Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa

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    Unmissable African Dive Destinations

    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Red Sea Coral Reef, Egypt. Underwater & Nature Photography/ Getty Images

    The plains and jungles of Africa are synonymous with exotic wildlife, but what many people don’t realise is that there’s just as much life to be found at the continent’s coasts. With the exception of Egypt’s world-famous Red Sea dive sites, Africa is relatively unchartered territory for scuba divers - and yet, it is home to some of the most spectacular dive destinations on the planet. From the cold waters of South Africa’s Western Cape province to the crystalline coral gardens of island nations like Mauritius and the Seychelles, Africa is a scuba diver’s paradise.

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  • 02 of 06


    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Oceanic Whitetip Shark, Egypt. Colors and Shapes of Underwater World/ Getty Images

    Perched on the shores of the tropical Red Sea, Egypt is something of a scuba diving mecca. The country’s most obvious attraction is its superb conditions, with average water temperatures of around 79°F/ 26°C and visibility that often exceeds 130 feet/ 40 meters. With over 1,100 fish species recorded (of which nearly a fifth are endemic), the marine life is also astounding. Egypt’s underwater highlights include the pristine reefs of Ras Mohammed National Park, the oldest national park in the country; and the WWII wreck of merchant vessel S.S. Thistlegorm. The northern Red Sea is littered with other historic wrecks, while the southern reefs of Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone are famous for encounters with the elusive oceanic whitetip shark. In terms of wildlife, the Red Sea is also a good place to spot scalloped hammerheads and pods of friendly spinner dolphin.

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  • 03 of 06


    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Cichlid, Tanzania. Javier Millán Photography/ Getty Images

    Tanzania caters to a range of interests and experience levels. The spice island of Zanzibar is perfect for new divers, with warm water, good visibility and an abundance of dive centres offering entry level courses at competitive prices. Further north, strong currents and extreme tides make Leven Bank suitable for experienced divers only; and yet huge shoals of pelagic fish provide ample reward for those willing to make the journey. In the far north, Pemba Island is known for the quality of its reefs, with hard and soft corals creating a home for an incredible diversity of marine life. Between October and March, those in search of the world’s largest fish will find them at Mafia Island, a seasonal whale shark aggregation site. Inland, Lake Tanganyika is a freshwater paradise complete with excellent visibility, non-existent current and over 280 species of beautiful cichlid.

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  • 04 of 06

    South Africa

    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Oceanic Blacktip Shark, South Africa. Steve Woods Photography/ Getty Images

    Unofficially known as the shark diving capital of the world, South Africa specialises in high adrenalin dive sites. Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal is one of the few places in the world where divers can encounter tiger sharks, bull sharks and oceanic blacktips without the protection of a cage; while the Shoal’s reefs provide a breeding ground for sandtiger sharks in winter. Further south, Protea Banks boasts strong currents and swirling schools of hammerhead sharks in summer; while Gansbaai, Simonstown and Mossel Bay all offer cage-diving with great white sharks. Wreck and tech divers will find plenty of sunken ships to explore off Durban, while those looking for a more sedate option will find it at the sleepy dive town of Sodwana Bay. Located on the border with Mozambique, Sodwana is known for its colourful reefs, abundant tropical fish and relatively easy dive conditions.

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  • 05 of 06


    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Feeding Whale Shark. EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/ Getty Images

    When it comes to offshore island diving, Africa offers the cream of the crop - from the Seychelles to Mauritius and the Comoros. Madagascar deserves a special mention however, as the location of the world’s third largest coral reef system. The reef extends for 185 miles/ 300 kilometres along the island’s southwest coast, and provides a home for approximately 6,000 marine species. Marine life in Madagascar displays a high level of endemism - meaning that you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. Diving hotspots in Madagascar include the exclusive resort island of Nosy Be on the island’s northwest coast. Here, beautifully preserved reefs are frequented between October and December by the mighty whale shark and the graceful manta ray, two of the most sought-after animals of the underwater world. There are also stunning reefs near the east coast island of Île Sainte-Marie.

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  • 06 of 06


    Top Five Destinations for Scuba Diving in Africa
    ••• Bottlenose Dolphins, Mozambique. Ai Angel Gentel/ Getty Images

    From the South African border to the archipelagos of the far north, Mozambique is the unsung hero of African diving. In the south, Ponta do Ouro is famous for its resident pods of friendly bottlenose dolphin; and for high-octane dive site Pinnacles - arguably the best place in Africa to swim with bull sharks. Further north, the dive sites at laid-back Tofo Beach are defined by their fascinating topography and healthy coral cover. Tofo is one of the few places where it is possible to see whale sharks and manta rays all year round, although the main season for these species is October to March. The idyllic Bazaruto Archipelago is a protected area, and one of the best destinations in Africa for sightings of the vulnerable dugong. In the far north, the exclusive resorts of the Quirimbas Archipelago offer unparalleled wall diving and plenty of macro critters.