Diving Tanzania: Zanzibar and Mafia Islands

7 September 2016
Tanzania is on the East coast of Africa. The two main areas for diving are the archipelago of Zanzibar, 25-50 km off the mainland, and Mafia Islands which are south of Zanzibar. You can also dive in Lake Tanganyika.

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The two largest islands of Zanzibar are Zanzibar itself (more properly known as Unguja) and Pemba Island. Politically, Zanzibar is semi-autonomous whilst Mafia Island is governed by Tanzania. Together, Zanzibar and Mafia Islands are known as Tanzania's Spice Islands.

Frog fish by Tim Nicholson

Tanzanians are welcoming and well disposed towards visitors, but you should be sensitive to local culture. There is a high proportion of Muslims on Zanzibar and Pemba Island: dress modestly. Women should avoid wearing shorts or showing their shoulders away from the tourist resorts and particularly in Stone Town. For more travel advice see the British Foreign Office advice.

If travelling by ferry, only use reputable ferry companies. There have been two recent major ferry disasters in which hundreds of people died. In July 2012 a ferry travelling from from Dar es Salaam to Stonetown in Zanzibar capsized. In September 2011, a ferry travelling between Pemba and Unguja (Zanzibar) sank. If you believe a ferry to be overloaded or unseaworthy don't get on. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance, which covers diving, before you travel.

Dive Sites of Tanzania: Zanzibar and Mafia Islands Dive Operators Accommodation Books to Take to the Tanzania Accommodation Your Comments


Dive Sites of Tanzania: Zanzibar and Mafia Islands

Zanzibar Dives Mafia Island Dives

Zanzibar Dives

The Zanzibar archipelago was, until 1964, a separate state but is now a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.

When is the best time of year to dive Zanzibar? January to March are good months. March is generally cheaper for flights and accommodation as traditionally it marks the start of the rainy season, which continues through April and May. However, over the past 4 years the rains have come later than usual. March is also a good month to see ocean-going whales, sharks and turtles. May and June can be windy. October is the calmest and therefore also a good time to go. High season for diving is July to September and December to January, when dives can become busy.

I think that we have been lucky with the vis, because we had every dive at least 30 m. Was like being in the Red Sea, with the big difference that we have always been the only divers on each one of the dives in the water. We went in November and apparently November, February, March and April are the months with the best vis.
Alfred, Germany, 2008
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island is a tiny island off the north coast of Zanzibar. It is only about 500 m across. The island is privately owned and you can only visit as a guest of Mnemba Island Lodge. You can dive 200m away from the island though, without being a guest there, on its 7 km long reef.

Dolphin, Mnemba Island
Zanzibar, Tanzania is truly the paradise. Waters were so clear. We went down to 18 m and saw green turtles, potato groupers (large ones), piped fish, trumpet fish, lion fish and so much more.
Arif
Beautiful tropical setting, many different levels of diving, miriad of colours of coral and fish. Also turtles, dolphins, manta rays. Crystal waters, general good coverage of species, shoals and shoals of darting fish.
Gemma Steel
Learnt to dive in Zanzibar and this was my first ever open water dive, so I didn't really appreciate just how beautiful this site is at the time. Four years later I've failed to find anywhere that comes close! Turtles, trumpetfish, lionfish, crocodile fish, and the coral displays stunning colours. Recommended!
Vanessa Hayes, 2006
We were diving in Mnemba Island, Zanzibar one month ago. Fantastic place, but be aware of dishonest boatmen. I lost my money and shorts when diving with One Ocean company.
Erkki J Saarela, 2005
Clearest viz ever, green back turtles, most amazing reefs' best fish .
Richard Labuschagne, 2009
WattabomiTanzania > Zanzibar > Mnemba Island

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

We saw many, many more smaller and much more colourful fishes. Truly a wonderful site. Beautiful green waters changing slowly to swimming pool blue. Unbelievable!
Arif
Turtles ,barracudas, white tips, banks of tuna, dolphins, easy dive.
Albert, UK, 2010
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Hunga Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Apparently they have a lot of nice hard and soft coral on this dive, but it was so full of fish that most of the time we couldn't see anything else. Schools of barracuda, massive schools of snappers and bat fish. Some cobias and schools of trevallies...
Alfred, Germany, 2008
Reef in the open sea where we saw loads of crocodile fish, groupers, lobsters, trevallies, schools of barracuda and squid.
Yolandi, 2007
Plates of coral, a lot of life.
Albert, UK, 2010
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Mwana wa Mwana

