activities!
Zanzibar Diving Holidays & on Mnemba Island
Zanzibar is the best known island for diving – a flat coral atoll surrounded by fringing coral reefs to the east. The National Marine Parks at Chumbe Island and Mnemba protect the rich marine life.
The coral atoll of Mnemba Island just off Zanzibar is one of the top diving sites in the Indian Ocean. Snorkellers and novice divers should also see plenty of colourful coral fish, moray eels, stingrays and lionfish. Dolphins, turtles, manta rays and whale sharks are commonly seen. Whale sharks migrate through Zanzibar’s waters in season from August to September and also from February to March. These harmless creatures are a magnifucent sight, up to 14m in length with a 1.5m wide mouth.
The Leven Banks to the north of Zanzibar is ideal for advanced divers who can cope with the strong currents. Here you’ll find schoold of kingfish, barracuda, tuna and reef fish as well as moray eels. The East coast resorts of Zanzibar are also the perfect destination to learn to dive with a huge variety of marine life on offer in the calmer reef waters.
Diving off Pemba Island
The island of Pemba is a short flight from Zanzibar, 40km to the north, but very different in topography. Its white deserted beaches are backed by green hills with plantations of mangoes and cloves. But from a diving perspective, it offers something completely different.
Unlike Zanzibar, it lies in deep ocean and not on the African continental shelf. The Pemba Channel drops off steeply just off its west coast. The vertical coral walls drop over 300 metres and the marine life, coral and visibility here are superb.
Yes, it’s a little more effort to get to Pemba than Zanzibar. But the diving and unspoiled environment, both above and below the water, repay the effort. Special sightings include green turtles, whale sharks and the spotted eagle ray. There are just a couple of luxury diving resorts. These are ideal for honeymooners, post-safari relaxation as well as keen divers. We recommend Fundu Lagoon.