Tanzania created and maintains many marine parks and reserves which should secure a healthy future for the marine fauna and flora of the coast and surrounding islands. The results of these conservation efforts can be witnessed eveywhere below the surface. The recent catches of some coelacanth specimens might provide divers to encounter these fishes off the coast of Kigombe village, north eastern region (Tanga). The remote Mnazi Bay Marine Park, not far from the Mozambique border, boasst some of the finest diving including spectacular walls and outer reef drop-offs. 10 km off shore the Maziwe Island Marine Reserve provides you with the opportunity to see some blue holes in the reef flat reaching a diameter of 25 to 35m. The Mafia Island Marine Park is the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean. The diversity of its coral reef is amongst the highest recorded in the western Indian Ocean. Over 500 species of fish and hard coral have been identified so far and there is certainly more to come. The island is increasingly renowned internationally as a critical site for biodiversity. Chumbe island and Mnemba Atoll and Zanzibar are protected and monitored areas.
Wide variety of diving can be found in Tanzania, including gentle reef slopes, beautiful coral gardens, walls, caverns, small blue holes. Drift diving everywhere on the coast and the islands, with some of the most rewarding and exhilarating dives in Pemba, recommended for the more experienced divers (strong up and down currents). Night dives in the lagoons. Wrecks for all levels, among which the 400 years old skeleton ofa trading ship.
Big marine life includes pelagics such as jacks, schools of yellowfin tuna, wahoo, swimming side by side with Malabar, Potato and Honeycomb groupers, Hawksbill and green turtles, shoals of blueline and red snappers. Fusiliers and Rainbow Runners abound in the blue waters, southern Stingrays and eagle rays cruise the edge of the reef along with many species of sharks. Great Barracuda, large Napoleon wrasses, big moray eels and large schools of reef fish play in the shallow depth. Camouflaged Scorpion and Crocodile fish can be spotted hidden amongst the soft and hard coral (brain, rose, staghorn); Multicolor sponges offer food and shelter to lots of crabs, shrimps nudibranch and flat worms. Guitar sharks, blue spotted stingrays, ribbon eels, fire dartfish and leaf-fish prefer the softness of the sandy patches. For amateurs of very big size: Manta rays, Humpback whales and whale sharks come twice a year. The luckiest will even be able to see dolphins during a dive.
Tanga region shares with South Africa the exclusive opportunity to encounter the famous Latimeria chalumnae, or Coelacanth. Another discreet species, the Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are known to migrate along the coast of Zanzibar. Between October and March the chances are extremely high to see whale sharks around Mafia, and from june-september the seasonal Manta rays.
Around Dar el salaam "Ferns Wall" is a must, as well as "Fungu Yasin Reeff", for its gorgonian fans, giant whip corals and barrel sponges. Don't miss "Mwamba" a coral paradise (Rose, Brain, Plate corals) and "Big T" reef for the experienced diver. On the north east, in Zanzibar, don't miss the reefs surrounding Mnemba Atoll, in particular "Leven bank", a pinnacle few miles off Nungwi; and also the shallow dives around Tumbatu island. From Stone town go to Boribu Reef, Turtles Den and Morogo Reef. Interesting to dive is also Chumbe island in the south. Pemba island is severed from the African continental shelf by sheer coral walls that drop down to over 300 meters. It has some of the most spectacular dive sites, among them: "Njau Gap", "Fundhu Gap", "Manta Point", "Swiss Reef", the "Chiles Wall" and "Attaturks Wall" off Mesali Island. In Mafia, the "Kinasi pass" and "Kinasi wall", the "Changani wall" off Chole Bay.
The dive centers are usually located right on the beach or few meters away. Some of them are part of the resort facilities but anybody can walk in and book for a dive. All certification patents are recognized, and qualified Instructors or Divemasters lead all dives. Diving can be done all year-round, but during the rains or strong winds (as anywhere else), schedules might be modified.
Dive courses and fun dives are offered at many of the dive shops and lodges, and some sites offer the possibility to combine diving and snorkeling. Equipment is easily rented from dive shops and lodges. Nitrox is available in the biggest centers. Live aboard is an option for touring the islands.
For those interested in diving in the Tanganyika lake, the dive centre offering diving in the lake is based in Kipili. When planning to dive in remote areas, it is preferable to check with the dive operator for availability and conditions prior to your trip.
The coast has a tropical climate: pretty hot, sunny and humid all year round with temperatures averaging between 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F). There are however 4 distinct seasons: the coolest months occur during the northern hemisphere’s summer. From June to October temperatures range from around 10°C (50°F) in the northern highlands to about 23°C (73°F) on the coast. The temperature in the islands is in general terms 25°C (77°F). From December to March the days are hot and sunny with often not a cloud in the sky, and water temperature reaches its peak, around 29°C(84°F). Clear sunny days are the norm in the northern highlands and the central plains.
