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Tanzania or Mozambique or South Africa?

Discussion in 'Africa' started by qwimjim, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. qwimjim

    qwimjim Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Canada
    223
    28
    28
    I'm planning a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania for the last couple of weeks of October and then would like to spend some time Scuba diving. I'm AOW diver but don't have a ton of experience, a couple dozen fresh water wrecks here in Canada, did a few dives in the Red Sea when I was in Dahab last year. My girlfriend has no experience, she's a strong swimmer and an athlete but has only done two try dives when we were in Dahab. I want to go somewhere she can get certified OW but also where there's world class diving that will be within our abilities.

    But mostly, I want to be wowed, I enjoyed Dahab but I wasn't blown away by the sea life we saw.. in fact I was disappointed, so that's saying a lot considering it was my first warm water diving. In Africa I'd like to see lots of sea life and ideally big sea life.. Sharks, Whale Sharks, Manta Ray's, big schools of fish, etc.. in the clearest waters possible :) I know, I'm not asking for much, I just want the underwater equivalent of Serengeti :) I don't want to come all the way to Africa and see mediocre coral and the kind of sealife I could find anywhere else in the world. I want an experience that would be difficult to have anywhere but in Africa.

    From what I've read we have the choice of going to Zanzibar, Mafia or Pemba in TZ. In Mozambique Tofo seems to be the place to go. And in South Africa, Sodwana Bay, Protea Banks, Aliwal Shoal, or Thonga Beach. And then Gansbaai Bay for great white cage diving.

    So where should we go? And where should we not go? For instance from what I've read, Protea Banks does not sound like a good place for novices. Any help would be greatly appreciated, it's an expensive trip so if the diving isn't going to be world class (for our ability) I'd rather save the money and go elsewhere, any help is -greatly- appreciated, Thanks!
     
  2. globalbabe

    globalbabe Photographer

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York
    46
    3
    8
    I just came back yesterday from 7 days of very satisfying diving off Mafia and Zanzibar (Mnemba Atoll) and can confidently recommend the quality of diving on Mafia Island, which I would argue is world class - huge diversity of hard and soft corals and fish, extremely colourful, huge schools of medium-sized fish (snapper, sweetlips, mackerel, jacks, trevally) and lots of critters, and most of the sites are suitable for novice divers as they are quite shallow and have little current. Due to the season, we only dived within Chole Bay (east coast) as the weather conditions did not permit traveling to the outer reefs. On the plus side, due to Chole Bay's sheltered location, you can dive there year round. On the west coast, there's also a whale shark season from around December to March - and earlier if you're lucky (there are sometimes reports of whale sharks in October). I think I saw one white tip reef shark in the distance but that's it for the big stuff - you have to go to Pemba Island for that. On Mafia Island, I stayed at Kinasi Lodge for 5 days, which is well set up for visiting recreational divers and their in-house dive centre, Blue World Diving, offers OW and AOW courses - I would happily recommend for a highly enjoyable and relaxing stay.

    Mnemba Atoll - a reef system around Mnemba Island off NE Zanzibar - was enjoyable but not really world class. There was a lot to see - mostly smaller fish - but it didn't have the diversity of Mafia. I still liked the diving, especially as I got to have a wonderful dolphin encounter with a small group of 4 very curious dolphins who made 3 passes to check us out in a sandy bottomed part of the reef, but wouldn't recommend it ahead of Mafia. Then again, though Zanzibar diving probably wouldn't live up to your expectations, it is a delightful place to visit for everything that's going on above the water! :) The history of the island - and its role in the spice trade - is extremely intriguing!

    I haven't dived in Mozambique or South Africa so I can't compare Tanzania with those locations. But the good thing about Tanzania is that the tourism sector is well set up to combine safari trips in the national parks on the mainland with visits to the islands that have the best diving - Mafia (the small stuff) and Pemba (the big stuff) - along with Zanzibar. And the domestic airlines, such as Coastal Aviation, have small propeller planes that will get you everywhere you'll want to go :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2011
  3. qwimjim

    qwimjim Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Canada
    223
    28
    28
    Thanks for the information! I had read good things about Mafia but when I looked around everything seemed 2-3x more expensive than Zanzibar. Do you mind my asking how much lodging, dives, and flights cost you or what we should budget? I never thought to have it combined with a safari package, maybe that would be cheaper. How is life above the water on Mafia? That's one thing that's nice about Zanzibar, is after you're done diving it's not only a beautiful place, but an interesting one as well. Mafia certainly looks like it's beautiful though :)

