Swashbuckling adventurers, mighty Sultans, Arabian pirates and buried treasure! The ‘Spice’ Islands of the Zanzibar archipelago certainly have a colourful history. As a major trade route for the empires of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, India, China and more recently Europe, everything from gold to slaves made their passage through these islands.
Today the ancient dhows still built to the same design as the vessels which for a 1000 years have plied the trade routes along the Eastern shores of Africa deliver a rather different treasure - an unimaginable underwater dive experience!
Zanzibar is a flat, palm-clad coral atoll surrounded by a shallow warm sea. Water temperatures average between 25 and 29 degrees C and visibility ranges from 20m to 60m (200ft). With conditions like this the world of Big ‘Marine’ Game will clearly be in view!
A series of fringing and atoll reefs provide suitable diving from beginner to advanced with depths from 6m to 35m. Shallow coral reefs, sloping banks and vertical drop-offs with hard and soft corals and over 350 species of Indo-Pacific marine fauna await you. Whale sharks, manta and eagle rays, bottlenosed, spinner and common dolphins, sailfish and marlin are also found. In deeper waters, lush coral gardens often stretch as far as the eye can see and large pelagic game fish - barracuda, kingfish, tuna and wahoo hunt together with large napoleonic wrasse.
Zanzibar is an extremely interesting island and with Stone Town the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. Stone Town is a World Heritage Site with loads of history and culture. Zanzibar offers a large array of accommodation, from budget options to luxury.
There are also plenty of bars, restaurants and activities on Zanzibar to keep you occupied. From swimming with the dolphins, long deserted idyllic beaches, sailing, deep-sea game fishing, cultural tours and spice plantations - Zanzibar is just another example of why you should consider Africa for your next dive holiday.
Chumbe Island Coral Marine Park
Divers are always telling us they want to swim the un-swum where they are not surrounded by dozens of other people all fighting for the same ‘water’ space and where they can experience something different. This is why we decided to include the very unusual destination of Chumbe Island.
Although Chumbe is not a scuba dive destination its reefs have been acclaimed by a leading coral reef expert as "one of the most spectacular coral gardens to be found anywhere in the world". In 2000 Chumbe Island Marine Park was awarded the Global 500 Roll of Honour by the United Nations Environment Programme for outstanding achievements in environmental conservation and protection.
The chance to snorkel in such a well preserved and pristine marine environment is a must for anyone who has a love of the ocean and all its exotic life. This marine park contains over 400 species of fish, lobster, turtle and dolphin and over 200 species of pristine coral in an area the size of only 24 football pitches.
Chumbe Island is the first private marine park in the world! Scuba diving is not allowed on the reefs directly adjacent to the island, but diving can be done on other reefs around Zanzibar, all within easy reach by boat.
Mnemba Island is one of the ultimate coral island paradises. This tiny island, located in the lagoon off the East Coast of Zanzibar provides "barefoot luxury" to the highest standards and is widely considered to be one of the finest and most exclusive beach locations in the world.
Mnemba has a circular reef, with aquarium conditions on the inside and good wall diving on the outside. Diving here is a year-round event, with good conditions to be found on the atoll under almost all weather conditions and visibility of 20 to 40 metres is the norm. Diving is a mix of shore and boat entry with reefs from 5 to 55 metres depth – a good variety for the newly qualified to the expert!
There are a large variety of corals supporting a wealth of reef fish along with white ribbon eels, shoals of blue striped snapper and yellowfin fusiliers, barracuda, sharks, wrasse, large groupers and lion fish. Turtles and dolphins are regularly see here and if you are lucky enough you may see the elusive whale shark and pilot whales. Humpbacks are also seen here during their migration.
Snorkellers are welcome out on the dive boat and everyone is encouraged to get out to the edges of the reef at some time or other. The snorkelling can be quite superb, even straight off the beach.
The island has a number of windsurfers and kayaks and an instructor is available. The waters off the beach are a perfect place to learn.
A Tanzania or Kenya Safari
The islands off the coast of Tanzania are undoubtedly some of the world’s top dive destinations but you are also able to combine some fantastic land based attractions. Some of Africa’s most famous National Parks such as the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater are just a short flight from Zanzibar, as is spectacular Mount Kilimanjaro and a host of other east African highlights. Why not combine your dive holiday with a safari to some of these stunning National Parks.