Zanzibar is known for its spices and for its idyllic beaches, turquoise Indian Ocean, and white-sailed dhows. But some of the most magical experiences underwater are waiting to be discovered.
1. Diving Zanzibar: Three different islands
As an archipelago, Zanzibar comprises the three inhabited islands Unguja, Pemba, and Mafia Island as well as many smaller islands. When we talk about Zanzibar, we mean Unguja, the largest and most densely populated island with the capital, Zanzibar City, known around the world as Zanzibar. The old part of Zanzibar City is better known as Stone Town.
Average water temperature year-round between 25 and 29 degrees. Visibility is usually between twenty and sixty meters.
Leven Bank is far north of Zanzibar in the middle of the open ocean and is only suitable for advanced divers. The currents here can be strong and there are drops of up to 55 meters. Leven Bank is home to barracuda, tuna, and mackerel.
In proximity and with a maximum depth of sixteen meters, these two dive sites offer a breathtaking reef dive for beginners.
Hunga Reef was my absolute favorite in all of Zanzibar. It was the only dive on which we finally got to see marine life: seahorses, shrimp, frogfish, scorpionfish, and much more. Great diving’s spot for beginners.
2. Diving on Mnemba Island of Zanzibar
Mnemba Island is a private island resort around 4.5 kilometers northeast of Unguja. The island itself can only be entered if you fork out several thousand euros per night for accommodation. Fortunately, nobody can forbid you to visit the coral reefs in the sea off the island.
The tours to Mnemba Island are the classic Zanzibar diving. We have declared the surrounding reefs a marine reserve because of their over 600 species of fish, whale sharks, and various species of dolphins that are regularly seen. There is also a fee of $ 30 for this. However, that does not mean that the government would also ban fishing there. The fishing is lively, but we have seen more divers and snorkelers than fish during our dives. Not even small reef fish seemed to frolic in the seemingly ghostly sea. The best time for whale sharks is between September and December.
In Wattabomi the depth is between ten and thirty meters. They say the main attraction of Wattabomi to be the regular sighting of turtles. But also, morays, stingrays, octopuses, and garden eels, curiously sticking their heads out of the sand. Suitable for beginners and advanced divers.
The big wall can be an exciting drift dive depending on the current. The top of the wall is about twenty meters high and drops from here to about sixty meters. There are hardly any corals, but with a little luck, there are large pelagic fish, moray eels, dolphins, lobsters, turtles. Occasionally hammerheads, manta rays, and, depending on the season, even whale sharks are spotted. Suitable for advanced and experienced divers.
Kichwani is an almost vertical wall ideal for drift, wall, and reef dives. Reef sharks are said to roam here and crocodile fish, moray eels, leave fish, clownfish, trumpet fish, frogfish, mackerel, snapper, nudibranchs, and many more. Suitable for beginners, experienced divers, and snorkelers.
3. Pemba Island
Pemba is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago and its second-largest island. This green island paradise is about fifty kilometers north of Zanzibar and says to be surrounded by wonderfully colorful coral reefs. As the name suggests, manta rays occur there in the months between January and March.
4. Mafia Island
Zanzibar and Pemba Island are north of Dar es Salaam, but Mafia Island is around 120 kilometers south of Zanzibar. The island does not belong to the semi-autonomous area of Zanzibar, but geographically it is part of the Zanzibar archipelago.
Mafia is famous for snorkeling with whale sharks in the months between January and March.
Last but not least, an interesting fact is that many diving spots in Zanzibar have been fished empty. The climate in Zanzibar is tropical and humid all year round. The main rainy season is between March and May.