Best African Dive Sites

November 24th 2019  |   Kenya, Maldives, Malawi, Countries, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar and islands  |  by   Richard Smith
Best African dive sites - reef fish and coral

Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline contains some of the world’s finest coral reefs and offers wonderfully varied diving holidays from the warm tropical waters around northern Mozambique to the cooler seas off South Africa’s Cape coast. Several marine parks and reserves line the coast of Kenya, continuing down to even better diving off Zanzibar and Tanzania’s offshore islands. Mozambique and the Seychelles offer truly world-class dive sites, while Mauritius is a wonderful holiday destination for first time divers. Madagascar’s diving is superb, with all sorts of exciting discoveries to be made, and South Africa offers tropical waters off northern KwaZulu-Natal and cold-water diving – as well as the chance to dive with great whites and whales – off its southern coast. Finally, some of the most rewarding diving is in the freshwater Lake Malawi; with its range of colourful freshwater species and underwater rock formations, it is a revelation to even the most experienced divers.

Tanzania and Zanzibar

The idyllic islands off Tanzania’s coast offer a rich variety of dive sites with plenty of opportunity to spot some of the bigger fish species. Zanzibar’s coral reefs host abundant marine life; there is exciting wall diving off Pemba, and the clear waters around Mafia provide stunning encounters with thousands of tiny tropical fish. In January and February whale sharks migrate around Mafia island providing opportunities to meet the world’s largest fish.

Diving with dolphins at Mnemba Island, Zanzibar

Diving with dolphins at Mnemba Island, Zanzibar


Kenya’s fringing coral reef is protected by five marine parks. Those scattered along the southern coastline provide some spectacular diving with regular sightings of reef sharks, turtles and occasionally dolphins amongst the stunning coral gardens. There are lots of wrecks and strong currents bring in pelagic species. Kenya has lots of PADI diving centres around Mombasa marine park that offer specialist courses for groups and is a great place for diving holidays for single travellers.

Scuba diving from <a href="https://www.aardvarksafaris.co.uk/camp/kinondo-kwetu/">Kinondo Kwetu</a>

Scuba diving from Kinondo Kwetu


Madagascar underwater is similar to Madagascar above ground – full of glorious treasures peculiar to this unique island. There is much left to discover here with previously unknown corals and fish being found among the dazzling reefs and watery habitats. Around the Madagascar coast are found at least 34 types of whale and dolphin, 5 types of turtle, 56 types of shark, 300 hard corals and 1300 species of bony fish.

Spectacular diving around Miavana just off the Madagascar mainland

Spectacular diving around Time + Tide Miavana just off the Madagascar mainland


Made up of over a thousand islands and spread over 90,000 square kilometres, The Maldives offers incredible diving with some of the richest diversity in the region and accounts for 5% of the world’s coral reef area.  Across the country’s 26 atolls, warm crystal clear waters offer divers of all abilities the opportunity to see varied and plentiful marine life, including iconic species such as whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, reef sharks and turtles.  This is not to mention the many corals and smaller fish which can be enjoyed on a dive here.

Whale shark at COMO Maalifushi

Whale shark at COMO Maalifushi

South Africa

Most will have heard about shark diving in cages with the great white sharks off South Africa’s Cape coast at Gansbaai, near the Cape fur seal colony, but South Africa offers so much more than this.

The cooler waters of the Cape to the warmer Indian Ocean, which stretches up the east coast, mean there is something for everyone. For more experienced divers the Greater St Lucia Wetland provides one of the world’s premier dive sites. Once through the surf close to shore you can expect to see loggerhead and leatherback turtles at Thonga Beach Lodge.  In general, the coral and marine life here tends to be different to the more classic dive destinations around the world.

Colourful fish, Thonga Beach Lodge

Colourful fish, Thonga Beach Lodge


The tropical waters and stunning islands off Mozambique’s coastline provide some exceptional underwater viewing with superb drift dives over walls and pristine reefs. The diving around the Bazaruto archipelago, off the southern Mozambique shores, is some of the very best in Africa. Situated in a protected marine conservation area with spectacular coral reefs there is a good chance of seeing turtles, whales, whale sharks, batfish, manatees, rays, moon fish, sunfish, dolphins, Napoleon wrasse and nudibranchs. Both Benguerra Island Lodge and Azura Benguerra offer superb scuba diving with expert guides and instructors.

Diving in the marine park off Benguerra Island, Bengurra Island Lodge

Diving in the marine park off Benguerra Island, Bengurra Island Lodge


Bountiful coral reefs and gardens, and plenty of marine life make the Seychelles a great destination for beginners and experienced divers alike. Visitors can expect to see green sea turtles, reef fish, and several shark species. Being on the Indian Ocean Bank you also get all the pelagic fish including tuna and barracuda. Diving around the outer islands offers the chance to investigate steep walls and underwater canyons, several wrecks to explore, while the inner islands have both coral and granite reefs – which take on amazing form under the water. The Seychelles is also a fantastic place for family diving holidays, with resorts offering diving courses for those with teenagers.

Colourful fish and coral in the Seychelles, Alphonse Island

Colourful fish and coral in the Seychelles, Alphonse Island


The coral reef that extends almost the entire way around the island ensures excellent protected water for scuba divers, making Mauritius perfect for the holiday/recreational diver. The many dive sites around Mauritius include cliffs, caverns, reefs, pinnacles and wrecks. Among the exotic fish found among the corals, sponges and sea anemones are parrot fish, angelfish, trumpet and anenome fish. Mauritius is a great place for experienced divers but also for beginners or new/junior divers wanting to try the sport for the first time. Mauritius is a great place for family diving holidays, the water is warm (23-28 C) and visibility is good and PADI courses are available.

Excellent diving in the warm, calm seas around Mauritius, Le Paradis

Excellent diving in the warm, calm seas around Mauritius, Le Paradis


The crystal clear and fresh waters of Lake Malawi are home to millions of spectacularly colourful cichlid fish. Dive sites here have been likened to exploring a giant aquarium, with 75 of the world’s freshwater tropical fish and amazing swim throughs.  The lake provides ideal conditions for both beginner and experienced divers.

Crystal clear waters in Lake Malawi, ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving. Kaya Mawa

Crystal clear waters in Lake Malawi, ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving, Kaya Mawa

Talk to us about the best African dive sites

The majority of the diving in Africa is boat based although we can recommend a smaller number of shore entry dive sites. All these waters can be explored to a limited extent with a simple mask and snorkel, and all the lodges we feature have the equipment on hand to let you explore at your own pace. Remember to check your insurance policy to include diving to the depth you intend to go down and take your log book and diving identity card (PADI/BSAC) in your hand luggage. If you would like to learn to dive there are several resorts with PADI certification that offer holiday diving courses for beginners, or if you are interested in combining diving with a safari holiday we can create a tailored itinerary to offer the best locations for the season you wish to travel. We can recommend the best accommodation with access to the most exclusive reefs.

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