Continental Tanzania contains few spots that are accessible from the coast, but several islands and reefs emerge a few hundred metres from the shore. Near Tanga (particularly the sand bank opposite Bird Island), Pangani (opposite Ushongo Beach) or Dar es Salaam, the capital (Mbudiya Island), represent the best accessible spots during a day trip from the continent.

Red knobbed starfish and clownfish in sea anemone in Jambiani
It is easy to observe red knobbed starfish and clownfish in their sea anemones at Jambiani Beach

But when you love snorkeling and you are in Tanzania, it is difficult not to visit the Zanzibar archipelago. It is made up of three main islands: Mafia, Unjuga – often called “Zanzibar” itself – and Pemba, as well as many small islands and reefs that are mostly uninhabited. The three main islands are between 12 and 30 miles (20 and 50 kilometers) from the continent. The crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches and coral reefs make them the best snorkeling destination in Tanzania without a doubt.

Aerial view of Mnemba Island's coral reef
Aerial view of Mnemba Island’s coral reef

Zanzibar”s coral reefs vary in quality, and you should go to the protected areas (Mnemba Island or Chumbe Island Coral Park) to explore the most spectacular sea beds. Here you will see shoals of blue surgeonfish, lionfish, clownfish in their anemones, giant clams, and if you are lucky, turtles and small whitetip reef sharks. Many tour guides and fishermen organise excursions to see the dolphins (especially in Kizimkazi), but due to the stress of the many boats following them, the dolphins will hurry off to the sea depths as soon as you come anywhere near them in the water.

When to go snorkeling Zanzibar?

The Zanzibar archipelago and the continental coast of Tanzania enjoy an equatorial climate marked by two rainy seasons (generally from March to May and from October to December, but this varies from island to island). So the best periods are from July to September and in January/February. Conditions are extremely varied, however. The wind can sometimes make an entire facade of the islands (east or west) inaccessible, while the other side remains generally sheltered.

The water temperature is very pleasant in Tanzania (it gets up to 85°F/30°C in February/March), and snorkeling is possible all the year round. The water temperature falls during the winter months (72 to 75°F/22 to 24°C from July to September), which means a rashguard may come in handy, particularly when it is windy.

Lastly, you should take the tides into account. On the east coasts of the Zanzibar archipelago, the sea draws back for several miles at low tide. Ask for more information on site or visit the spot with a local fisherman, as there is a real risk of the rising tide taking you by surprise.”‘

In Zanzibar
JANUARY
FEBRUARY
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Warm and humid
Warm and sunny

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Our favorite spots in Tanzania
Mnemba Island
Mnemba Island, 2 miles/3.2km to the north-east of the island of Zanzibar (Unguja), is surrounded by a vast coral reef measuring several miles in diameter. Listed as a marine reserve, it is the most popular snorkeling...

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