When thinking of Africa, the first thing that usually comes to mind is going on safari. While giraffes, lions and zebras are the animals typically associated with the African landscape, there is actually plenty to see below the surface too. The coastline of the country is full of opportunities for divers to get under water and see the network of life that resides below. If you are interested in visiting Africa to see more than just the safari animals, here are some of the best diving sites to explore.
Azura Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Positioned quite close to the reefs, access to this dive site in Mozambique is quick and easy. With a variety of coral and fish, it is one of the best places to dive around Africa’s east coast. Divers here can get a glimpse of humpback whales, manta rays, whale sharks, hawksbill and green turtles, stingrays, reef sharks, grouper, clown fish, parrot fish, and puffers.
Sha’ab Rumi South, Sudan
Located about 26 miles from Sudan’s port, this dive site is one of the most famous in the world. Boats will take you out to a stunning lagoon that acts as a shelter for the vessels from the wind. The south plateau section of this dive site is the most renowned as it runs north-west following the dive and northeast along the wall. Divers here may encounter hammerhead sharks, barracuda, bottlenose and spinner dolphins and pelagic fish. You may get lucky enough to see the sharks feeding on red snapper, and groupers, making for a great underwater photo shoot. This dive site is located in the Red Sea and was once the stomping grounds of Jacques Cousteau who once observed sharks from his cage in this area.
The site is named after the Umbria vessel that hailed from Germany and sank in the Sudanese waters during the 1940s. The boat was sunk due to conflicts over its cargo and now serves as one of the best dive sites around Africa. Situated by Wingate Reef, the boat lies on its portside as the stern rests at 30m on the sand. Soft and hard corals have grown all throughout the structure even though the ship is almost completely intact. The anchors of the ship can be found at 200m and the main mast which had broken off, can now be seen on the floor of the sea. Divers can go through the hull as well as the cargo holds to see detonators, aerial bombs, electrical cables, wooden boxes and the Fiat 1100 Lunga motorcars as well. Explorers of the ship will also get the chance to see butterfly fish, spiny fish, and barracudas.
Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
One of the top sites in South Africa, Aliwal Shoal brings in a huge variety of marine life. Divers here can spot moray eels, humpback whales, dolphin schools, sea turtles, manta rays and sometimes sharks. Located 5 km off the coast, the site is made up of rocky coral reef that are what’s left from an ancient sand dune that once stood there. The reef is made up of hard and soft coral as well as tropical and non-tropical fish. It was named after a vessel that sunk close by during the 1800s. Located close to this site are two sunken vessels, a Norwegian bulk carrier and the SS Nebo which are open for diving. Divers who visit between August and November have a high chance of seeing the Grey Nurse Sharks who visit the area to mate.
Pemba Island, Zanzibar
Zanzibar is renowned for the excellent dive sites offered all around the island. Many of the reefs are untouched, visibility here is about 30-40 meters and the water temperature is around 26 degrees Celsius on average. There are multiple dive sites to explore such as the Swiss Reef, Shimba Hills, Shimba Wall, The Edge, Pole Pole Mountain, Njao Gap and Fundo Gap. The latter two are some of the most visited as they have unique features and plenty of marine life. Visit Njao Gap for coral gardens, mountains, and sheer wall faces. You will also be able to see green turtles, white tip reef sharks and the dog tooth tuna. Divers also like to visit Fundo Gap for the clear visibility, coral formations, strong currents, anemone cities, barracuda and eagle rays.
Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar
Surrounding Mnemba Island are stunning coral reefs that have been deemed a Marine Conservation area. The region is popular for diving because of the coral ecosystem as well as larger species such as dolphins and turtles. The whole area is comprised of specific habitats which house the nestling place for turtles, humpback whales, dolphins, resident and migratory birds and around 600 species of coral based fish.
SS Thistlegorm, Egypt
This British made Merchant Navy vessel was built in 1940 and sunk in the Red Sea about a year later. Due to the explosion of a bomb, the ship met its watery end but was later discovered by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1950s. While the wreck was mostly forgotten about after Cousteau’s discovery, it started to be visited by recreational divers in the early 1990s. Because of the way the bomb exploded, the ship offers an easy entry for divers and sits around 30m. Divers especially enjoy coming here because of the cargo that can still be seen. There are boots, rifles, trucks, motorcycles and amored vehicles that can be seen while swimming through the ship. Aside from the inner-workings of the vessel, divers can see tuna, barracuda, lionfish, moray eel, sea turtles and stonefish.
