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 Mafia 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 dive-masters and world-class equipment and a number of exclusive boats offering trips to Mafia, Pemba and Unguja (Zanzibar Archipelago). In case of any accidents, there’s a fully operational decompression chamber in Zanzibar, which opened in 2006.
Whether you are a novice or an experienced diver, Tanzania has something for everyone, from the small wonders of colourful nudibranchs to giant groupers, sharks and Napoleon Wrasse. The best diving is generally between October and February, when visibility can be up to 30metres.
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 fish 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.