Reviews: 4 stars

Viz was not as great as other Zanzibar sites, but the quality of the reef was the best we have ever seen! Amazing diversity of hard and soft corals.
Yolandi, 2007
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Mbwangawa

Reviews: 4 stars

Special dive for huge sections of rigid plate corals and we saw three turtles!
Yolandi, 2007
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Ras Nungi

Reviews: 5 stars

Ras Nungi in Tanzania was in a class by itself with its beauty - don't know if it's still unspoiled, dived it some 6 years ago.
Eugene Joseph, 2016
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Nankivelle

Reviews: 4 stars

Great dive with all a diver and photographer could ask for.
Alfred, Germany, 2008
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Shane's Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Here we saw all this stuff that you usually never see, sea horses, ghost pipe fish, 10 different kinds of nudi's, 8 different kinds of scorpion fish including crocodile fish, mauritius scorpion fish, weedy scorpion fish, leaf fish, frog fish and all in one dive!
Alfred, Germany, 2008
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Mwangawa

Reviews: 4 stars

Coral wall, a lot of fish and coral.
Albert, UK, 2010
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Pemba
Boat dives by Swahili divers. Water clarity to 50 m, great walls everywhere (at 30-40 m, you look waaay down into the depths), soldierfish, lizardfish, fusiliers, shrimp, butterflyfish, triggerfish.
Bob Nelson, USA, 2010
Tanzania > East Zanzibar
Hakuna Matiti

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Deep Dive, Wonderful wall for deep dives full of live and nice corals.
David Noland (Spain), 2011
Tanzania > East Zanzibar
Pale Pale

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Great for pictures! Crocodile fish, Leaf Fish, Lion Fish, Blue Spotted Sting Rays, Napoleon Wrasse
David Noland (Spain), 2011

Bluespotted stingray
Bluespotted stingray, Photo credit: Tim Nicholson.

Tanzania > East Zanzibar
Mwamba Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Territorial Trigger Fish, Moray Eels...
David Noland (Spain), 2011

Diving the Mafia Islands

Mafia Island is the largest island in the Mafia archipelago. Smaller islands include Chole Island. Mafia Island is 30 miles long by 10 miles wide and is the site of Tanzania's first Marine Park.

Tanzania
Mafia Island

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

The most incredible coral banks I have ever seen with as many fish as the Yongala.
David, 2008
Amazing reefs on the Eastern side of the island in Chole Bay, large potato groupers, humpback wrasse, hawksbill turtles, and plenty of parrot, butterfly and angelfish. On the western side of the island there are some less pristine reefs that have been damaged by dynamite fishing but there are still some areas with amazing diving, furthermore the western side of the island is often visited between November-March by large groups of whale sharks, a truly amazing site when diving or snorkelling.
Matt Davies, 2008

Free swimming nudibranch, Mafia Island.
Free swimming nudibranch taken at Mafia Island, Photo credit: Karin Broussard, Blue World Diving.

Almost all Mafia's best diving is at depths of less than 30m so it is a sport diver's paradise. The reefs of the archipelago offer a staggeringly beautiful and varied display of marine life. The excellent condition and high diversity of the reefs stimulated the creation of Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania's first marine park. Examples of most kinds of tropical marine habitat occur here, including exposed fringing reefs, rock walls, soft corals and algae-dominated reefs. The diversity of animal and plant life is hard to match, with over 50 genera of corals and 460 species of fish so far identified; many more still await determination. There are excellent examples of giant table corals, delicate seafans, whip corals, and huge stands of blue-tipped staghorn corals. Large predatory fish and turtles are common and surprisingly unaffected by approaching divers
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2010

Dive Operators on Mafia Island

Tanzania > Mafia Island
Chole Bay

Anemone in Chole Bay, Mafia Island.
Anemone in Chole Bay, Photo credit: Karin Broussard, Blue World Diving.

