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Everything you need to know about diving in Tanzania


Diving in Tanzania is a magical experience. Crystal clear tropical water, unspoilt corals, shoals of fish darting through the reefs, sea turtles gliding through the water, school of barracudas circling overhead. Tanzania has something to offer divers of all abilities. The dive sites in Dar es Salaam, Mtwara, Mikindani, Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafi a rival those found in the Red Sea and deserve to place Tanzania on the map as a diving destination. There are 25 PADI dive centres throughout the country, with skilled instructors and divemasters and world class equipment and a number of liveabroads offering trips to Mafi a, Pemba and Zanzibar. In case of any accidents, there’s a fully operational decompression chamber in Zanzibar, which opened in 2006.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced diver, Tanzania has something for everyone, from the small wonders of colourful nudibranches to giant groupers, sharks and Napoleon Wrasse. The best diving is generally between October and February, when visibility can be up to 30 metres.

Zanzibar is home to the world famous Mnemba Atoll, a protected marine park with some of the best diving in East Africa. Hawksbill and Green turtles rest on top of plate corals, oblivious to hovering divers snapping pictures. Lion fi sh hide beneath the reef, Moorish Idols dart through the corals and Clown Fish dance possessively around anemones. Turn to the sky and watch hundreds of fish, schooling and circling through the water, yellow snappers a vivid contrast to the blue of the water. It’s not uncommon to see White Tip Reef sharks and divers are sometimes lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins as an escort on the way back to the dive centre or catch a glimpse of humpback whales with their calves.

Pemba is a treasure trove of marine life, better suited to experienced divers due to strong currents, making most dives drift dives. Pemba’s corals are pristine. Misali Island, once a hideout of Captain Kidd is now a marine conservation area rich in biodiversity, with over 40 different species of coral, 350 different species of fish and 5 different species of sea turtles. Out on the reefs, black snappers school around Coral Mountain, eagle rays and manta rays glide through the water with deadly grace, while lobsters and octopus peer out at inquisitive divers from coral shelves. Green turtles perch on cabbage coral and hammerhead sharks have been seen coming in with the tide.

Chumbe Island Coral Park

Chumbe offers some of the most pristine and colourful coral reefs to be found with over 200 species of coral providing a sanctuary for more than 400 species of colourful fish. To protect these coral reefs, diving is not permitted in the marine park. The reef is shallow enough to see everything very clearly with a mask, snorkel and fins. There is also a coral-rag forest which is home to the endangered Ader's duiker, giant coconut crabs, hermit crabs and a variety of bird species. Knowledgeable guides take guests on daily snorkelling and forest tours. Chumbe can be visited for day trips or longer, staying in ‘eco-bungalows’ overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Mafia Island Marine Park

Mafia Island, located 120 km south of Dar es Salaam, is surrounded by some of the richest reefs in the world, with over 50 types of corals and 400 species of fish identified so far. Mafia’s best diving is at depths less than 30 m where you can see most kinds of tropical marine habitats, including exposed fringing reefs, rock walls, soft coral and algae dominated reefs. Large predatory fish and turtles are common and mostly unaffected by approaching divers. Chole Bay, Mafia's protected deep-water anchorage, is part of the protected marine park. The diving here is amongst the most spectacular in the world and includes colourful coral gardens, walls at various levels and many shelves and coral heads.

Maziwe Island Marine Reserve

Maziwe Island Marine Reserve, situated 15 nautical miles east of Pangani, has over 350 fish species, 35 genera of coral and an abundance of shoreline birds. Maziwe Island was designated a reserve in the 1970s as a way to lessen the erosion caused from the cutting of trees for firewood. The island now only emerges from the sea at low tide and is an ideal place for swimming, snorkelling, diving and sunbathing.

Menai Bay

In the southwest of Zanzibar Island, near Fumba to the west and Unguja Ukuu to the east, Menai Bay is a sea-turtle breeding area and also encompasses several coral reefs, an abundance of marine life and dense mangrove forests. It is also famous for its humpback and bottlenose dolphins. It extends from the south west corner of Zanzibar Island encompassing several small islands and sand banks each with its own spectacular coral reef. Traditional boats make regular trips for snorkelling on the reefs, picnics on the islands and the star attraction of swimming with dolphins and whales.

Misali Island

Misali Island, located just west of Pemba, has some of the highest recorded coral cover, and high species diversity with 40 genera of coral and 350 fish species. The one sq km of terrestrial area supports endangered nesting turtles, and the dense coastal thickets harbour populations of green monkeys, the endangered and endemic Pemba Flying Fox, globally endangered coconut crabs and various species of birds. Economically fishing at Misali provides direct livelihood support to 11,400 people.

Mnazi Bay

The Mnazi Bay – Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park, located in southern Tanzania, on the Mozambique border, is home to important populations of whales, dolphins, four species of turtle and numerous birds. The area is recognised as being internationally important for its biodiversity, with mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs. There are 12 villages in the area and it is hoped that visitors to the marine park will help the local economy of this area, one of the poorest and least developed in Tanzania.

Mnemba Island Conservation Area

Mnemba Island is located about 4.5 km off the north-eastern tip of Zanzibar Island. The island is 1.5 km in circumference and is surrounded by spectacular coral reefs. Turtles lay and hatch their eggs all year round and there is excellent diving and snorkelling. The only human inhabitants of the island are the staff and guests staying at the exclusive, luxury lodge, Mnemba Island Lodge.

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