Africa is so much more than a safari destination. It is a continent surrounded by extensive oceans and reefs from the warm Swahili coast of East Africa to the cold kelp forests of Cape Town. There are some impressive places to snorkel and dive, getting you close to a diversity of marine species, ship wrecks and colourful reefs. In this blog, we share with you our favourite diving in Africa sites. Don’t worry, if you’re not a diver, many are ideal for snorkelling too.
Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
Aliwal Shoal is an ancient fossilised sand dune reef that sits around five kilometres off the coast of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal.
This creates an area with huge swim throughs, overhangs and ledges and divers can see all sorts of marine species like rays, dolphins, turtles, sharks and whales. It’s famous for its sharks – tigers, rggies, oceanic blacktops, whitecaps and more! Conditions can be rough and waters cold, so it’s not for the faint hearted.
The sardine run, South Africa
The sardine run is an exceptional marine life spectacle between May and July when billions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and move northward along the east coast of South Africa. Little is known of this phenomenon but researchers say in terms of biomass, the sardine run could rival East Africa’s great wildebeest migration. It is certainly one of the largest marine-life migrations on earth. Masses of sardines attract predators like larger fish, sharks, whales and even marine birds like Cape Gannets join in the feast.
Sardines create bait balls and the dolphins sometimes blow bubbles to concentrate the fish in a smaller space making for a more condensed buffet before launching an attack.
As any diver knows, you cannot know for certain when and where is the best spot to see marine life. Some days, divers can spend more than 8 hours out on the water, hoping to find a bait ball of sardines before diving in. That said, the last few years have been really active meaning increased chances for some fantastic underwater action.
Red Sea, Sudan
Think of Sudan and you probably think of sandy deserts, but there’s actually some incredible diving on the country’s Red Sea coast, at sites that are uncrowded and pristine. Here, you can swim among vibrant coral gardens and schools of colourful reef fish, as well as manta rays, dolphins, sharks, humpback and pilot whales, turtles.
Read more on our Sudan page here.
The Blue Hole, Egypt
The Blue Hole is a sensational diving location on the southeast Sinai, just a few kilometres north of Dahab. It’s actually a sinkhole, some 120 metres deep with a nickname of the “divers’ cemetery.” Below 56 metres, the sea wall stops, revealing a cavernous, 26 metre long tunnel from the Blue Hole to the open ocean. Those who then descend 100 metres are faced with a 50 metre high opening to the Red Sea. It’s spectacular and like an underwater cathedral. It’s a challenge for divers like Kilimanjaro is to hikers. You don’t have to dive all the way down though, it’s marine life is abundant closer to the surface and it’s a wonderful snorkelling spot.
Mozambique is a Mecca for divers and it’s famous for whale sharks, humpbacks and manta rays. Located on Africa’s southeast coast, there’s over 2000 kilometres of coastline bathed by the southerly flowing Aghulhas current. To the north sits the Quirimbas Archipelago, home to the Primeiras and Segundas Marine Protected Area. It’s home to a rich coral reef and mangrove forests while to the south sits the Maputo Protection Area. It spans the coast from Ponta de Our to the Maputo River and is a haven for offshore reef ecosystems and marine turtles. Off Praia do Too, Inhambane is the famous “whale shark alley”, a plankton rich current fed corridor that attracts the giant whale sharks all year round. This alone should put the magical Mozambique on your dive site Bucketlist.
Tanzania is home to such a safari experience and also a marine paradise. That’s why it has made it to our diving in Africa list. Tanzania is bounded on all sides by water – the Indian Ocean to the east and the great Rift Valley lakes on all other sides. Diving opportunities abound from shore diving, boat diving, lake diving and of course tropical spice islands awaits.
Pemba Island is the country’s northernmost Indian Ocean island. Its waters are a Mecca for marine life with coral-choked walls, colourful reefs and an impressive array of reef fish. There are several dive sites and North Horn is known for its sharks.
Mafia Island is where divers go between October and March for the chance to swim with whale sharks.
Zanzibar’s Mnemba Atoll teems with fish and offers divers the chance to experience drift and wall diving always with decent visibility.