Diving in Mafia Island Marine Park vs Zanzibar

Posted on Fri May 3, 2019 in Diving in Mafia Island Marine Park vs Zanzibar.

The warm, clear, tropical waters surrounding Mafia Island on the coast of Tanzania offer both new and master divers a memorable scuba diving experience. In fact, rumour has it that the best diving in Africa is found in the Mafia Island Marine Park. Some divers even claim it is better than diving the Great Barrier Reef! Still, when choosing a diving destination, many divers are unaware of this and instead flock in their numbers to a diving experience in the more well-known waters of Zanzibar.

Here are just a few key things to consider when choosing between Zanzibar and Mafia Island for your next diving trip:

Diving group sizes

Zanzibar is the most popular and the most easily accessible of the Tanzania Islands. This popularity is sometimes a reason not to go to the island. With divers all wanting to experience the coral reefs and marine life in this area, the diving experiences on Zanzibar island can be oversubscribed and overbooked.

During peak season in Zanzibar, several boats may carry up to 20 divers at a time. This is opposed to the experience of diving at Mafia Island, where the groups are as small as three to five people at most, plus a guide. In Mafia, the smaller groups mean you can have a bespoke,  far more relaxed and unique diving experience away from the hordes of other divers.


Marine life

Mafia Island and Archipelago is widely acknowledged as one of the best diving spots in Africa. With over 50 types of corals and 400 species of fish, the diversity of animal and plant life is hard to match. Diving in Zanzibar pales in comparison to diving at Mafia Island.

At Mafia, you can expect many species of fish, a high diversity of other sea life as well as unbleached coral reefs in excellent condition. Schools of barracuda, rays, turtles and large predatory fish can often be seen on the dive. These include sharks like white tip sharks, guitar sharks and whale sharks.

However, when diving at Zanzibar, the larger schools of fish and sharks are not seen and the coral reefs are not as vibrant as those found in the Mafia Island Marine Park. All in all, a much paler experience at Zanzibar. 

Diving Conditions

Mafia truly is a diver’s dream; the marine park offers everything from challenging dive walls to secluded reef in Chole bay - all at the depth of less than 30m. Chole Bay, which is located in the Marine Park, has numerous excellent dive sites within the Bay.  This ensures easy access to dive spots and guaranteed diving in almost any weather.

On the other hand, divers at Zanzibar need to travel north of the island towards Leven Banks, a dive site recommended only for master divers who can cope with the strong currents, to experience diving similar to that associated with Mafia Island Marine Park. The East Coast of Zanzibar provides calmer waters for less experienced divers, but less diversity and marine life and a far less satisfying experience!

Mafia Island Marine Park vs Zanzibar – the ruling is out

Whether you’re an advanced diver or you’re entirely new to the idea, the abundant and protected reefs of Mafia Island Marine Park and Chole Bay will not disappoint. Mafia is a clear winner over Zanzibar for a diving holiday.

Now that we have that settled, we invite you to come and spend balmy island nights in our semi open-air treehouses!  We are in the heart of the Marine Park and on the way to all of the dive sites. You can look forward to excellent diving days in the warm tropical waters of the largest marine park in East Africa and spend your nights high up in a treehouse looking out at the star spangled sky over Chole Bay.

Book your diving holiday accommodation now!