Chole Bay is blessed with a number of excellent dives within the Bay, ensuring diving in almost any weather, as well as easy access. Visibility varies with the wind and tides, and is generally poor on outgoing tides as there is the normal accumulation of organic and granular matter in the water as it empties the Bay through the narrows of Kinasi Pass. The diving is tide-dependent for this reason and also to avoid strong currents at the dive sites which are close to the mouth of the Bay (Kinasi Pass). We usually dive on the full low, full high or on the incoming tide for the Kinasi Pass drift dive and the Chole and Kinasi walls, which lead of from close to the end of the Pass dive.
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2010
Tanzania > Mafia Island > Chole Bay
Milimani Reef
Maximum depth: 21 m, average depth: 12-14 m, drift dive over bank reef.
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2010
Pristine corals, napoleon wrasse, grouper, moray eel, sting ray
Mario Odorisio, Big Blu Mafia, 2010
Tanzania > Mafia Island > Chole Bay
Kinasi Wall
A sloping reef starting at 6 m on a full tide. The dive starts at a sandy bottom facing the reef. A wide variety of hard and soft corals and abundant reef fish as this is a nursery area. There are vast schools of immatures and many species here. An excellent dive, especially for those interested in variety and detail, and an excellent introductory dive for those who have not dived for a while. The reef is extensive and most of it is also suitable for snorkelling.
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2010

Sweetlips and bannerfish, Mafia Island.
Sweetlips and Bannerfish. Photo credit: Karin Broussard, Blue World Diving.

Trevally, giant grouper, potato cod grouper, barracuda, sting ray
Mario Odorisio, Big Blu Mafia, 2010
Tanzania > Mafia Island > Chole Bay
Chole Wall
Maximum depth: 8 m, average depth 9-12 m. A sloping bank reef that starts at about 8 m. the dive starts from a mix of sand and small limestone pebbles and climbs up the reef. There is a great variety of hard corals and colourful soft corals. There is an abundance of fish feeding here on this rich reef which thrives on the inflow to and outfall from Chole Bay. Great schools of juveniles. Spectacular species abundance, and at the end of the dive huge coral heads ("bommies") to explore. An excellent dive for the diver interested in the unusual and the small, fascinating life forms on a reef.
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2010

Chole Bay, Mafia Island.
Photo credit: Karin Broussard, Blue World Diving.

Tanzania > Mafia Island
Jena Wall
Many schools of fish, turtles, trevally, potato cod grouper, napoleon wrasse, sting ray, white tip shark
Mario Odorisio, Big Blu Mafia, 2010

Tanzania Diving Operators

Tanzania > Mafia Island
Blue World Diving

Blue World Diving, Tanzania
Blue World Diving,
Kinasi Lodge and Lua Cheia Luxury Beach Camp,
Mafia Island, North and South,
Tanzania.
Tel: +2557 164 43388
Skype: mafia.island
Facebook
E-mail: [email protected]
http://www.mafiaisland.com/

Mafia Island's oldest dive centre established in 1995 (originally the dive base for research on Mafia Island's reefs and Marine Park. The two dive bases are dedicated exclusively to the Kinasi and Lua Cheia guests - uses local Jahazi boats - mashuas - for its activities and these are usually sailed back to base after diving. This minimises pollution and maximizes the enjoyment of experiencing a traditional sailing dhow. For adventure dives modern boats are used to ensure maximum safety and best dive experience. Regular special offers for seasonal attractions and all-included packages for 3, 5, 1 and 10 nights Mafia north and south, including night dives.
Peter Byrne, Blue World Diving, 2013

Clownfish in anemone, Mafia Island.
Anemonefish, Photo credit: Blue World Diving.

Tanzania > Mafia Island
Big Blu (Coral Divers Tanzania)

Big Blu (Coral Divers Tanzania)biblulogo
Mafia Island
Tanzania
Tel: +255 784 57 57 20
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.bigblumafia.com

Big Blu is a dive operator on Mafia Island. Mafia Island is a small island lying off the southern coast of Tanzania, south of Zanzibar. The island is the home of Tanzania's first Marine Park. The park has super dive sites both inside and outside Chole Bay, making diving possible in almost any weather conditions.
Mafia Island offers some of the best diving in Tanzania, including historical sites, natural trails, resident whale sharks and numerous other activities for adventurous travellers.
Kim (Big Blu), 2011
"Diving center and diving college , 12 dive spots, availability for groups of 25 divers. Humpback whales aug/sept/oct , whale sharks nov/dec/jan/feb. Double dive including equipment - 75US$, whale shark trip - 60$. Three bungalows with private bathrooms and hot water and accommodation in b&b
Nice offer for divers: 1 night accommodation + 2 dives + full equipment + breakfast only 105$! Very good value compared to Indonesia, Red Sea, Maldives."

