Diving Nungwi, Zanzibar

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Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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Country: Tanzania  Area: Tanzania

Water Temp: 23 - 30°C (73 - 86°F)

Visibility: 9 - 30m (30 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 50m (33 - 164 ft)

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Zanzibar is the chosen destination after climbing Kilimanjaro or as end of the trip after a dusty safari. Because of its beautiful beaches and its charming locals, Zanzibar is the right place to rest and enjoy some of the best diving the Indian ocean has to offer.

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From the island’s rich Swahili culture and history, to the spices to the idyllic beach, this island is far more than just a diving destination. Heralded by David Livingstone as the “finest place” in Africa, a visit to Zanzibar is the perfect conclusion to an African adventure. Located near the equator, the island is a year round destination, with a pleasant tropical climate.

Mnemba Atoll with its Marine Conservation Area is a “must go” while in Zanzibar. It is never disappointing, big schools of Grunts, snappers, fusiliers, groupers, trevallies along with all the usual suspects of the Indian ocean reefs: Butterfly fish, Angel fish, Moorish Idols, Banner fish, Squirrels, Loads of moray, blue spotted sting rays and good chances to dive along green turtles.

Hunga Reef, Nungwi, Credit

Dolphins can easily be spotted on the area making the trip there well worth. It is an amazing place for snorkelers to come along their diving friends or relatives. Easy to swim with smooth to none currents makes it perfect for elder people and kids.

Zanzibar and the neighbouring island of Pemba offer some of the best diving opportunities off Africa’s east coast. With diversity in dive sites that range from shallow coral gardens through to deep walls with strong currents, every level of experience is catered for in these waters.

There is a spectacular variety of nudibranchs in these waters, in addition to numerous shrimp, seashorses, and ghost pipefish. Green turtles and Hawksbill have a series of nesting grounds on the surrounding islands, and dolphins are nearly always present in these waters. Night dives off the coast expose divers to Spanish dancers, squids, moray eels, spiny lobsters and octopus. Manta rays, whale sharks and humpback whales migrate through the area seasonally.

Most of the dive operators are based on the island’s northern tip in Nungwi. Wreck dives exist off the coast of Stone Twon and around Kizimkazi.

Coral, Credit

Marine Conservation

Mnemba Marine Conservation Area is trying their best to preserve the surrounding of the island free of fishermen.

Local fishermen are all over the place sometimes with huge nets along with free divers spearing. Zanzibar in general and Nungwi in particular is mainly a fishing community. Developing to tourism in the last few years some fishermen are changing their habits and adapting their boats to bring tourist snorkelling maybe understanding that fish alive are worth more than dead.

No plastic bags are dispensed while you’re shopping in any place in the island so be aware of keeping yours from going into the water.

Catching turtles is banned and anyone found fishing them go straight to jail.

Some villagers set stalls on the most crowed beaches offering beautiful Shells to tourist. Advising how wrong is to purchase those shells by their hotel’s management should be pushed in order to finish with that practice.

Banda Kuu, Zanzibar, Credit

Climate

Zanzibar is an all-year-around destination. It has a tropical climate, with higher levels of rain between the months of March and May. It is worth noting that some lodges do choose to close during this period, given the lower number of tourists.

Annual temperatures range between 28 ºC and 33 ºC, with peak temperatures occurring between the months of November and February. Occasionally the Cais Cais wind blows from the north, providing relief to the otherwise warm weather.

Water temperatures hover between 25 ºC and 28ºC throughout the year.

Busiest periods are from July to September with a lot of European citizens and an increasing number of honeymooners. During October-November a lot of Australians, EEUU, and Canadian citizens pay us a visit. Christmas is always fully booked all over the island.

Information kindly provided by Aquarius Divers 

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Wildlife Calendar

       
                                       
       
       
       
                                 
       
       
                                 
       
       
                   

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Shore Diving

There are a few shore dives off Nungwi, which cater to beginner divers and nigh divers. Here, it is likely you will see lionfish, trumpet fish, and honeycomb moray eels. On night dives, divers often see Spanish Dancers, Octopus, Lobsters and Moray Eels on night dives.

Sea Anemone,Credit

Boat Diving

Mnemba Atoll is a popular day trip for divers and snorkelers alike. The island has three popular dive sites, which cover sandy slopes, dramatic walls and vibrant coral. Green sea turtles are plentiful on the western shores, and larger predatory fish can occasionally be seen from the southern tip. Needless to say that can be only approached by powerful engine’s boats. Big schools of tuna, barracuda, trevally, king fish, big wrasses like Napoleon, big moray eels and large schools of reef fish, turtles and hopefully dolphins and pelagic.

