Best African Dive Sites

May 29th 2015  |  Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Travel, Zanzibar and islands  |  by  Richard Smith
Best African dive sites - lion fish and coral
Best African dive sites

Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline contains some of the world’s finest coral reefs and offers wonderfully varied diving holidays from the warm tropical waters around northern Mozambique to the cooler seas off South Africa’s Cape coast. Several marine parks and reserves line the coast of Kenya, continuing down to even better diving off Zanzibar and Tanzania’s offshore islands. Mozambique and the Seychelles offer truly world-class dive sites, while Mauritius is a wonderful holiday destination for first time divers. Madagascar’s diving is superb, with all sorts of exciting discoveries to be made, and South Africa offers tropical waters off northern KwaZulu-Natal and cold-water diving – as well as the chance to dive with great whites and whales – off its southern coast. Finally, some of the most rewarding diving is in the freshwater Lake Malawi; with its range of colourful freshwater species and underwater rock formations, it is a revelation to even the most experienced divers.

Tanzania and Zanzibar diving

The idyllic islands off Tanzania’s coast offer a rich variety of dive sites with plenty of opportunity to spot some of the bigger fish species. Zanzibar’s coral reefs host abundant marine life; there is exciting wall diving off Pemba, and the clear waters around Mafia provide stunning encounters with thousands of tiny tropical fish.

Turtle off Mafia island, Tanzania

Turtle off Mafia island, Tanzania

Kenya diving

Kenya’s fringing coral reef is protected by five marine parks. Those scattered along the southern coastline provide some spectacular diving with regular sightings of reef sharks, turtles and occasionally dolphins amongst the stunning coral gardens. There are lots of wrecks and strong currents bring in pelagic species. Kenya has lots of PADI diving centres around Mombasa marine park that offer specialist courses for groups and is a great place for diving holidays for single travellers.

diving amongst coral

Coral gardens in Kenya

Madagascar diving

Madagascar underwater is similar to Madagascar above ground – full of glorious treasures peculiar to this unique island. There is much left to discover here with previously unknown corals and fish being found among the dazzling reefs and watery habitats. Around the Madagascar coast are found at least 34 types of whale and dolphin, 5 types of turtle, 56 types of shark, 300 hard corals and 1300 species of bony fish.

diver with large group of fish

Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

South Africa diving

Most will have heard about shark diving in cages with the great white sharks off South Africa’s Cape coast at Gansbaai, near the Cape fur seal colony, but South Africa offers so much more than this.

great white shark underwater

Great white shark via creative commons, photo by Elias Levy

The cooler waters of the Cape to the warmer Indian Ocean, which stretches up the east coast, mean there is something for everyone. For more experienced divers the Greater St Lucia Wetland provides one of the world’s premier dive sites. Once through the surf close to shore you can expect to see loggerhead and leatherback turtles at Rocktail and Sodwana Bay, and between May and June, the famous sardine run which has been documented by the BBC. It’s a major spectacle and perhaps one of the planet’s greatest dives. In general, the coral and marine life here tends to be different to the more classic dive destinations around the world.

sardine shoal

Sardine run shoal via creative commons, photo Tanaka Juuyoh

Mozambique diving

The tropical waters and stunning islands off Mozambique’s coastline provide some exceptional underwater viewing with superb drift dives over walls and pristine reefs around private islands like Quilálea. The coral is spectacular and varied with many arches, tunnels and caves. There is a good chance of seeing turtles, whales, whale sharks, batfish, manatees, rays, moon fish, sunfish, dolphins, Napoleon wrasse and nudibranchs. Vamizi Island in northern Mozambique is regularly voted one of the top ten dive islands in the world with new sites found weekly and the whole of northern Mozambique provides excellent snorkelling from the beach.

Whale Shark off Mozambique coastline

Whale shark off Mozambique coastline

Seychelles diving

Bountiful coral reefs and gardens, and plenty of marine life make the Seychelles a great destination for beginners and experienced divers alike. Visitors can expect to see green sea turtles, reef fish, and several shark species. Being on the Indian Ocean Bank you also get all the pelagic fish including tuna and barracuda. Diving around the outer islands offers the chance to investigate steep walls and underwater canyons, several wrecks to explore, while the inner islands have both coral and granite reefs – which take on amazing form under the water. The Seychelles is also a fantastic place for family diving holidays, for those with teenagers, with resorts offering diving courses.

Dive boat, Denis Island, Seychelles

Dive boat, Denis Island, Seychelles

Mauritius diving

The coral reef that extends almost the entire way around the island ensures excellent protected water for scuba divers making Mauritius perfect for the holiday/recreational diver. The many dive sites around Mauritius include cliffs, caverns, reefs, pinnacles and wrecks. Among the exotic fish found among the corals, sponges and sea anemones are parrot fish, angelfish, trumpet and anenomefish. Mauritius is a great place for experienced divers but also for beginners or new/junior divers wanting to try the sport for the first time. Mauritius is a great place for family diving holidays, particularly for those travelling with teenagers as, in addition to the PADI courses available, the water is warm 23-28 C and visibility is good.

shoal of reef fish and diver

Mauritius -good visibility

Malawi diving

Crystal clear and fresh water Lake Malawi is home to millions of spectacularly colourful cichlid fish. Dive sites here has been likened to exploring a giant aquarium and is ideal for diving holidays for beginners. Here are 75{13c8d4b31df5f805556ed83a8829bbffcaa4563894948df0cae38482b102b43c} of the world’s freshwater tropical fish and amazing swim throughs.

snorkeller diving with cichlids

Lake Malawi cichlids

Talk to us about the best African dive sites

The majority of the diving in Africa is boat based although we can recommend a smaller number of shore entry dive sites. All these waters can be explored to a limited extent with a simple mask and snorkel, and all the lodges we feature have the equipment on hand to let you explore at your own pace. Remember to check your insurance policy to include diving to the depth you intend to go down and take your log book and diving id. (PADI/BSAC) in your hand luggage. If you would like to learn to dive there are several resorts with PADI certification that offer holiday diving courses for beginners, or if you are interested in combining diving with a safari holiday we can create a tailored itinerary to offer the best locations for the season you wish to travel. We can recommend the best accommodation with access to the most exclusive reefs. Get in touch and speak to our diving holiday experts today and get advice on the Best African dive sites

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