    That's my concern about going to places like Sodwana and Aliwal Shoal (Umkomaas) in SA which apparently have fantastic diving and lots of big fish, #1. Can my wife get certified there. and #2. What are these areas like above water? I don't want to go somewhere for 4 days to dive but be bored or miserable the entire time we're out of the water :) I think our plan is fly into Kigali, Rwanda.. spend a couple of days and do a Gorilla trek, then onto TZ for an 8 day safari, then fly down to Johannesburg for a couple days, then fly home out of Cape Town after spending a couple of days and doing a great white cage dive. In there somewhere we have room to add about a week for diving, so either 7 days including travel to one place, or splitting it up, 4 days here, 3 days there kind of thing.
     
  4. globalbabe

    globalbabe Photographer

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York
    46
    3
    8
    Actually I found Mafia cost less than Zanzibar. Depending on your budget, you can expect to pay between $100-200 a day for accommodation (all inclusive), return flights from Dar es Salaam on Coastal Aviation are around $240, Mafia Marine Park fees are $20/day, and diving costs around $55/dive incl. equipment so $110/day (cheaper if you do more dives, more expensive if less).

    Mafia is pretty undeveloped - no sealed roads, barely any restaurants, just local shops in villages - so that might either be a big plus or a big minus, depending on your travel tastes. I read that less than 1,000 tourists go there per year, so you would be going well off the beaten track. Mafia locals are very welcoming and hospitable, unlike on Zanzibar, where there are many who see tourists as a 'cash cow'. Above the water, you'd expect to see a typical East African tropical coastal landscape - beaches, palm trees, mangrove swamps - and lots of places/nature trails to wander as well as offshore islands to explore and swim from, not to mention sea kayaking, sailing and fishing. However, there are few organized tourist activities, other than those offered by the lodge you would be staying at.

    Here are a few more details about Mafia:
    Mafia Island
    http://www.mafiaisland.com/blog/

    One important thing to note about diving in Mafia - and Zanzibar - is that it is greatly determined by the tide. We did all but one of our dives at high tide, which meant start times of 6:30am at the start of my trip and 9:30am at the end, as the tides greatly influence the visibility and dive site conditions (usually 25m vis. on most of my dives). I did one low tide dive, which was like diving in the fog (visibility of around 7m) - still interesting but not to all tropical divers' tastes.

    By the way, Coastal Aviation link Kigali - and the Rwandan gorillas - with their air routes, so you can actually arrive in Dar Es Salaam and do all your domestic travel with Coastal.
     
  5. tacky

    tacky Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Oslo, Norway
    91
    0
    0
    I dived in Vilankulos north of Tofo recently. The quality of pelagic was good, turtles and rays on just a couple of dives, much better than a average dive in Dahab. But the reefs were less impressive than in the red sea and vizibility much worse. Several groups of Dolphins on the surface on the way to the sites. I expect Tofo to be much the same.

    Also it took way too much time to get to the sites, which was why I didnt dive more. I guess that's better in Tofo.

    All in all, serms Moz has excellent opportunities for spotting big stuff and OK diving. Not sure you'll find the world class paradise you are looking for anywhere in Eastern Africa though, unless you wanna go somewhere like Sudan or Eritrea.
     
  6. jolo

    jolo Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Durban
    150
    0
    0
    The best coral is in Mozambique it is also the best place for Whale Shark and Manta I Barra or Guinjata Bay.
    If you are looking for raggies,Zambesi and a other shar species Aliwal Shoal is the best,for Great white cage diving you must go Gansbaai in the Cape
    These links will help you Kzn holiday Accommodation diving fishing accommodation KZN holiday accommodation and Mozambique diving resorts Guinjata Bay and Mozambique guinjata,barra tofo fishing Resorts,dive at Guinjata Bay,Barra Lodge,Flamingo Bay,Promene Lodge,Barra Lodge,Flamingo Bay,Indingo Bay,Matembo Island,Mejumbe Island,Pemba Resrt,Ponta Malomi
    Hope this helps
     
