Zanzibar is undoubtedly one of the best tropical diving destinations for its plenty coral gardens, and conducive warm weather. The Zanzibar waters are also crystal clear with great visibility. Whether you want a shallow dive or a deep sea dive the island has a lot to offer. Some of the common sea creatures you can find in the island are large groupers, octopuses, moray eels, sperm whales, whale sharks and humpback whales. In this guide we shall discuss some of the main diving spots in the Zanzibar mainland
This is the largest and a protected underwater ecosystem in the archipelago. The expansive coral garden extend from 15 m to 30 m in height and boast some of the largest schools of fish in the Indian seas. Mnemba coral garden is immersed in crystal clear azure water with great visibility that can go to over 20 m. Mnemba atoll also has one of Africa best wall dives with two walls one starting at 2 m and extending to 30 m and another deep divers wall that starts at 18 m dropping to 50 m. Mnemba is also one of the perfect snorkeling spots where you can encounter dolphins and other pelagic species.
Nungwi is in the north facing shoreline in the main Unguja island. Besides the beautiful coral reefs on its surrounding waters, Nungwi is a divers favourite for its close proximity to Mnemba atoll. Its shoreline also falls on the direct path of the migratory humpback sharks that come to the eastern shores of the Indian seas between July to November and whale sharks October to march. There are two main diving spots near Nungwi: shanes reef and Hunga reef. Shanes has a beautiful coral garden stating at 12 m and dropping to 30 m. The garden is a haven for scorpion fish and leaf fish. The Hunga reef on the other hand, is a mix of hard and soft corals starting at 15 m and has large schools of beautiful fishes and sea creatures amongst them glass fish, crocodile fish and nudibranchs
Tumbatu and Mwana wa mwana islands
Tumbatu and mwana wa mwana are situated off the northern tip of Unguja . During low tides the islands are conjoined by a sand bank. There are 2 major coral reefs in the islands : Tumbatu and Mwana wa Mwana coral reefs. Tumbatu reef is considered a safe and shallow pick ideal for beginners. The reef has a beautiful wall starting at 5 m and dropping to 12 m before sloping along coral bommies to about 20 m. On the other hand, mwana wa mwana has a coral sloping from 3 m to 12 m and then drops along a sedimented bottom to 30 m. The visibility here could go up to 90 m with some of the common sea creatures you are likely to encounter including frogfish, seahorses and ghost pipefish.
Misali Island is a remote island to the west of Pemba island and North of Unguja. The Misali waters are globally recognized for their rich coral garden boasting over 42 types of coral reefs and over 300 fish varieties. There are three main diving spots in misali coastlines: Makarere reef, mapinduzi reef and coral mountain. The coral mountain offer one of the greatest deep sea diving challenge for experienced divers with a picturesque wall garden that runs from 80 m to 5 m. What set Misali apart from other diving spots in Zanzibar is the presence of breathtaking scenes of large schools of fish easily sighted even in the shallow waters some very close to the shoreline. Some of the common pelagic and coral varieties you will find around Misali include lion fish, barracudas, dolphins, wahoo and bluefin trevallies.
Pemba is Zanzibar second largest island after Unguja. The water surrounding the island offers the most diverse experience you can have while diving in zanzibar from wall to under water valleys and mountain to ship wrecks dives. Some of the common diving sites in the island include shimba hills and shimba wall, swiss reef, fundu gap, pole pole mountain and Panza ship wreck. In some sites like the shimba wall the coral garden starts at a shallow 6 m depth and drops to 25 m making it a great choice for wall dives beginners. Near the fundu lagoon are another 5 rich diving spots boasting ideal for divers who would like to have an underwater experience in areas with strong current. The channel is drops to over 40 m and is the best spot to sight larger fishes like barracuda, napoleons and eagle rays. The panza ship wreck situated 14 m under the southern tip of the island. The ship wreck is still intact and is an ecosystem of large varieties of sea creatures.
Menai Bay / kazimkazi
The diving site are located off the south western coast of Zanzibar main Unguja island. The area boast a unique landscape with small volcanic islands and sand banks surrounded by coral reefs that constitute the menai bay conservation area. There are two main coral garden in the bay: kizidi reef and white reef( mwamba mweupe). The kizidi reef is a shallow dive site that starts at 4 m and drops to the sandy bottom at 12 m. The ecosystem boasts areas of soft corals, hard corals, sea grasses, and large schools of brightly coloured fishes. Mwamba mweupe, on the other hand, is a beautiful coral plateau between 10 m- 14 m and which is home to large number of fish varieties like angel fish, one spot snapper and unicorn fish
Mafia island marine park is a large protected area extending to the alluring Rufiji delta. The marine park is home to vibrant schools of marine and coral fishes. Chobe bay is the most sought-after diving location in the marine park. The bay has the most beautiful coral garden in the east African coast with over 270 species including delicate sea fans, whip corals and blue and pink tipped stag horn corals. Diving inside the bay is quite easy for beginners since the sites are shallow and drops to about a 20 m depth. There also diving spots outside the bay though would require advanced diving experience. The bay is one of the few diving sites in the archipelago where you have great chances to come into contact with large fishes some over 3 m long groupers. The fishes are friendly and lets you get up close. All diving sites in mafia island has good visibility of over 20 m.
Fanjove is a small colourful island situated to the south of Unguja and Mafia. Most tourist visit the island primarily for diving. The island boasts a 11 km long underwater ecosystem with large schools of brightly coloured fishes immersed in spectacular marine landscape. The diving site is also a haven for big fish mostly black tip shark and whales. The coral garden stretches around the island shorelines and snorkeling could either start from the shoreline or on boat. The coral gardens are shallow and good for beginners. The visibility here would go up to 30 m which is one of the best in Zanzibar.
Leven bank is an underwater mountain set 15 km north of Unguja in the mnemba channel. The shallowest point of the mountain is 14 m from the surface and drops to over 30 m. Diving in this coral is quite tough and requires advanced skills. The site is subject to turbulent currents that leads to crazy seascape of sparling whip corals. On the eastern side of the bank is Misoli reef. The reef has a 30 m long drop off with a fascinating cave that is a dwelling to large schools of groupers. Again on the eastern side of the reef near Mnemba is the big wall a sand bank vertical drop where diver go for deep diving in foray for sharks and other big fish.
The island to the west of Unguja is just 25 minutes boat ride from the stone town. The island has two dive sites one in the north and another in the southern shoreline. This could also be combined with the great northern ship wreck situated between Bawe and Pange islands. Bawe coral reefs are shallow and close to the shorelines and are favorite spots for beginners. The northern reef is a continuous wall dropping to 18 m while the southern reef is a shallow reef spread out around the shorelines. The great northern ship wreck is what remains of a British cable- laying ship that sank 18 m into the sand banks of the channel between Bawe and panje. The ship is today an artificial home to large schools of fishes. The shallow position of the ship makes it a great ship wreck dive for beginners.