Scuba Diving in Africa – Top Five Destinations

Africa being a large continent, it offers all kinds of diving experiences to right from the novice divers to the most experienced scuba divers.

Apart from the Red Sea, which offers diving experiences unique to it, most of the diving experiences that Africa offers are in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean which lies in the east coast of Africa. African countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Madagascar are all rich in diving experiences. Cape Town, which is the tip of the African Continent, offers good diving experience because of the combination of the Indian Ocean currents and the currents of the Atlantic.

The whole of Africa is inundated with good dive sites, and for all those who look for that extra something there are still a fairly large number of dive sites which deliver what is expected. Experienced divers are starting to frequent Sodwana Bay, Mnemba Island and Inhambane which give the opportunity to dive and swim along with some of the large marine animals such as Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and different varieties of sharks.

Situated between St. Lucia and Mozambique to its South, South Africa’s Sodwana Bay has a great combination of corals and a huge population of marine life making it a high quality and genuine dive site. Although Sodwana Bay is slightly difficult to access, the quality of diving that it offers is truly worth the effort. The months between October and February are the whale shark season and the months between October to December enables the scuba divers to witness the local Ragged Tooth Sharks in their gestation periods. Aliwal Shoals and Protea Banks which are away from the Sodwana Bay provide opportunities for scuba divers to swim and dive along with huge shark population and which experience cannot be matched to similar experiences elsewhere.

Towards the north of Africa, countries like Tanzania and Mozambique along with dive sites such as the Inhambane, Pnemba Island and Lake Malawi are being frequented by scuba divers more often nowadays.

Even though the dive sites of Africa are not as popular as the ones in the Red Sea and the Bahamas, African dive sites offer some of the most rewarding and finest diving experiences in the world.

1. Scuba diving in the Mozambique

Situated in the southeast coast of Africa, the East of Mozambique lies the Indian Ocean while to the north are Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. To the west of Mozambique is Zimbabwe and to the east the South Africa and the South of Swaziland.

Covering an area of 800,000 square kilometer from north to south, and 2500 kilometers from the west to the east, Mozambique is full of fantastic beaches all fringed with vast coral reefs, lagoons and strings of small islands.

Mozambique is also one of the most coveted tourism destinations of Africa with a lot of new International Hotels and award winning luxury lodges. Most of these tourists visit the various palm-tree fringed islands and beaches along the 2500 kilometer long coastline. It is also a haven for scuba divers as the vast stretches of coral reefs and fantastic collection of unique marine life offers great and unique diving experiences.

The Mozambique cultural is a blend of Arab, African and Portuguese influences. The casual and fun-loving African atmosphere still rekindles the Mediterranean charm, while the cuisine is of Afro-Portuguese blend with Latin music surrounding all the clubs and the discos.

The coral reefs of Mozambique are not spoiled and the vast variety of marine life both put together makes it a rewarding experience for divers of all natures and origins. The waters of the Indian Ocean are warm and clear as a crystal with sea temperatures varying between 30 degrees Celsius in summer to 21 degrees Celsius in winter. The coral reefs are formed out of a lot of pinnacles, overhangs, coral arches and many more.

The depth of the reefs varies between 10 meters and 40 meters offering good visibility and excellent photographic opportunities. While the incredible coral reefs attract a wide variety of game fish, they are also home to a lot of brightly coloured small fish like the schooling banner fish, butterfly fish, Moorish idols, barred sweetlips, goldies, striped snappers, and trigger fish.

Some of the most commonly sighted marine animals include dolphins, eels, manta rays, turtle, sharks, huge schools of King fish, giant lobsters, and vast variety of reed fish. Between the months of December and April, the whale sharks can also be spotted and a select few are lucky enough to spot the very rare dugong. Diving lessons are very common for both the novice divers as well as the most experienced.

2. Diving in South Africa

Sodwana Bay is regarded as the Mecca of scuba diving in South Africa. It is a few hours’ drive from Durban towards the north and belongs to the Wetlands Park of Great St. Lucia, which is now one of the listed heritage sites. The scuba diving experience that Sodwana Bay offers is unparalleled in the whole of Africa and the Wetlands Park offers some of the most stunning coastline sceneries. One of the world’s most southern coral reefs is situated in the Sodwana Bay which is continuously fed with warm waters from the Aghulas current.