  7. qwimjim

    qwimjim Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Canada
    223
    28
    28
    Thanks for the info, Mafia sounds nice as far as being a beautiful safe place to hang out outside of diving. Basically we have a week and can go to Zanzibar/Mafia and kind of split our time between the two, or spend a week in Guinjata/Tofo in Mozambique, or head south and split our time between Sodwana Bay and Aliwal Shoal. I want to be somewhere safe where we won't be afraid to walk around at night, somewhere that is ideally a beautiful place to hang out and relax after diving since most of our time there will not be spent underwater, somewhere that has exceptional world class diving, and somewhere my wife can get certified where the best dives are not at 40m, or at least where there's plenty of quality diving at 18m or less. Please keep sharing your opinions if you've been to these places, this is a once in a lifetime trip so I want to get it right :)
     
  8. qwimjim

    qwimjim Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Canada
    223
    28
    28
    But can you actually scuba dive with whale sharks or is it more likely that you might see one from the boat and jump in with a snorkel? How does Sodwana Bay compare with Aliwal Shoal? In terms of sea life, visibility and overall dive quality?
     
  9. Sharks at Aliwal

    Sharks at Aliwal Angel Fish

    # of Dives:
    Location: South Africa
    48
    1
    0
    No you will more than likely snorkel with the whale sharks. They generally can start to swim rather fast once they want to start to move so it is easier sometimes to be able to get back into the boat rather quickly and then move off to where they have gone. In all of my years diving (since 1987) I have only dived on scuba twice with whale sharks.

    Sodwana Bay and Aliwal Shoal are both very different but both world class dive sites. I personally prefer Aliwal as it has two wrecks that are great dives; we have the Raggies resident on the reef until December. The great thing with them is that they tend to be in shallow waters (most sites are shallower than 60ft) and you can get really close to them if you want to. There are also the Baited Shark Dives which are fantastic and film crews from around the world have come to take video at Aliwal. Besides that there is just really good diving all around. Have a look at Agulhas House - Umkomaas Accomodation | Aliwal Shoal | Scuba Diving | PADI Dive Courses on there you will find some info on the reef and there is a gallery of some of the things you can see. Whale sharks are only really seen in the summer months and only if the inshore waters are clean.

    Sodwana is more of a coral area and the diving is easier. It’s a great place to visit and the diving is very good. Contact info@amoraydiving.com for some information with them.

    Personally what I would do is complete the entire classroom and pool work (PADI Course) in Canada and just come over to do the dives. Dependant on the length of trip you are looking to do maybe take in both Aliwal and Sodwana and some game reserves along the way. There are a number of different tours you can take to self drive tours to guided ones as well.

    If you want come back with more ideas on what you would like to do and I can give you some suggestions and contact numbers.
     
  10. Sharks at Aliwal

    Sharks at Aliwal Angel Fish

    # of Dives:
    Location: South Africa
    48
    1
    0
    Sodwana Bay and Aliwal Shoal are both very different but both world class dive sites. I personally prefer Aliwal as it has two wrecks that are great dives; we have the Raggies resident on the reef until December. The great thing with them is that they tend to be in shallow waters (most sites are shallower than 60ft) and you can get really close to them if you want to. There are also the Baited Shark Dives which are fantastic and film crews from around the world have come to take video at Aliwal. Besides that there is just really good diving all around. Have a look at Agulhas House - Umkomaas Accomodation | Aliwal Shoal | Scuba Diving | PADI Dive Courses on there you will find some info on the reef and there is a gallery of some of the things you can see. Whale sharks are only really seen in the summer months and only if the inshore waters are clean.

    Sodwana is more of a coral area and the diving is easier. It’s a great place to visit and the diving is very good. Contact info@amoraydiving.com for some information with them.

    Protea Banks is definately more of an advanced dive spot. What I suggest for divers to do is stay in Umkomaas (Aliwal) and from there do a day trip down to Protea if the diving conditions are good and they want to go. In the right season the diving there is mind blowing for sharks. Only problem is that the reef is deep (30m/ 100 ft) at the shallowest point and so much of your dive time is spent in the mid water.

    On Tonga Beach (I have never been) but I have been told that Rock Tail Bay is better in terms of service and experience. I am sure it is more expensive but apparently worth it.

    Personally what I would do is complete the entire classroom and pool work (PADI Course) in Canada and just come over to do the dives. Dependant on the length of trip you are looking to do maybe take in both Aliwal and Sodwana and some game reserves along the way. There are a number of different tours you can take to self drive tours to guided ones as well.

    If you want come back with more ideas on what you would like to do and I can give you some suggestions and contact numbers.
     

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