Africa has enormous coastlines and lakes that offer some impressive diving and snorkelling holidays.
The Indian Ocean supports a diverse array of marine species from whale sharks, manta rays, turtle, over 400 fish species, dugong and endless tropical reefs.
Whether you want the beauty of Mauritius and Seychelles or the shorelines and islands of Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar there is something to suit all ages, interests and levels of experience.
Whilst Malawi offers something completely different in the freshwaters of Lake Malawi. This rocky underwater world is home to some 500 species of cichlids, many endemic to the region and country. For the few lucky travellers, you may get to chance upon otters.
Encompass Africa’s team are either keen divers or snorkellers so we can advise you from our personal first hand experience.
When to Go
That’s always a tricky question – it depends on what you are keen to dive and see? If it’s whale sharks or breaching great whites, the seasons are specific. Otherwise, generally speaking you can dive and snorkel in places like Mozambique, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zanzibar at most times of year, weather dependent of course which impacts your visibility.
Good to Know
We work with PADI Dive Centres throughout Africa because we have dived ourselves with many of the centres and instructors. We know first hand that these centres work hard to ensure you experience the very best marine safari without compromising your safety. There is a broad spectrum of diving and snorkelling activities available from one off half and full day trips and classes to fully certified courses in Great rift lakes, oceans, islands and channels. You will need to present a valid dive qualification card if you wish to dive in Africa.
Mantas & Whalesharks
Mozambique is a great place to dive between October and May for the unique experience of seeing mantas and whalesharks. The middle section of the country’s coastline is best, around Inhambane and Tofu. You can also dive with whalesharks in Madagascar off Nosy Be between October and November. Fancy the serenity of the Seychelles? Then head to South Mahe between August and November with sightings peaking in October. If you’re planning an East Africa safari then visit Mafia Island between October and March.
Whilst not in the top list of dive destinations in the world, you can still enjoy a few day’s diving or snorkelling from Zanzibar or one of the smaller surrounding islands. Zanzibar itself offers a few marine parks including popular Mnemba Atoll Marine Reserve in the north east. Here there are a variety of different dive sites and sometimes you get incredible visibility up to 40 metres. The average throughout the year is 20 metres. Mnemba does get super busy so if you want a more serene experience head elsewhere on the north east coast or for those seeking solace, head south and try Chumbe Island, Fumba Beach and Menai Bay Conservation Area.
Diving with Great Whites
One of the top ten adrenalin activities according to Lonely Planet, diving with great white sharks will get your heart racing. Boats are well kitted out and safety briefings ensure you a memorable experience for all the right reasons. Dive in aluminium cage or for the brave, a clear plastic tube. We like to work with companies that invest their profits back into shark conservation projects. Winter is the best time to dive with the Great White Sharks off the coast of South Africa and usually from May to mid September. If you want to see them breaching, aim for July/August.
The greatest marine migration happens off the east coast of South Africa every year usually around late May to early July when enormous shoals of sardines and bait fish move up the coastline. Awaiting their movements and arrivals are super pods of 5,000 + common and bottle nose dolphins, bryde’s whales, seven species of shark and Cape Gannet birds all ready to feast on the fish. This spectacle is visible even by satellite due to the enormous shoals travelling on mass sometimes stretching fifteen kilometres in length and forty metres deep. Head out on a diving expedition to witness this marvellous marine spectacle.
Home to one of the world’s longest continuous coral reefs, Madagascar should be on your list if diving and snorkelling are sports of interest. There are three areas of interest in the north west including Nosy Be-Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Iranja and Nosy Komba. The best time to go is May to December when visibility is between 25 to 30 metres. Cyclone season is worth avoiding, January to March. Expect good quality corals, huge fans, turtles, too many species of fish to count, wrecks, shallow and deep dives. Whale sharks come through from August and you can swim with them October to November.