Tumbatu Island to the east of Nungwi also has a number of sites, very popular with macrophotographers. Here, soft corals shelter nudibranchs and leaf fish, while batfish swim past. Frog fish and green sea turtles also frequently swim by.

Fishes drifting, Credit

Leven Bank is an extremely popular advanced dive site. Located 7 miles off shore in the Pemba Channel, this dive site has huge drop offs, strong currents and great visibility. In addition to impressive landscapes and reefs, it is also possible to encounter Hammerhead sharks, White and Black Tip Sharks, Strawberry Grouper, Giant Saddleback Grouper and Moray Eels. This site is rarely crowded given the level of experience required, but is a gem for those able to attempt it.

Several wrecks are located off the coast of Stone Town and Kizimkazi. The Deep Penguin and the Royal Navy Lighter are among the most popular. These areas are home to large numbers of Bluefin Trevally, barracudas, stingrays and moray eels.

Tongue Coral, Credit

Liveaboard Diving

Two companies – Tanzania Yachts and Dive Wild Adventures  operate liveaboards within the Tanzanian section of the Indian Ocean.

Tanzania Yachts boards on the island of Pemba at Wete Town Harbour before carrying on to Zanzibar and concluding the journey in Stone Town. They also run a route that begins in Dar es Salaam and sails towards Mafia Island. This route bypasses the dive sites off of Zanzibar, but is still quite spectacular. Dive Wild Adventures focuses more on the islands and sites in Zanzibar’s immediate vicinity.

Mnemba Atoll is a popular day trip for divers and snorkelers alike. The island has three

popular dive sites, which cover sandy slopes, dramatic walls and vibrant coral. Green sea

turtles are plentiful on the western shores, and larger predatory fish can occasionally be seen

from the southern tip.

Tumbatu Island to the east of Nungwi also has a number of sites, very popular with macro

photographers. Here, soft corals shelter nudibranchs and leaf fish, while batfish swim past.

Frog fish and green sea turtles also frequently swim by.

Leven Bank is an extremely popular advanced dive site. Located 7 miles off shore in the

Pemba Channel, this dive site has huge drop offs, strong currents and great visibility. In

addition to impressive landscapes and reefs, it is also possible to encounter Hammerhead

sharks, White and Black Tip Sharks, Strawberry Grouper, Giant Saddleback Grouper and

Moray Eels. This site is rarely crowded given the level of experience required, but is a gem

for those able to attempt it.

Several wrecks are located off the coast of Stone Town and Kizimkazi. The Deep Penguin

and the Royal Navy Lighter are among the most popular. These areas are home to large

numbers of Bluefin Trevally, barracudas, stingrays and moray eels.

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How to Get There

Zanzibar airport is still small but developing with an annex building to be finish soon (Zanzibar time). Arrivals from most of the main airports in Kenia and Tanzania and a lot of Charter flights from Europe arrive on a daily basis.

Nungwi Sunset, Credit

Please notice that Yellow Fever card will be requested upon arrival along with Visa taxes.

Ferries from and to Dar Es Salam are scheduled all day long and there are some slow ferries connecting Zanzibar with mainland during the night. Usually the last ones are also used as cargo becoming the cheapest option for locals so smell from cargo and big crowds should be expected.

Dala-dala is the cheapest way to move around Zanzibar and by far, the most used one by locals. They are small and old trucks which can squeeze up to 20 pax on their back seats. Break downs or flat tires in the middle of the way are not surprising. If you are for an unforgettable experience, this is it.

Three spot Damsel fish, Credit

Taxis are more expensive than expected due to fuel costs but the best option for a relaxing air conditioned trip. Roads are not in great shape and extreme caution must be carried while driving by  night since locals might be found sitting on the sides of the road.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Nungwi is a small local village where you can find a good variety of low budget accommodation along with fancy hotels and restaurants. As you move away from the town itself, you will walk into increasingly luxury lodges that dot the shoreline.

The town has a strong Italian influence – with most locals speaking some Italian – and as such, pizza and pasta is readily available in addition to seafood. While upscale all-inclusive lodges are increasingly popular in the area, a number of independent and less expensive restaurants continue to exist. Langi Langi is by far the most popular restaurant in town. Owned by an Indian Rastafarian, this restaurant and hotel serves up a great curry and masala. Reservations are required! Otherwise, a walk on the beach will provide no end of stalls serving freshly grilled fish, seasoned with local flavours.

