Something for every ability
With countless dive sites dotted around the coast and islets of Zanzibar, there’s an experience to suit every level. If you’ve never so much as snorkelled before, a Discover Scuba Diving course lets you give it a try without focusing on getting certified. You’ll learn the basics in the pool then head out to a colourful coral wall or sloping reef site with an experienced PADI instructor.
Those with Open Water certification will have a huge choice of sites to discover. Famous options close to Stone Town include Pinnacles, where bright coral clings to pillars and arches, and the Royal Navy Lighter wreck – a purposefully sunk boat swirling with schools of snappers.
Plenty of fish in the sea
From tiny predators up to gentle giants, the Zanzibar depths are brimming with life. On every dive, you’re likely to see something you never have before. Here are some of the highlights of the island’s regional dive sites:
- Mnemba Atoll – keep your eyes on the sand for the Indian Ocean Walkman, which looks almost like a beautiful conch shell. Along with (non-threatening) white tipped reef sharks, Zanzibar is home to one of the world’s largest reef fish: the Napoleon wrasse, which can grow to over 2 meters long.
- Northern Zanzibar – listen out for the tell-tale clicks of bottlenose dolphins – whole pods frequently pass by the northern coast. If you’re exploring a reef, take a closer look at drifting seaweed along the sea floor – masters of disguise such as Mauritius scorpionfish hide among it.
Wherever you dive, you’re likely to find lionfish and a rainbow of rippling nudibranchs. It takes sharp eyes to see weird and wonderful creatures such as the crocodile fish and the frogfish, which walks across the bottom on its fins.
Variety is the spice of life
If you’re a certified Open Water Diver, take your pick from a range of specialised experiences. The rich diversity of marine life mean diving in Zanzibar is a treat for photographers. If you’re a beginner, a half- or full-day underwater photography course is a great way to learn the basics.
Many of the ocean’s strangest inhabitants come out after dark. Take a night dive to go in search of Spanish dancers – a large, mesmerising nudibranch that twists and turns like a flamenco performer. Night also brings out luminescent squid, octopuses and free-swimming moray eels to hunt.
Unforgettable underwater adventures are far from the only reason to visit Zanzibar. Read more about the historic treasures and cultural experiences available on the magical spice island.
Warm, clear and quiet
With water temperatures ranging from 24-29 degrees, you can comfortably dive in a light wetsuit year-round. Visibility is often 30 metres or more – and the wide choice of dive sites mean you’ll often be among the only people in the area.
Time it right, and you’ll share the waters with some of the ocean’s most majestic creatures. From January to March you could be swimming alongside manta rays and whale sharks. While from July to November, dive boats travelling between Nungwi and Mnemba give you a good chance to see humpback whales crashing through the waves.
Top tips for planning your scuba adventure
- When to go: Zanzibar is a year-round diving destination. However particularly good times to dive include mid-February to mid-May and from October to December, when the seas tend to be calmer.
- Which dive centres to try: Almost every major beach and town has a good choice of certified dive centres. Longstanding options include One Ocean, which operates from Stone Town on the west coast and Matemwe on the east, for diving on the Mnemba Atoll. Spanish Dancer Divers are based on Nungwi beach on the north coast, also running dives to Mnemba. If deciding whether or not to bring all your own kit, remember to check what equipment the dive centres have.
- Where to stay: Among the best hotels in Zanzibar, Diamonds Star of the East puts you within easy reach of Nungwi.