Best Scuba Diving Destinations in Africa

Best Scuba Diving Destinations in Africa

Jul 09
Best Scuba Diving Destinations in Africa

Scuba diving in Africa is a thrilling and diverse, known for it’s incredible diving opportunities, with abundant marine life, stunning coral reefs, and unique underwater landscapes. Africa’s coastal waters are teeming with marine biodiversity, providing divers with the opportunity to encounter an array of fascinating species. From colorful coral reefs to large pelagic creatures, Africa’s waters are home to a rich variety of fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles, and even whales in some areas.

Many diving destinations in Africa provide thrilling encounters with big marine life. From swimming with whale sharks in Mozambique and Tanzania to observing manta rays in Mozambique’s Tofo, there are opportunities to dive alongside some of the ocean’s largest and most majestic creatures. Other exciting encounters include sharks (such as tiger sharks, bull sharks, and hammerhead sharks) at the well known Aliwal Shoal. The most exciting encounter one will have is know as the biggest ocean migration in the world, commonly know as the Sardine Run which happens off the East Coast of South Africa.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, Africa has something to offer for everyone. Here are some of the best diving destinations in these regions:

South Africa

Located on the southernmost tip of the continent, South Africa is a popular destination for adventurers. Great white sharks, sardine runs, and a variety of bucket list animals can be found off the coast of South Africa. Aside from the truly spectacular scuba diving in South Africa, the region is also famous for its nature reserves and wildlife safaris.

Shark in South Africa

Shark in South Africa

Sodwana Bay

Sodwana Bay is renowned for its pristine coral reefs, which are part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reefs are teeming with vibrant corals, colorful sponges, and a vast array of marine life. The warm waters and excellent visibility make it a paradise for underwater photography and marine exploration.

Diving in Sodwana Bay allows you to encounter a wide variety of marine species. You can expect to see a colorful array of tropical fish, including butterflyfish, angelfish, and parrotfish. The reefs are also home to numerous species of moray eels, octopuses, and various crustaceans. It is also common to have close encounters with larger marine creatures like turtles, reef sharks, and rays as they gracefully swim through the waters.

Aliwal Shoal

Aliwal Shoal’s reputation as a world-class diving location stems from its unique combination of factors. The shoal is home to a variety of shark species, including the iconic ragged-tooth sharks, tiger sharks, and blacktip sharks. These magnificent creatures can often be encountered during dive expeditions, providing divers with the awe-inspiring opportunity to observe them up close and witness their natural behavior. Read more about diving with sharks at Aliwal Shoal here.

One of the highlights of diving on Aliwal Shoal is the chance to witness the captivating congregation of ragged-tooth sharks during their breeding season. As these majestic creatures gather in large numbers around sites such as Raggies Cave, divers have a rare opportunity to witness their calm and mesmerizing presence in their natural habitat. The encounters with these sharks are a true marvel of nature and leave a lasting impression on all who experience them.

Beyond the thrilling shark encounters, Aliwal Shoal offers a vibrant and diverse marine ecosystem. The coral reefs are adorned with colorful corals, sponges, and an abundance of reef fish, creating a kaleidoscope of underwater beauty. Dolphins, turtles, rays, and an array of other marine species also call these waters home, making every dive an exploration of a thriving and intricate underwater world.

Sardine Run

The Sardine Run of South Africa is a breathtaking natural phenomenon that occurs annually along the country’s east coast. Known as the greatest marine migration on Earth, this incredible event draws divers, photographers, and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world.

During the winter months of May to July, massive schools of sardines, numbering in the millions, migrate along the coastline. This incredible spectacle is driven by the colder waters of the Agulhas Current, which push the sardines northwards along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

The Sardine Run attracts not only sardines but also a multitude of predators that follow in pursuit of the abundant food source. Dolphins, sharks, whales, and seabirds form massive feeding frenzies, creating a mesmerizing display of natural cooperation and competition. The skies are filled with diving gannets plunging into the water, while below the surface, dolphins and sharks dart through the shoals in a feeding frenzy.

