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Diving in Tanzania

Diving in Tanzania

Quick facts

True dive enthusiasts are geography experts at heart. That’s because the world’s best scuba diving locations sometimes read like a who’s who of exotic global locations. Tanzania is one of those places; the imagination takes over when destinations like Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam are mentioned. As one of the longest continually inhabited places on Earth, Tanzania is a land of extremes, from the Serengeti to the sea. It boasts the highest (Mt. Kilimanjaro) and lowest (Lake Tanganyika) points on the African continent, but, more importantly for scuba divers, it’s bounded on all sides by water: the Indian Ocean to the east, and the great rift valley lakes of Africa– Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi – to the northwest, west and southwest. With shore diving, boat diving, liveaboard opportunities and lake diving, there’s a great deal here to keep adventurous divers happy. Note: visitors are advised to consult their doctor regarding anti-malarial drugs and other recommended vaccinations.

Recommended training

Definitely take the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course to be ready to capture amazing images in Tanzania’s waters. The PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy and PADI Drift Diver course are good choices for diving the offshore islands. The PADI Altitude Diver course will prepare you to dive in Lake Tanganyika.

When to go

Since it’s just below the equator, the only discernible seasons are dry and wet. The tropical climate in the major dive areas means you’ll rarely see air temperatures drop below 20ºC/68ºF and easily soaring to 35-38ºC/95-100ºF in Dar-es-Salaam. Running from good to excellent throughout Tanzania’s Indian Ocean sites, visibility can reach 30 metres/100 feet.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

  • Zanzibar

    Aquarium-like conditions combined with an array of macro and giant marine life makes Zanzibar one of the world's premier dive destinations. A Muslim gem off the coast of mainland Africa will surpri...

Pemba Island – Pemba is Tanzania’s northernmost Indian Ocean island. It offers quintessential Indian Ocean diving, with coral-choked walls, colorful reefs, big bommies and enormous sea fans orbited by an amazing cast of reef fish. This remote Coral Sea atoll is made up of several individual dive sites. But, North Horn is perhaps the most famous for its sharks. There are white-tips, grey whalers, silvertips and the occasional hammerhead, you’ll also see potato cod, bigeye trevally and bumphead parrotfish. Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar – The self-proclaimed tropical fish capital of East Africa, this classic Indian Ocean atoll system is teeming with fish and offers drift and wall diving, all with consistent 30-metre/100-foot visibility. Leven Bank – Far off the northern tip of Zanzibar is the domain of experienced divers looking for a unique thrill in wide-open ocean. Strong currents wash the bank, which is populated by big game fish, tuna, barracuda, kingfish, trevally, a variety of wrasse and huge moray eels. Mafia Island – After a Tanzanian inland safari, divers still itching for big animal action should head to Mafia Island. If you’re visiting from October through March, the chances are good you’ll be able to hop aboard a dhow and head for a whale shark encounter. Mesali Island Coral Garden – A vertical drop off here is festooned with coral. Clear water and abundant reef life make this a dive to remember. There are other dives here, including a rapid drift dive in the channel. Lake Tanganyika – Dive in a crystal clear freshwater lake with literally hundreds of species of cichlid, some of which vie for vivid colors with marine species. This is a great place to combine some different diving with an altitude diver course while staying in an African lodge.

What to see

Myriad Indian Ocean reef fish, ribbon eels, fire dartfish, chevron barracuda, yellow fin tuna and giant groupers off Pemba Island. Cichlids thrive in Lake Tanganyika. Around Mafia, you can expect to see whale sharks from November to January. The docile dugong (manatee or sea cow) is thought to find refuge cruising the seagrass between Mafia and the Rufiji River Delta. The small islands around the archipelago remain a popular breeding ground for leatherback and green turtles.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


Tanzania is in East Africa and bordered by Kenya and Uganda on the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique on the south. To the east it borders the Indian Ocean. It has massive game parks, Mt Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Crater; and the diving doesn't disappoint either; remote and little visited. It is busier in the north but relatively undiscovered in the south and offers a range of diving experiences. Tanzania, has three main diving islands – Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia, but all are surrounded by a host of smaller islands that offer quiet getaways or exclusive retreats. These are often collectively called the Spice Islands. To the north, the Zanzibar archipelago includes Unguja (generally called Zanzibar) and Pemba, while further to the south is Mafia Island, part of which has been protected as Mafia Island Marine Park. Of these, Zanzibar is probably the most visited and has a good choice of dive centres and sites, including a number of recognised Conservation areas. It is also home to the historical sultanate capital of Stone Town, which has been classified as a World Heritage site. To the north, Pemba island is more remote and some of its diving can be challenging. It too has recognised marine Conservation Areas, as well as ancient forests, Arabic ruins and possibly a more restful feel than Zanzibar. Further south, Mafia Island has a number of dive operators both in- and out-side the Marine Park. The surrounding small islands make great day-trips, and the island is known for its visiting whale sharks between November and February. On the mainland, diving starts in the north from Pangani (just south of Tanga and the border with Kenya) and continues down the coast with diving available in Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam, Kilwa and finally Mtwara. Just south of Mtwara is also the Mnazi-Bay Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park which extends from Mtwara south to the border with Mozambique. The south is widely regarded as one of the unexplored gems of Western Indian Ocean diving. The underwater landscape is characterised by huge rock Monoliths and a coast that rapidly drops off to over 200m resulting in occasional surprises from the deep. It is also the point at which the Southern Equatorial Current reaches the coast of Africa and splits to head north to towards Zanzibar or south into the Mozambique channel. Consequently, it provides a truly unique diving experience in one of the most diverse marine environments on the Tanzania coast. Finally Tanzania has the distinction of offering lake diving as well on Lake Tanganyika.

Other attractions

Climb Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, via the Rongai Route. Visit Livingstone’s flat roofed home, or tembe. Take a small group tour down the Serengeti Trail.

Getting there

Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) is in Dar-es-Salaam. There are also Kilimanjaro International Airport and Zanzibar International Airport.
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