Located in the Red Sea, Big Brother is the matching dive site to Little Brother. It’s characterised by its thriving fish population where sweepers, glassfish and anthias can be seen in abundance. The site has plunging walls and plenty of soft coral that covers the area. Sharks are one of the main attractions here and divers can see hammerheads, white tip reef sharks and oceanic white tips. Thresher sharks can also be seen if divers make their way to the site around fall and winter during dawn. The site is also home to two shipwrecks, the Numidia and the Aida. Starting with the Numidia wreck and working your way around the site is highly recommended but make sure to take plenty of time to see it all because there is a lot.
The Great Sardine Run, South Africa
Every year during June, huge shoals of sardines travel up the coast of South Africa towards Mozambique. There are millions of them so strong and fast that they resemble an underwater version of a stampeding herd of buffalo. Head out to the town of Umkomaas, gear up and head out to watch the spectacle from there. Not only will you get to see the sardines frantically making their way to Mozambique, but you will also witness the hungry sharks, game fish and dolphins that are hoping to catch them. It’s a feeding frenzy and a great spectacle of nature.
Pinnacles, Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique
This reef is a deep one and most well known for seeing hammerhead and Zambezi sharks. The thick coral structures are home to reef fish, eels and a whole variety of game fish. There are potato bass and manta rays that typically hang around these parts as well due to the strong current which offers them plenty of food. The summer is one of the best times to visit as it’s an oasis for animals trying to feed. There are around 19 species of sharks that wander through this area making it a prime place for divers and researchers to explore and better understand.
Edge of Reason, Medjumbe Island, Mozambique
As you may have guessed from the name, this dive site features a significant drop off that barrels down to 2750 feet. There are caverns and overhangs that stretch 70 to 100 feet as well, making this dive site a little unnerving for beginners. Plenty of animals reside here so divers can look forward to witnessing grouper, humphead wrasse, snappers, unicorn fish, and reef sharks too. A dive here will be surrounded with small caves and gorgonian fans that make the whole experience seem like a dream in another universe.
Located right at the mouth of the Aqaba Gulf, the straits form a tight space which ends up being perfect for divers. The strong currents bring in plenty of marine life that are looking to dine, offering quite a spectacle for divers. There are barracudas, moray eels, sharks and anthias prowling through the reef formations almost constantly. However, the straits are not the only area around this region that are good for diving. It also extends into Ras Mohamed National Park, the very first one to be established in Egypt. This region is made up of the mixed waters between the Aqaba Gulf and the Gulf of Suez. Because of the mix, there are tons of healthy coral and associated fish, of which the Yolanda and Shark reefs are most popular.
Gansbaai, South Africa
Located just east of Cape Town, this dive site is most famous for its shark dives. Due to its close proximity to fur seal colonies and African penguins, it has become a popular place for sharks to gather and feed. The most popular shark to encounter here is the Great White and there are plenty of dive companies that offer a shark cage experience. It’s one of the top things to do in the area and is recommended even for beginners.
Taba, Farun Island, Egypt
This dive site is located in the northern area of the Aqaba Gulf and is well known for its varying degree of marine life, especially the unique frogfish. The site is also characterized by pinnacles and walls that drop to 80 feet. After the drop, there is plenty of colorful coral, schools of batfish, turtles and moray eels.
Hurghada, Giftun Island, Egypt
It’s technically a marine reserve offering various dive sites that are known for their steep drops, tuna and barracuda sightings and healthy reefs of coral. All of the ledges and caverns are filled with gorgonians and other varieties of marine life that leave them looking decorated just for diving visitors. There are a couple of nearby shipwrecks to explore as well as high possibilities for dolphin sightings too.
This dive site is most famous for its manta ray cleaning stations. The decent is into about 80 feet of water into what looks like an underwater theater. There are multiple cleaning spots where the manta rays will stop to be cleaned by butterflyfish and goldies, allowing you to watch from underneath. Divers can get unusually close to the mantas, allowing them to observe the animals much more closely than other dive site options. The maximum depth here is only about 30m and visibility in the region is around 20m. Aside from the cleaning, there are plenty of other fish so divers can get a look at potato bass, scorpion fish, parrotfish, guitarfish and snapper.
Sodwana Bay, South Africa
The walls of this dive site are known to create a vortex that attracts a huge amount of marine life. Sandstone is typically the base in these areas which is conducive to flat and low pinnacles, gullies and shallow drops. There are over a thousand species of fish living amongst the coral which is almost as much as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Divers here can see sharks, turtles, and manta rays as well. Multiple dive sites fill the area so make sure to check a few of them out instead of just sticking to one. Try the Deep Sponge dive where you can see huge vase-like sponge structures or the Coral Gardens where both hard and soft, colorful coral grows like wildflowers. Check out Arches, a site full of ledges and boulders in all sorts of shapes and sizes or Simon’s Cave to look for white tipped sharks.