10 best dive sites in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is located off the coast of east-central Africa, where several islands can be found, each with incredible dive sites in the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Temperatures range from 25°C/78°F to 29°C/85°F, meaning there are year-round opportunities to dive with dolphins, turtles, and reef fish, and explore stunning corals and rock formations. For all this and more check out our ten best dive sites in Zanzibar.

1.Nankivell & Hunga Reef, Unguja Island - Reef Dive

Large, colorful coral bommies punctuate the landscape of this dive site, in fact Nankivell & Hunga are two separate sites which sit right next to each other. They offer great visibility and the opportunity to spot plenty of marine life while examining these soft and hard coral structures. Be prepared for large schools of yellow snappers. You are also in for a chance of spotting leaffish, crocodile fish, groupers, surgeonfish, and plenty more reef dwellers. On occasion rays have been seen near this dive site. With a maximum depth of 18m/59ft this reef dive site is accessible to divers of all abilities. Offering one of the more unique reef landscapes in Zanzibar, these dive sites are not to be missed. 

2. Big Wall, Mnemba Island - Wall Dive

If you love finding hidden creatures in natural caves and beneath overhangs the Big Wall is the site for you. This deep dive wall site is a thrilling adventure for advanced divers. As you descend you will observe the transformation of coral and sponges thriving with reef fish to large schools of pelagic fish including dolphin fish, rainbow runners, and barracudas. This massive wall site extends to 70m/230ft of deep vertical drops with strong currents. The size of this site often leaves divers in awe, and thanks to the underwater flora there are plenty of colorful nudibranchs, and critters to be spotted. This dive site offers a bit of everything making it one of the top dive locations in Zanzibar.

3. Mwana Wa Mwana, Tumbatu Island - Reef Dive

Tumbatu Island offers some of the most beautiful coral reef gardens in Zanzibar. Mwana Wa Mwana is home to octopus, scorpionfish, and stingrays, with the exciting opportunity to swim amongst large seahorse species. As divers reach the base of this site they will need to keep their eyes peeled to spot these vertical swimming equine-esque fish. This dive site requires boat entry and slopes down to 18m/59ft, the reef sits between 5m/16ft and 12m/39ft. Mwana Wa Mwana is accessible to all ability divers but currents can be strong depending on the conditions so the site is best suited to experienced divers. There is great visibility at this site, up to 30m/98ft, making it easy to spot passing turtles in the surrounding waters. 

Love seahorses? Check out our 15 Fun Facts About Seahorses

4. Nungwi Reef (Shane’s Reef), Mnemba Island 

Descend from the beautiful beach after sunset to explore the nocturnal activities of Nungwi Reef. This easily accessible dive site thriving with activity is the perfect location for a night dive to see a different world of marine species by the moonlight. Guitar rays, spanish dancers, and cuttlefish can all be found lurking in the darkness, night dives offer a great opportunity to see reef dwelling species during their most active time hunting for food. Starting at a depth of 10m this site descends to 20m/66ft, making it accessible for all dive abilities. Night dives are recommended for experienced open water or advanced divers. During the dry season visibility is excellent at Nungwi Reef so with the help of a dive torch there is plenty to discover after dark in Zanzibar’s clear waters. 

5. Kinasi Pass, Mafia Island 

Down the coast of Tanzania from Zanaibar you can find Mafia Island, this small island boasts great diving including a dive in Chole Bay where Kinasi Pass can be found. This drift dive is a great challenge for advanced dives, moving with the strong currents down a large wall full of corals and marine life. This site has a maximum depth of over 26m/85ft where adventurers will find pufferfish, hawksbill turtles, moray eels, and more. The waters of Mafia Island are a protected marine park meaning marine life is thriving including sea fans, giant clams, and soft and hard corals. Kinasi Pass includes coral pinnacles, obscure rock formations, and caverns full of hidden creatures. If you have the means to venture into waters further from Zanzibar’s main island then Kinasi Pass should be on your list. 

6. Stone Town, Unguja Island 

The waters of Stone Town harbor are littered with wrecks from troubled sea voyages of the past. It is a great dive location for enthusiastic wreck divers. The Great Northern has laid on the sea bed for over 100 years, it is now home to a flourishing reef full of marine life. Sitting at 12m/39ft this site is perfect exploration for beginner divers wanting to penetrate the centenarian wreck. Alternatively advanced divers can explore the purposely sunk Royal Naval Lighter, this ship is submerged at 30m/98ft. Previous divers have seen groupers, stonefish, eels, and the occasional reef sharks at this site. Stone Town is a top location for wreck enthusiasts. 

Would you like to learn more about sharks? Check out the SSI Shark Ecology Specialty

7. Leven Bank, Unguja Island - Reef Dive

Arguably Zanzibar’s most famous dive site especially for advanced divers, this submerged mountain offers a glimpse into an underwater world full of varied marine life. Located in the open ocean currents can be strong so confidence and experience is required to navigate this site. Leven Bank slopes down from 14m/46ft and is full of sea creatures hidden within the coral. Moray eels can be spotted reaching for food from passing fish. Colorful nudibranch can be seen along with large schools of reef fish including angelfish, triggerfish, and pufferfish. As you dive deeper large schools of pelagic fish can be seen in the deep blue waters such as trevallies and rainbow runners. If you find yourself diving between August and September you may even be able to spot passing Humpback whales from the boat. 

8. Kizidi Reef, Mnemba Island

Kizidi Reef is located in the Menai Bay conservation area. The village of Kizimkazi is the ultimate picturesque island town with lush palm trees bordering white sand beaches. The waters beyond the beach are home to a vast network of coral leading to the barrier reef, with clear visibility and an active marine ecosystem. Kizidi reef offers divers of all abilities the chance to venture into the ocean at Kizimkazi and experience a colorful world packed full of marine life. Starting at 4m/13ft this small wall of coral slopes down to 12m/39ft, black spot sweetlips, potato groupers, emperors, and leaf fish can all be found at this site. If you are lucky you may be able to spot sea turtles, rays, and even dolphins in the area. 

Here are the 4 Best Places to See Dolphins in the Wild!

9. Kichafi, Unguja Island

For fans of turtles, Kichafi is the spot. This small reef offers a relaxing dive sloping down to 20m/66ft. It is an excellent location for beginners to explore a vibrant reef, recognising coral, aquatic foliage, and all the sea creatures living there. Garden eels, yellow snappers, and electric rays can all be spotted camouflaged in the scenery. One of the biggest draws of this dive site is that it is located near a turtle hotspot, this means there is a good chance of spotting green turtles and hawksbill turtles if you are lucky. This dive site is reachable by boat and is located off the east coast of the main island of Zanzibar, it is a highly rated spot that offers plenty to see and is a fun dive for all ability divers. 

9. Wattabomi, Mnemba Island

Wattabomi is a popular dive site, and for good reason; A vast number of marine species can be found at this site situated at the north peak of the reef. With a sandy bottom full of coral pinnacles and formations attracting reef fish and their predators. Stonefish, giant toadfish, red lionfish, and scorpionfish can all be found in Wattabomi. You can also find the rare dragon moray eel hiding in the coral. This dive site starts at 7m/23ft and drops down past 25m/82ft, meaning there is plenty to explore at each depth for beginners and advanced divers. Visibility is best during the dry season, you may even catch bottlenose dolphins in the area from June to October. 

Which dive site are you most excited to visit?