For divers, the Sardine Run offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the intricate marine food chain in action. Submerging into the crystal-clear waters, divers can find themselves surrounded by swirling walls of sardines, as predators seize the opportunity to hunt. The underwater world comes alive with the energy and intensity of the chase, providing a front-row seat to nature’s spectacle.


Another region popular with the scuba diving community, Mozambique is home to some of the best diving in Africa. Whale sharks, manta rays, and a variety of corals are just some of the underwater attractions. Topside, Mozambique offers stunning landscapes and a variety of flora and fauna to be explored.


Tofo offers a captivating diving destination nestled on the southeastern coast of Mozambique. With its warm waters, abundant marine life, and pristine coral reefs, Tofo has become a paradise for scuba diving enthusiasts seeking an immersive and unforgettable underwater experience.

Situated near Inhambane, Tofo offers a diverse range of dive sites that cater to divers of all levels, from beginners to experienced adventurers. As you descend into the turquoise waters, you’ll be greeted by vibrant coral gardens teeming with an array of colorful fish species. Tofo’s coral reefs are a sight to behold, boasting intricate formations and an abundance of marine biodiversity.

One of the highlights of diving in Tofo is the opportunity to encounter magnificent megafauna. The area is famous for its regular sightings of gentle giants, such as whale sharks and manta rays. From approximately October to April, these majestic creatures migrate through the waters of Tofo, offering divers an awe-inspiring chance to swim alongside them in their natural habitat.

Tofo’s marine ecosystem is also home to a rich variety of other marine species. Keep an eye out for turtles gracefully gliding through the water, playful dolphins dancing in the waves, and an assortment of reef fish darting amongst the coral. From colorful nudibranchs to fascinating moray eels and elusive seahorses, the marine life in Tofo will captivate your senses with its diversity and beauty.


Bazaruto is a tropical paradise located off the coast of Mozambique, offering a scuba diving experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. Nestled in the Bazaruto Archipelago, this pristine marine destination is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, making it a haven for divers seeking an unforgettable underwater adventure.

The azure waters surrounding Bazaruto offers a world of remarkable beauty and biodiversity. The coral reefs here are a kaleidoscope of colors, adorned with intricate formations and an astonishing array of marine flora and fauna. From vibrant hard and soft corals to swaying sea fans, the underwater landscape is a sight to behold.

Diving in Bazaruto offers encounters with a diverse range of marine life. Swim alongside graceful manta rays as they glide effortlessly through the water, and witness the majestic presence of large pelagic species like whale sharks and humpback whales, which frequent the area during their seasonal migrations. Keep an eye out for playful dolphins, schools of tropical fish, and even the elusive dugongs that occasionally grace these waters.

The marine biodiversity extends beyond the coral reefs, with fascinating underwater seascapes and diverse ecosystems. Explore submerged pinnacles, underwater canyons, and coral gardens that are home to a myriad of smaller marine creatures, including colorful nudibranchs, crustaceans, and camouflaged octopuses. Bazaruto’s underwater world is a haven for photographers and marine enthusiasts alike, offering endless opportunities for capturing breathtaking moments.


The Quirimbas Archipelago, a hidden gem of scuba diving located off the northern coast of Mozambique. With its pristine waters, untouched coral reefs, and abundant marine life, the Quirimbas offers a unique and captivating diving experience for adventurers seeking to explore its underwater wonders.

As you descend into the azure depths of the Quirimbas, you’ll discover a world teeming with vibrant coral formations, creating a breathtaking underwater landscape. The archipelago is home to a diverse range of coral species, including hard and soft corals, which provide a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Dive into this underwater paradise and immerse yourself in the beauty of the coral gardens that serve as a habitat for an abundance of marine life.

Possibly the most well known dive site in the Quirimbas is Metundo Canyon. Diving in Metundo Canyon provides divers with the opportunity to explore an underwater realm teeming with marine life. The nutrient-rich currents attract a diverse range of fish species, including large schools of pelagic fish, reef sharks, and rays. The vibrant coral formations that adorn the canyon walls serve as a habitat for a variety of colorful reef fish, creating a kaleidoscope of colors as you navigate through the depths.


