Tanzania’s Marine Life: Snorkelling and Diving in the Mafia Island Marine Park
Introduction to Tanzania’s Marine Life
Tanzania has longed been famed for its wildlife – from the big cats roaming the wilds of Ruaha to the Great Wildebeest Migration of the Serengeti, there has never been a shortage of wild spectacles to marvel at. Often overlooked, however, is the incredible array of Marine life lying just off the coast. The crystal clear waters of Zanzibar offer superb snorkelling on a number of reefs. Whether a snorkeller, a beginner diver or someone with a lot of experience under the water this area offers something great.
The crowning glory in Tanzania’s marine crown is The Mafia Island Marine Park, more specifically potentially the best place in the world to see and swim with the magnificent whale shark.
The Mafia Island Marine Park: A Guide
Mafia is a small island South of Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam and easily reached on a short, small plane flight from either in around 30 minutes. A unique ecosystem here, created by the way the Delta of the Rufiji River merges into the Indian Ocean has created a perfect feeding ground for Whale sharks. A gentle giant growing to around 50 feet in length, the whale shark is the largest fish in the Sea, but swimming with them is perfectly safe and a completely unique experience.
The best time to see and swim with whale sharks here is between October and March – when often they can be seen every day for weeks on end. We would recommend staying on Mafia Island for around 4 nights, generally combining some time here with a safari and/or some beach time relaxing on Zanzibar.
The best places to stay on Mafia are Kinasi, from about $200 per person per night, and Pole Pole at about $220 per person per night. For a brilliant Eco Lodge check out Chole Mjini from about $250 per person per night.
Best Spots for Snorkelling and Diving
• Zanzibar – the Mnemba reef on the North East of the Island is the standout snorkelling and diving destination here. Stay on the sensational Mnemba Island itself (a tiny private island just off the coast of Zanzibar) from around $1,700 per person per night or go for a slightly more modest but also brilliant lodge on the main island such as Zuri from about $400 per person per night or Zoi from $200 per person per night.
• Fanjove – a real favourite of ours. Fanjove is a seriously small and remote island located to the South of Mafia Island and reached from there by small plane and then boat. There are just 7 beautiful bandas spread across the island, giving it a real private island feel without the price tag (prices from $800 per person per night). Snorkelling just off the beach is good but jump on a boat out to the reef for epic snorkelling and diving.
• Pemba – another snorkelling and diving mecca. An undervisited paradise North of Zanzibar with an array of reefs and marine life. The Manta Resort, from about $600 per person per night, is a great place to stay, as is Fundu Lagoon which starts at around $500 per person per night.