Mario Odorisio,(Big Blu Mafia), 2010
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Scuba Do

Scuba Do
Kendwa Beach
Northern Zanzibar
Tel: +255 (0)784 415 179
E-mail: [email protected]
Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

We were very impressed with Scuba Do's professional operation, friendly staff, new equipment and diving off their fast RIBs.
Yolandi, 2007
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Spanish Dancer Divers

Spanish Dancer Divers
Spanish Dancer Dive Centre
P.O. Box: 3486
Stone Town
Zanzibar
Tanzania
Tel: +255 777 417 717
E-mail: [email protected]
Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Diving was great, one in a million dive guide and good equipment. Thanks again for a great time.
Alfred, 2008
Nungwi north coast. Excellent service, very friendly staff, nice location, good equipment, nice experience.
Albert, 2010
Tanzania > Zanzibar
Fumba Blue World Diving

Fumba Beach Lodge
PO Box 3705
Stone Town
Zanzibar
Tanzania
Tel: 255 (0)774 878701
E-mail: [email protected]

Tanzania > Zanzibar
Zanzibar Dive Adventures

Zanzibar Dive Adventures
PO Box 1784
Zanzibar
Tanzania
Tel: +255 777 415660
E-mail: [email protected]

Tanzania > Zanzibar
Buccaneer Diving

Buccaneer Diving
Zanzibar
Tanzania
Tel: +254 (0)728 630369
E-mail: [email protected]
Bases at Voyager Hotel, Sun 'n Sand, Whitesands Hotel and Nyali Beach Hotel.

Tanzania > East Zanzibar
Karafuu Dive Center

Karafuu Dive Center
Pingwe
Zanzibar
Tanzania

Excellent equipment and experienced team. Small groups and wide boats for a relaxing trip..Radio, cellphone, two engines, Oxygen, Emergency Kit, Experienced Captain always on board. Not expensive at all, worth it.
Better than the average, great surprise to find that kind of service

David Noland (Spain), 2011
Tanzania > Pemba Island
Nassor-Coral Tours

E-mail: [email protected]

"Pemba Island is the best for diving (marine life its still in nature), I can promise everybody that you will never regret coming here, and you will see the value of your money. I am Pemban, I know Pemba in and out, that's why I established a tour company, but most of my tour is marine game tour(diving snorkelling), please come to Pemba Island, there is something different. Pemba is an untouched island. We are very proud to be born on this beautiful island.
Misali Island is the best diving site around Pemba. I am a tour operator here in Pemba and all of my customers appreciate this site. Please come to see, and let me arrange this diving trip with qualified company (Pemba Misali Divers)
"
Nassor Haji Nassor, 2012

Tanzania > Lake Tanganyika
Lake Shore

Kipili Village
Lake Tanganyika
Tel: Louise,+255684540792 & +255752540792, and Chris +255 783993166.
E-mail: [email protected]

We are a new and the the ONLY PADI registered Dive Operation on Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. We offer accommodation as well, out of our Lake Shore Lodge.
Chris Horsfall (Lake Shore), 2012

Tanzania Accommodation

Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Sunset Bungalows

Sunset Bungalows
Kendwa Beach
Northern Zanzibar.

We stayed in Sunset Bungalows for $55 per double. Rooms were clean and comfortable and good value for money.
Yolandi, 2007
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Kendwa Rocks Bungalows

Kendwa Rocks Bungalows
Kendwa Beach
Northern Zanzibar.

Stayed in the Kendwa Rocks Bungalows, situated on a GREAT beach with clean rooms. All rooms with sea view. We paid $60 in off season, and compared to what other hotels were offering it was the best deal on the beach.
Alfred, Germany, 2008
Tanzania > North Zanzibar
Nungwi Inn Hotel
Basic but very good.
Albert, UK, 2010

Further Reading

Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia (Bradt Travel Guides)
Chris and Susan McIntyre, 2013.
Diving the World
Beth and Shaun Tierney, Footprint Travel Guides, 2014, 352 pages,
Covers Zanzibar and Pemba Island.

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