Known for its incredible topside scenery and wildlife safaris, Tanzania also boasts some sensational underwater landscapes. Healthy reef systems, a variety of dive sites, and diverse marine life make Tanzania a great dive destination. Combine a dive trip to Tanzania with Bluewater Travel’s guided land safari to make the most of your holiday in Africa!

Tanzania landscape

Topside scenery in Tanzania

Mafia Island

Mafia Island, a captivating diving destination nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. Known for its unspoiled beauty and rich marine biodiversity, Mafia Island offers an extraordinary diving experience for enthusiasts seeking to explore its pristine waters.

Situated within the Mafia Island Marine Park, this tropical paradise boasts a thriving coral reef ecosystem that is teeming with life. As you dive into the crystal-clear turquoise waters, you’ll discover a vibrant underwater world adorned with colorful coral formations, towering pinnacles, and fascinating swim-throughs.

Mafia Island is renowned for its incredible encounters with one of the ocean’s gentle giants—the majestic whale sharks. These magnificent creatures, which are the largest fish in the world, grace the waters around Mafia Island and offer a thrilling and unforgettable experience for divers and snorkelers. Whale sharks are known to visit Mafia Island’s waters between October and March, during the peak season. These massive creatures, measuring up to 40 feet (12 meters) in length, glide gracefully through the crystal-clear waters, creating a mesmerizing spectacle for those lucky enough to witness them. Swimming alongside a whale shark is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience.

Pemba Island

Diving off Pemba Island unveils a diverse and vibrant marine ecosystem, showcasing pristine coral reefs, impressive drop-offs, and an abundance of marine life. The coral formations here are known for their health and beauty, featuring a stunning array of hard and soft corals in a myriad of colors. Explore the intricate reef structures that provide a home for an extraordinary range of marine species.

Pemba Island is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and the variety of marine life that inhabits its waters. Encounter schools of colorful reef fish as they dart among the corals, from tiny clownfish to majestic angelfish and surgeonfish. Look out for larger pelagic species, such as barracudas, tuna, and even the occasional sighting of graceful manta rays or reef sharks.

One of the highlights of diving off Pemba Island is the opportunity to explore the steep drop-offs that plunge into the deep blue. Descending along these walls reveals a fascinating world of marine wonders. Keep an eye out for the unexpected, as you may spot elusive creatures like leaf fish, frogfish, and camouflaged octopuses hiding in the crevices.

The warm waters surrounding Pemba Island provide excellent visibility, making it a diver’s paradise. With favorable conditions year-round, divers of all levels can enjoy the underwater adventures that await.


The fourth-largest island in the world, Madagascar lies off the southeastern coast of Africa. This unique location is home to a variety of endemic species and is worth exploring topside as well as underwater. Divers are rewarded with gorgeous reefs and unforgettable marine life encounters.

Nosy Be

Nosy Be is a tropical paradise located off the northwest coast of Madagascar, offering a scuba diving experience like no other. Situated in the Mozambique Channel, Nosy Be boasts a wealth of marine biodiversity, pristine coral reefs, and a range of captivating dive sites, making it a sought-after destination for divers from around the world.

Diving off Nosy Be reveals a vibrant underwater world that will leave you in awe. Explore a variety of dive sites, from shallow reefs to dramatic drop-offs and underwater pinnacles. The coral formations are stunning, adorned with an array of hard and soft corals in brilliant colors, providing a breathtaking backdrop for your underwater exploration.

Nosy Be is known for its diverse marine life, making it a haven for underwater enthusiasts. Encounter an abundance of tropical fish species, including colorful reef fish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish. Keep your eyes peeled for encounters with larger marine creatures, such as hawksbill turtles, stingrays, and even the occasional sighting of reef sharks.

During the months September to January, encounters with megafauna can be an exhilarating experience. Whales and whale sharks are common sites as they migrate north. With the crystal clean waters, encounters with these animals can be a unforgettable experience.


Further Reading

Check out Bluewater Photo’s full range of underwater photography equipment here.

Learn more about diving in Mozambique with this article from the Underwater Photography Guide.