Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, comprised of two large islands (Unguja and Pemba) and numerous small islands. The Zanzibar archipelago is an equatorial paradise with almost no variations in temperature. Most people come here for the pristine turquoise water, white sand beaches, and dazzling beaches. But did you know it’s also one of the best diving and snorkeling destinations in Africa?
Zanzibar is a world-class diving destination known for some of the world’s most abundant coral reefs and array of macro and large animal life. There are over 30 dive sites in the archipelago where divers can practice various types of diving.
Teeming marine life in Zanzibar's waters. Photo by Kamal Karim
The best time to dive in Zanzibar is December through March, which is the dry season. It’s during this period that you have the chance of spotting hammerheads and gray sharks.
There are two rainy seasons, one from March to May and the other from November to December. It would be best to avoid these months, if possible. Nonetheless, Zanzibar is a great diving destination throughout the year.
The water temperature averages 80° F/27° C throughout the year.
There are many dive sites where the current can get very strong. Ask your dive center about dive sites suitable for your level of experience.
Depending on the season and dive site, the underwater visibility ranges between 50 feet (15 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters). There are also many spots where the visibility exceeds 100 feet.
The pear-shaped Mnemba Atoll is a protected marine reserve measures about 9 miles (15 kilometers) and is home to an abundance of marine life. While the reef is not as impressive as in other areas of Zanzibar, the wide array of aquatic animals makes it one of the best diving spots in the archipelago. Two rarely seen marine creatures can easily be found here - the Djibouti Spanish dancer (world's largest nudibranch) and the patterned dragon moray eel.
The stunning corals of Mnemba atoll. Photo by Justin Raycraft
The beautiful coral reefs in good condition make Pemba Island one of the most popular diving destinations in Zanzibar. The waters of the Indian Ocean have created the perfect conditions for the proliferation of the coral. Divers can see a wide variety of both soft and hard coral that’s home to a multitude of species of marine fauna such as manta rays, eagle rays, garden eels, lionfish, snappers, and many others.
The south coast of Zanzibar is renowned among divers for the dolphin population in the Kizimkazi area. Just make sure to choose an ethical dive center as some boat drivers are known to harass the creatures. There are also chances of seeing sharks and manta rays. Most of the dives here are wall dives with stunning coral growth. The Kizimkazi reef is, in fact, the best dive location on the main island of Unguja.