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Diving in and around Zanzibar

The Zanzibar archipelago comes to us from a history of powerful trading links with Arabia and Persia. Zanzibar Island provided the gateway between East Africa and its north-eastern neighbours for traders in slaves, gold, ivory, wood, spices, glass, and textiles. Early in the 16th century the Portuguese arrived, at which time the clove plantations were established.

The diving around the Zanzibar Islands is exceptional, offering some of the best diving in the world. For serious divers the best locations must be the deep dives out on the Pemba Reefs. If you are into this, then Pemba Island is the place to go for all your diving along the East African Coast. These reefs are awesome with a great variety of diving on offer.

The diving around Zanzibar town, particularly Mnemba Island, is great for both experienced and novice divers. The reefs close by are useful as a refresher if you have not dived for a while. The dives in the area are relatively cheap and some of the wrecks provide some spectacular sights.

The port area of Stone Town has one or two good wreck dives. The wreck of HMS Pegasus, which was sunk in 1914, is 50m long. Unfortunately it is for experienced divers only. Some of the fish to see here are tuna, barracuda, jack fish, lionfish and giant stingrays. The Great Northern wreck is the remains of an old cable layer and has plenty of leaf fish, eels and a huge variety of coral. Visibility in the area is excellent.

Pange Reef, the first sand bank west of Zanzibar town, is ideal for open water dive courses as it is calm and shallow. An enormous array of coral and tropical reef fish can be found, such as clownfish, parrotfish, Moorish idol and many others. Many people do night dives here on the reef, when you can see cuttlefish, squid, crab and many other night dwellers.

If you’re up for something a bit more challenging, then travel to the northernmost tip of the island to Nungwi. Leven Reef is found here and is probably the best reef off the main island. Because of the strong currents this is only for experienced divers. What makes this reef so attractive is the array of reef and pelagic fauna which includes guitarfish, tuna, moray eels, barracuda, dolphins, and white tip reef sharks. There is a huge variety of coral with clusters of honeycomb and pillar coral.

Wattabomi reef on the eastern side of the island is excellent for snorkelling and novice divers. The reef includes small reef fish, regal angelfish, bluestreak, cleaner wrasse, eels and blue spotted rays. Look for flounder and sole lying buried on their sides in the sand. Most of the year you will find bottlenosed, spinner and common dolphins.

This is merely a brief guide to Zanzibar’s diving opportunities and there is so much more on offer for the novice or the experienced diver alike. I would suggest going on maybe two day dives in and around Stone Town and then moving to the beaches and islands for the more exciting diving experiences.

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