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With its expansive beach and vast array of hotels and restaurants, Pingwe is one of the main tourist destinations on the east coast of Zanzibar. On the reef flat that stretches along the coast, sheltered by a coral reef, snorkelers can discover a fascinating sea life. If the seabed, made of small coral heads, is not really eye-catching, it is home to many species of fish and invertebrates, including starfish, lionfish, snake eels and clownfish.

Saddled pufferfish and giant clam
A Valentinni’s sharpnose puffer sheltering near a giant clam. Also note the small starfish at the foot of the clam.

How to get to Pingwe Beach snorkeling spot?

Pingwe is a village located on the Michamvi Peninsula, on the east coast of Zanzibar. From Stone Town and the international airport, it takes about 1h30 by road (60 km) to reach the beach. Once on the beach, which has public access, walk up to Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa.

Pingwe Beach snorkeling map, Zanzibar

Water entrance for snorkeling Pingwe Beach

It is recommended to enter the water from the long concrete platform located in front of the Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa (see map). It allows reaching areas with sufficient depth to snorkel (particularly at low tide) while avoiding the many sea urchins present on the reef flat. Be careful though because this platform is very slippery.

It is recommended to explore this spot at low tide, ideally 1 or 2 hours before slack water. This period offers the best snorkeling conditions: you can get into the water closer to the reef, and the water is shallower, which makes the observation of the underwater life from the surface easier.

It is also at low tide that the underwater visibility is at its maximum, and the sea is the calmest. Avoid snorkeling after 12, as there is dense boats and jet skis traffic in the area, sometimes at high speed and close to shore.

Pingwe Beach snorkeling exploration tips

The recommended snorkeling area extends in front of the northern part of Pingwe Beach, mainly in front of Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa. It includes the reef areas that begin about 300-350m from the beach, as well as the surroundings of the sandbank (see map), where seagrass beds are found.

Fish around Karaafu concrete platform
Fish use to gather near Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa concrete platform.

Once in the water, first explore the surroundings of the concrete platform. An abundance of small fish can be seen there in a few dozen centimeters of water.

Damselfish, small groupers, snappers, six-lined soapfish, but also juvenile semicircle angelfish or small moray appreciate the hiding places offered by the concrete blocks.

Fire urchin in Pingwe
A fire urchin in the seagrass beds. This species is quite venomous, do not touch them.

Then reach the reef areas. Here, do not expect to find a dense and extensive reef, but rather small coral heads scattered on the sand.

The small reefs feature a variety of hard corals, soft corals, sponges and sea anemones. Many sea urchins, giant clams and starfish live around the coral heads, in which coral-banded shrimp often hide.

Snake eel in Zanzibar
Tiger snake eels are often spotted in seagrass beds.

A wide variety of fish can be spotted on Pingwe’s reef flat, including butterflyfish, wrasse, boxfish and clownfish. This spot is also home to a large population of lionfish of all sizes, which can be seen in the small caves but also swimming uncovered above the sand.

Butterflyfish in Pingwe
5 different species of butterflyfish can be identified in this picture taken at Pingwe’s reef.

The seagrass allows encountering specific species such as the tiger snake eel, the fire sea urchin, or the Mertens’ carpet sea anemone, in which porcelain crabs, threespot dascyllus and twobar clownfish often hide.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Many hotels and restaurants are found in this part of the island. The closest are the Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa and the Boutique Hotel Matlai, located facing the reef.

Several beach restaurants allow having lunch after a morning snorkeling session, including the famous “The Rock” which offers a splendid view of the coast.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersSea urchins, lionfish
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

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.