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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 spot in Zanzibar. Moorish idols, blue tang and clownfish are easy to see in a few feet of water, above a colorful, well-preserved reef.
You reach Mnemba Island by boat, mainly from Nungwi, which is a 1h30 drive from Stone Town. It takes about twenty minutes to reach the snorkeling spot from Nungwi. Mnemba Island is a privately owned island with access restricted to guests of the luxurious &Beyond Mnemba Island. Tour guides will drop you off directly at the reef, which lies a few hundred yards from the small island.
Full-day tours (approx. 9am to 3pm) generally include a single snorkeling stop at Mnemba, as well as a lunch break on a nearby beach and a chance to spot dolphins. You will have no trouble booking an excursion on the island. The price is about $60 per person, all inclusive.
You enter the water from the boat: follow your guide’s instructions.
Mnemba Island is surrounded by an oval reef measuring several miles in diameter, and which is called by some (mistakenly) Mnemba Atoll. Most tour guides will drop you off in the area near the island, famous for its sea beds.
The depth of the water is the same in all the reef area (↕6-16ft/2-4m). You will find yourself above a reef of varying quality (some areas are wonderfully preserved, while others seem damaged by the area’s high visitor numbers). The reef is protected and fishing is forbidden, so the density of fish here is higher than in many other places in Zanzibar. In turn you will come across shoals of dozens of Moorish idols, snappers, clownfish in their anemones and a host of other species. On the sea bed, look our for blue starfish, red-knobbed starfish or the fearsome crown-of-thorns starfish, a poisonous, coral-eating species. Green turtles can occasionally be seen at this spot, since they go to the island’s beaches to lay their eggs at certain times of year.
Access to Mnemba Island is strictly reserved to guests at the hotel. If you set foot on the beach, you run the risk of paying a large fine. In any case, the island coast guards will warn you if you go within 200 meters of the shore.
This is the most popular snorkeling spot in Zanzibar and dozens of boats go there each day. Watch out for other snorkelers and swimmers when you are in the water.
The only accommodation on the island is the highly luxurious &Beyond Mnemba Island. Unless you are ready to spend $1,000 per person per night to stay there (and set foot on the beach), you will have to do with a day’s excursion to reach the island. Tours generally include meals and drinks: ask your tour guide for details.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Sand bank edged by a coral reef
Small islets fringed by a vibrant coral reef
Reef drop off and sea turtles
Marine reserve with a vibrant reef drop off and many sea turtles
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