In between these two main seasons the rain falls: heavily in mid-March to May, with a number of hotels and resorts closing. It can also affect the underwater visibility. And short showers strike in November. They usually occur in the mornings and late afternoons. The change of winds that mark the beginning of each rainy season used to set the time of departure for trading boats across the Indian Ocean.
When diving on the northeast coast off the mainland you may hear or see the damages caused by dynamite fishing. The practice has officially been strictly forbidden, but unfortunately some isolated infractors are still using this destructive method.
(By Diane Talbotier)
The largest country in East Africa, Tanzania is perched on the edge of the continent, is cut across by the Great Rift valley, and it faces the Indian Ocean. Born from the union of TANganyika and ZANzibar the country comprises both the mainland and the Zanzibar Archipelago. You won't find a higher peak than its Mount Kilimanjaro, nor a lower point than in its Lake Tanganyika in all Africa, and if you still want more, Tanzania offers you the Lake Victoria as well, the largest on the continent! Home to many world famous National parks and game reserves, it has also over 800km of gleaming coastline with magnificent palm fringed beaches and beautiful coral reefs. Yet, despite its six World Heritage sites and other attractions, Tanzania has managed to avoid an over-exploitation of its sceneries and an excessive touristic development. This, added to the fact that the country has remained enviably untouched by the tribal rivalries and political upheavals experienced by its neighbours, makes the destination an ideal choice for both first-time and Africa regular visitors.
The country can be divided into three main regions: the highlands, the inland plateau and maybe the most interesting for divers, the coast that can be divided into two distinct travel regions: the mainland coast and The Zanzibar archipelago.
The mainland coast has a unique culture and friendly people. The eye-catching landscape, where sun drenched beaches contrast with the rising mountains and the lush green vegetation doesn't appear in many tourist brochures but is a perfect off-the-beaten-track destination for adventurers and honeymooners. Most of the mainland coast is in fact a place of untouched beauty and enchantment, the only exception being the bustling hub Dar El Salaam. The city isn't an obvious choice for calm and serene holidays, but is the main port on the Swahili coast, and historical and cultural city.
The Zanzibar Archipelago is a cluster of islands including Zanzibar (Unguja), Pemba, Mafia and many smaller inlets. Throughout the archipelago, deserted islands and sandbar beckons abound. Slave caves, remnants of colonial architecture and ruins of sultan's palaces stand in the silence. Spice plantations and baobabs scatter the land.
Zanzibar, the largest and most famous island, is as well the most developed. Pemba is more secretive, hilly geography and giant mango trees hide villages living the Swahili way of life, almost oblivious to the world around them. On the islands of Mafia fishermen follow the rythm of the gentle seas. Chill-out atmosphere and amazing diving are the common denominator of these otherwise so different islands.
These days there are many ways to travel to Tanzania.The fastest and most reliable is by plane: international flights land daily on the main tanzanian world-class airports Dodoma far inland, and Dar El Salaam on the coast. You can fly directly to Zanzibar, and many other airports are located around the country, and are linked by regional companies -it takes less than 30 minutes between islands.
If you want to experience the slower pace of the overland railways, the Tazara allows you to arrive by train all the way from Zambia on a 3 days journey. The Central Line train runs accros the bush from Kigoma to Dar. Roads are easy to navigate on the mainland but somewhat less well-maintained on the slands. As in other african countries shared taxis are also a good travel possibility: usually 9 seater vans take you wherever you need at hair rising speed. They are cheap and leave only when full -a great experience recommanded only to the most adventurous and with light luggage!
Ships and passenger liners stop frequently at the ports. Ferry companies ply the waters between mainland and the archipelago.(Dar-Stone Town in Zanzibar- Mkoani in Pemba or Tanga- Wete).
Whether you’re travelling independently or with a tour operator, be sure to book your ticket well in advance and make sure your return flights are confirmed. Travel agents in major cities can assist you in making any last-minute changes to your itinerary and flights.
Self catering units, inexpensive dorms in guesthouses, private beach houses, or eco-friendly tented camps are some of the many accomodation options you'll find in Tanzania. You will also find a great range of bed & breakfasts,lodges, boutique-hotels and beach resorts.
Tanzania is famous worldwide for its photo safaris. Follow the Great Wildebeest Migration, with millions of animals migrating across the plains of the Serengeti, spend your holidays in a tented camp of a private and exclusive game reserve, tracking chimps on foot in the Mahale Mountains, or go bird watching in the mangroves. Interact with the Maasai communities; ascend the Mount Kilimanjaro or dive the Lake Tanganyika and when you cannot resist the call of the ocean anymore, go to the east, on the Swahili coast, where lie the magnificent islands of the Zanzibar archipelago. The white sand beaches lined by palm trees provide you the freshening breeze after a relaxing swim. Sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and diving are some of the many water-based activities you will be able to enjoy in this terrestrial paradise. Zanzibar and its less frequented sisters, Pemba and Mafia, are home to incredible and various marine life.
(By Diane Talbotier)