Zanzibar is also known as Unguja Island, is the most popular and known diving destination. The island is flat, covered with white beaches and palm trees, surrounded by a coral reef structure that ensures abundant marine life. With tourism as the single most important industry, Zanzibar offers holidays and packages for every budget. Generally, the divespots are not very deep, so it’s a great destination for all level of divers.
Especially the northwest, off Kendwa, close to Nungwi Beach and at the Mnemba Atoll, the self-proclaimed tropical fish capital of East Africa, have shallow coral reefs, sloping banks and amazing drop-offs with hard and soft corals and lots of marine life. Around Mnemba, the reefs face the open sea and therefore offer a diversity of marine life and the possibility to spot big oceanic fish.
On the northern end, Leven Bank is one of the best divespots. It’s a fast drift dive where you’ll see big schools of tuna, trevally, king fish, barracuda, wrasses, Moray and other schooling fish.
Around August-September and from February to March you can encounter migrating Whale Sharks and in August you might Humpback Whales and Sperm Whales.
Zanzibar’s sister island, Pemba, lies north of Zanzibar and is great for its vertical walls and fast drift dives. It has some of the best diving on the East African Coast, with deep water close to the shore and many beautiful reefs. The east coast is known for its strong currents that are home to excellent opportunities to see pelagic life such as tuna, sharks, and turtles. Tourism is nothing like Zanzibar and most accommodations are mainly catering to divers. In general, Pemba is for more experienced divers due to the currents. Misali island on Pemba’s east coast, is idyllic and excellent for diving.
Several Dive Centers offer trips from Zanzibar to Pemba, so combining Pemba when you’re staying on Zanzibar is an option.
Mafia is the most southerly and remote island of the three. Some say it is the Zanzibar of 25 years ago. Mafia is THE destination for Whale Shark sightings: you are virtually guaranteed to swim with them in the months of October to February. Apart from the big marine life, Mafia is also known for Chole Bay, the largest protected marine reserve of East Africa with vibrant and varied coral and marine life, some of the best in East Africa. In the Majira Channel you can also find sea cows (Dugong).
Apart from these locations on the East coast there are also diving activities in the great lakes on the west-side of the country, such as Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria. Lake Tanganyika is known for great freshwater diving with hundreds of species of cichlid.