Sodwana Bay offers a wide variety of marine life display such as the ragged tooth sharks, whale sharks and dolphins apart from other exciting coral and fish varieties. Apart from these, some of the other marine animals that inhabit the Sodwana Bay include Large Potato Bass, moray eels, rays, sharks and turtles throughout the year.

More than any of the above mentioned marine life, it is the sharks that draw huge number of tourists and divers again and again to Sodwana Bay. The ragged tooth sharks are what Sodwana Bay is known for. However, Thresher Sharks, Bull Sharks and Hammerheads can also be found here.

Most of the divers prefer diving from the numerous coral reefs that line the Sodwana Bay and are named according to their distance from the Jesser Point which is the launch area. The visibility in all the reefs vary between 20 meters and 40 meters (occasionally) but the diving conditions are exceptionally good in all the reefs. The water temperatures vary between 29 degree Celsius in summer and about 20 degrees during winter. The summer months are December and January while the winter months are June and July.

2 mile reef which is 1.7 kilometers long and about 900 meters wide is the most popular diving site in Sodwana Bay. It is very popular among divers because of the fact that it is the closest reef to the beach. Although there are good dive sites in this region which include The Overhangs, the Caves, The Pinnacles and the Coral Gardens, the Antons is the most famous.

Some of the finest coral varieties such as the mushroom, plate corals and Staghorn can be seen in the five mile reef which is often frequented by most experienced divers. Throughout the five mile reef fish varieties such as the scorpion fish and flounders can also be found.

The other popular site is the seven mile reef which is also known for the wide variety of marine life it displays. The coverage of coral is also exceptionally good in the seven mile reef and marine life such as the turtles and different types of rays can be found in plenty. Seven mile reef contains a lot of mushroom shaped pinnacles and drop-offs that is very inviting for divers of all types.

The nine mile reef is the farthest of all the diving locations in the Sodwana Bay. It is about 40 minutes drive from the coast and is very well known for the “The large Green Tree”, a coral tree which about 2 meters tall off the reef and is usually surrounded by large schools of small fish. The underwater of the nine mile reef is made up of pinnacles, overhangs and caves and the large number of marine life ensures that the diver has a good time.

Very recently, the Sodwana Bay has been rechristened the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park.

3. Diving in the Nungwi

Nungwi is located about 80 kilometers to the north of Dar Es Salaam off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar, north of which lies Nungwi, is one of the undiscovered jewels of the African coast. Though the beaches resemble those of Mauritius and Comores with with white powdery beaches lined with tall cocounut palms, Zanzibar is more suited for an adventurous traveler.

The reefs of the Zanzibar are generally shallow with calm and clean water. The unspoiled corals and the huge variety of marine life have made Zanzibar one of the most superb diving destinations of the world.

4. Diving in the Malawi

In the east of Africa is Lake Malawi, which is an excellent diving destination for both novice divers as well as experienced divers. There are NUAI open water courses for as low as US$120 with Aqua Africa in the Nkata Bay teamed up with ¾ of the worlds tropical fish, crocodiles, hippos and amazing swim throughs, all of these make Malawi a great dive site.

5. Diving in the Mauritius

Caves, Wrecks, Island sites and Shark dives are all available in the Mauritius. Some of the most famous wreck sites include the wreck of the Stella Maru which lies in the North West of Mauritius. The Stella Maru is a Japanese fishing boat lying in the sand at about 25 meters. It is well over 15 years now since the Stella Maru has been buried in the sand in front of the coral reefs.

In the North West Mauritius is the Coral Garden which is full of coral and huge amounts of good fish. It is about 12 to 18 meters deep.

In the North West Mauritius are two barges called the Emilly and Water Lily which are full of colourful fish at about 25 meters deep. It really feels to be great in this site and remember to carry a camera to capture the great scenery underwater.