The dive sites off the coast of Zanzibar are numerous, diverse and suitable for all levels of experience. The most famous is Mnemba Atoll Marine Park, a reserve where fishing is banned to help prevent reef destruction. Marine park fees are paid by everyone and the money goes back to the local community to help the same fishermen who have had to go elsewhere. A new boat has recently been added to its fleet courtesy of marine park fees. Large schools of fish can be seen here and a lot of turtles (the current record is twenty-one turtles on a single dive!)
Next is Leven Banks. Leven Banks is probably one of the most popular and famous dive sites in the far north of Zanzibar, with depths between 18 and 30 meters. This vast diving site with strong currents rises from depths to 14 meters from the surface and is where you are most likely to see large fish. Barracudas, large stingrays and occasional sharks can often be seen passing in the blue. Even if the big fish do not appear, it is still an excellent place with large fan corals, red snapper schools and Moorish idols that float motionless with the currents. A very good dive for advanced divers.
Local reefs are also worth a visit. From a distance of 10 to 45 minutes, it can be easily reached in the morning or in the afternoon, while leaving you all the time necessary to relax on a beach and work on your tan. Some of these reefs are impressive, with a wide variety of corals and many small creatures such as nudibranchs and mantis shrimp hiding in every nook and cranny.
As beautiful as the island of Zanzibar is, there would be no reason to dive here if there was nothing to see. Fortunately, the reefs, sand channels and rock formations of Zanzibar harbour hundreds, if not thousands, of different species of marine life. There are many types of hard and soft corals, sea anemones, sea whips, sea cucumbers and more. Even sandy areas where there are no corals are teaming with life.
Most people will be happy to see something spectacularly large while diving. In Zanzibar, it is likely that you encounter larger animals during dives, especially if you go to Leven Banks or Mnemba. Schools of barracuda are often seen in Leven with Sailfish, Dorado and Wahoo, making it a popular spot for deep-sea fishing. In Mnemba we see dolphins on almost every trip, and if they want to play we jump and swim with them, something they will never forget. Whale sharks migrate beyond Zanzibar twice a year, often outside the reef. Humpback whales arrive at almost the same time and can be seen from the boat as they swim with their calves.
A popular fish from the ocean around Zanzibar is the lionfish. This colourful creature seems to be covered with feathers, but it is used to hide the direction in which the fish seeks to confuse its prey. They are linked to the notorious Stonefish, which hides among the corals and waits for its prey to approach before striking. This hard-to-find fish is so well camouflaged that it is sometimes difficult to spot, even if someone points directly to it. It is easier to find the cousin of the stonefish, the scorpion fish. Still experts at camouflage, but not as invisible as stonefish.