Beach view, Credit

Cholo’s is a popular and very relaxed beachside bar, with plenty of hammocks and decent cocktails. The bar throws a popular beach party every couple of nights as well – check with locals for recent information.

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Activities and diving for Children

Mnemba Atoll Marine Conservation Area is the perfect spot to spend your day with your kids. Diving or snorkelling here is easy for them with no currents, great visibility and shallow waters to start your dive with. Gradually getting deeper making it easy for your kids to adjust to the pressure while descending. Easy site for your first experience as Discover Scuba Diver.

Hammock, Credit

Other Activities

If traveling to Zanzibar with a family, there are a number of activities available. Some Dive Centers, including Scubafish Zanzibar offer both Bubble Maker and Discover Scuba Diving courses. Snorkeling is of course always a popular option in these waters as well. Day trips to Mnemba Atoll Marine Conservation Area will often cater to (and satisfy) both divers and snorkelers in a single group. This is also a great sight for beginner divers, given the shallow starting point, calm waters and great visibility.

Zanzibar more broadly offers a number of family-friendly activities. Outside of Stone Town, much of the activities revolve around the beach and the ocean. Kayaking, snorkeling and sailing on a traditional dhow are all spectacular ways to spend lazy days on the beach. With a number of luxury lodges opening, there are also plenty of spas for an extra touch of relaxation and indulgence. There is also a small sea turtle aquarium in Nungwi.

The boat & the beach, Credit

For those interested in wildlife, the Jozani Forest is the island’s sole national park. Home to the endemic Red Colobus monkey, and several other primates, this tropical rainforest is always a pleasant break from the sun. A spice tour is another way to take a break from the beach.

The island’s capital, Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cobbled labyrinth of streets can entertain the aimless wanderer for days. If interested in history, a number of sites including the Slave Market and the Palace of Wonders, are saturated with the island’s diverse history.

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Insider Tips

While on Nungwi you will meet loads of hand craft artists willing to show you their paintings. Local crafts are colourful and less expensive than in Stone Town. It is always worth to look around if you want to find the right present for those back home. Locals are used to bargain so don’t be afraid to try to push prices down.

Soft coral, Credit

It is worth keeping an eye out for ‘fake Masai’ who frequently walk the beaches outside of Nungwi. While these individuals will sell beautiful beadwork and art, they are not generally authentically Masai. Additionally, a number of ‘beach boys’ will typically try to escort you as you walk along the beach, selling you various crafts and artifacts. Prices do tend to be inflated, and a strong arm for bartering is recommended. If not interested in purchasing, a firm ‘no’ and signs of disinterest should be sufficient.

More broadly, the region is fairly safe and regular precautions for safety and security should be observed. Do not leave belongings unattended on the beach.

Fish shoaling on reef, Credit

Note that Zanzibar is a malaria-zone and appropriate prophylaxis is highly recommended. In  the event of a medical emergency, there is a high quality hospital in Matemwe, approximately 25km from Nungwi. This hospital does have a functioning hyperbaric chamber. There is also a  good hospital in Stone Town.

Zanzibar is a Muslim island, and visitors should remain respectful of local dress and customs. While in the beach towns bathing suits are appropriate, more coverage should be brought if traveling into Stone Town or the villages. It is also worth making note of when Ramadan occurs each year, since there are significant closures on the island during this period.

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Rating 10/10

Turtle Release

Nungwi, Zanzibar20 Feb 2014 - 20 Mar 2014 with Aquarius Divers

On the 20th of February, we had a chance to help the Marani Turtle Conservation Aquarium to release 61 green turtles from babies to grown ups these last ones who were ever catch in fishermen s nets and cured at the aquarium.The whole day was filled with excitement and even the Vice President of Zanzibar made an speech followed by a very entertaining show that brought all the village and visitors altogether.In the afternoon we lend one of our boats to bring the older turtles to two of our reefs where they were happily released and then, sailed to Kendwa beach to release the youngsters in a race from the beach.

Everyone of our guests had a chance to free their own turtle so a lot of smiley faces were to be spotted.

Join us next year!!

In the meanwhile, support the locals efforts to give turtles a chance for survival. Visit the Marani Aquarium, you will love it and the guys will take good care of you.

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Julieta Rodrigues

Good effort guys & gals!

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Aquarius Divers

Thanks to everybody for your comment and support. I managed to fix the pictures upside down. Enjoy them!

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Sienna Mackenzie

:) looks fun!!

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